During this break, I have been able to spend lots of time with my parents, and our discussion one evening made me remember, once again, how much they have done for me over the last nineteen years.
Recently, my parents were reminiscing about coming to America, a story that I’ve heard several times before. In 1983, my parents left their families in Kolkata, India and embarked to New York City to start a new life together. My dad, a research scientist, had won a generous fellowship award and was given a post-doctorate position at Rockefeller University. My mom, who was pregnant with my sister at the time, would take some time off from work until my sister got a little older. My parents came to New York with two suitcases and roughly $4,000. My dad’s yearly salary at Rockefeller was less than $15,000, so things were very tight for the first few years.
During this conversation, my mom and dad shared with me fond memories of their New York City one bedroom apartment. They also talked about dinner gatherings with my dad’s colleagues and play dates my sister had with the other children in the building. My mom told me about the park that she took my sister to everyday and the new things she taught herself, such as Indian cooking and laundry. My dad often worked until 12 or 1 AM, and my mom would put my sister to sleep and then wait for my dad. After hearing these stories, I tried to picture my parents with a newborn child in New York City and envision the life they were living. If any of you have read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake or seen the movie, then you’ll be to understand the images that filled my mind.
Many of us are first-generation children of immigrant parents from India, and I don’t know if we always remind ourselves of the challenges and difficulties our parents endured to ensure the best possible life for us and our brothers and sisters. Leaving family, friends, the comfort of a familiar home, and their motherland, our parents traveled thousands of miles with the hope that we would have endless opportunities in America.
After settling here, our parents strove to instill within us the Indian values that they held most dearly. Additionally, they did everything they could to keep their culture alive. Mom and Dad taught us their mother tongue, took us to singing and dancing lessons, encouraged us to learn different Indian instruments, and recited ancient religious stories about life. They took us to India to visit our distant relatives and show us the lives of other boys and girls our age (we saw how “the other half” lived).
As I reflect on my parents’ contributions over the past nineteen years, I come to the realization that I may not fully understand how much they have done for me, but I am confident that they have shaped me into the individual who I am today. There are various elements of myself that I know originate from my mom or dad, and many of my beliefs and values stem from their parenting, work ethic, and character. It might sound cliché, but I know I would not be who I am today without the influence of my parents; further, I believe that as I continue to grow older and understand life more, I will get a better sense of all they have done for me.
As we approach the last few days with our parents, let’s spend as much time with them as possible and tell them how appreciative we are. We’re only home for such a limited time, so let’s make the most of that time and make new memories with our loved ones.