Culture is one of the few ways to remain connected with the country my parents are from. As the son of immigrants, there is a large disconnect between me and my family in India. Due to physical distance, differing time zones, and varying social norms, it is often difficult to find a common ground. However, culture bridges all gaps. Because of my parents, food, music, movies, religion, and language are all aspects of my culture I have managed to retain. I believe these topics are the reason I have been able to converse with my cousins for hours.
Although there are countless elements that make up Indian culture, there are a few that have been especially impactful during my upbringing. My mother swears that Bollywood movies are the reason I can speak Hindi. I have no recollection of this, but I’ve decided to take her word for it (shoutout to Shahrukh Khan). Additionally, My mother’s cooking gave me an appreciation for the diversity of dishes available throughout India. Almost every individual I’ve talked to about Indian food loves Chicken Tikka Masala; however, my favorite will always be my mother’s masterfully prepared dal chawal. While other children got generic factory-produced Lunchables, I got freshly cooked, handmade food.
I have not had many experiences living with inidividuals from different cultures; ironically, I still had trouble adapting to the norms of my own culture. While working with dentists in India, I volunteered at several rural dental camps. I attempted to use my mother tongue of Hindi and slower basic English to ensure everyone felt comfortable partnering with me and assigning me tasks. Most of them found my Hindi-with-English enunciation quite entertaining. But, united in our common passion to help those in need, we worked together to assist children who had never even seen toothbrushes before. This encouraged our collaboration and established a mutual sense of trust.
Moreover, I got the chance to practice my stand up comedy routine with them in Hindi, which they found even more entertaining due to my limited vocabulary. Working alongside these dedicated dentists helped me value diversity of thought. Although we came from completely different countries, the group effort to help provide better care resulted in unimaginably positive results. I also learned to face challenges I never would have faced in the classroom. This firsthand experience furthered not only my awareness of the importance of economic, social, and cultural diversity on teams, but also my desire to continue advocating for the underserved.