‘Mind in New York, Heart in Haryana’

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We try to celebrate Holi, Easter, Teez, Diwali, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas

Q.1: Tell me something about yourself or introduce yourself?

Dr. Suman: Hi, I am Dr Suman (Rathee) Grewal, my mother and father come from village Majra (Dubaldhan) and Dhanana (Rindhana) respectively. I am married to Dr Jasvir Grewal from village Samchana. I grew up as the eldest daughter in a small humble household with dreams of a better tomorrow through hard work and education. My father’s only dream was to let us get as much education as we aspired, without ever mentioning to us that there was no girl in our family who had barely completed high school before me. This led me to excel in my studies and get my PhD in Chemistry via CSIR fellowship.

Q.2: Your story of immigration?

Dr. Suman: Ironically neither I nor my husband had any desire to immigrate out of our motherland but in spite of being academically qualified, we were forced to look for a viable professional opportunity in the USA. We both started our professional journeys in the US with post-doctoral assignments and moved on to pharmaceutical and academic environments with experience and new opportunities.

Q.3: The building of a new life on a new land?

Dr. Suman: The normal life in USA and India is similar and different in so many ways; In India, although we grew up in Chandigarh but our villages and family members were half a day’s bus journey away but now we are continents away from family and cost of the journey is many times expensive, every young family would identify with this struggle. Every immigrant faces a cultural shock when they come to America at first but upon looking closely they find this country to be a big melting pot of numerous cultures from around the world trying to maintain their identity and assimilating with others at the same time. People from Haryana gear towards their roots and celebrate all their festivals in big and small settings as do people from other parts of India and world. Our initial years were spent in setting up our professional lives and missed our families terribly. The immigration system doesn’t make it easy for family members to visit for longer duration but still our parents visited to give us company. We miss family the most during festivals and family celebrations that we are unable to attend due to various circumstances that we wouldn’t face if we were in India.

Q.4: Explain connection with the native Culture and how do you connect via social media or other media?

Dr. Suman: We are inherently pulled towards all the festivals celebrated in different parts of Haryana and Punjab as our most cherished memories are associated with our villages and those festivals, such as Sakrat, Holi, teez, Diwali etc. We have been part of a few groups where people come together with common roots to celebrate and share our cultural heritage. I am not very active social media user but do appreciate the importance of richness brought to our lives by social media, via entertainment channels, like Andy Haryana, youtube channels being run by normal people living extraordinary simple lives in villages, educational opportunities via different modalities and so much more that bring extremely fulfilling learning experience.

Q.5: How do you balance two cultures-Native culture and Adopted Culture?

Dr. Suman: We celebrate all the festivals of our native cultures as well as Adopted home land as these occasions give us an opportunity to take a break from professional struggles and sit back together with family and friends.

Q.6: How do you celebrate your native culture, name of festivals and other occasions on foreign land?

Dr. Suman: We try to celebrate Holi, Easter, Teez, Diwali, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We decorate our homes for both Diwali and Christmas.Food is a big part of all these celebrations to enjoy with friends and family.

Q.7: Are you educating your coming generation about culture and language and heritage? Please explain.

Dr. Suman: Our culture, language and heritage are part of our family and we don’t intend to lose touch even if living in a foreign land. Our daughter speaks and understands Hindi, Haryanvi, Punjabi and English with equal fluency, and has favorite music on her phone from all these languages. We are big fans of good old and new Hindi movies (have so many DVDs of our favorites), Punjabi movies (Don’t leave any opportunity to watch these movies at cinema halls here). In addition to this our children get ample opportunity to learn various Indian dance forms, organize and celebrate festivals and cherish our cultural roots as youngsters.

Q.8: How often do you cook native cuisines and do you share it with others?

Dr. Suman: Native Indian cuisine is part of our daily meals. Fresh Dahi, Roti, sabzi with Desi ghee are essential components of a meal every day. Amavas and Pooranvasi give us a reason to make kheer, a cherished memory of childhood. Our friends from other nationalities are a big fan of Indian cuisine; I make Daal Makhani and Naans for every get together. I am also known for my Gulab Jamuns, although tend to eat a lot myself too.

Q.9: Anything you want to tell us more?

Dr. Suman: Immigrant life is not a bed of roses as neither is life in our native land but challenges and struggles are different. Hard work and the right opportunity with a lot of luck can help you achieve your goals but keeping family as your priority always brings you long lasting happiness. There is no place in the world like home, you realize this sometimes only after you have lost one, so choose wisely.

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