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On Influences

Posted on:May 25, 2021 at 03:35 AM

On Influences

Growing up, everyone who knew my father when he was young would comment on how much I was like him. In looks, in manner, in voice. And I remember feeling a great sense of pride and satisfaction in that. Because I love my father: his looks, his manner, his voice. His vision. His intelligence. His generosity. As does everyone. He inspired many. In India, at a time when reverence and deference were still in practice, many held him up, on a pedestal above the common man, and carried him forward, for he could see further than anyone they knew. And he was right. About computers, about the Internet, about technology, about the fall of education, about the rising corruption. He saw it all, and he did everything he could to give me all of his gifts, all of himself, and all the opportunity to get out of a society whose demise he could see decades ahead.

Despite all our similarities, I am not my father. I am not as intelligent, not as confident, not as far-seeing, nor as good looking. I don’t drive myself in the same way, nor do I feel the same sense of urgency or impending demise. In many ways I’m not the wolf, not strong, or hard, or agile, or capable of surviving in harsh environments. I am more like the lamb: soft, friendly, moody. Too trusting. Less controlling, more open to collaboration. In these ways, I am more like my mother.

My mother’s life has been harder than my father’s: she lost both parents at a young age, was constantly judged and critiqued and held back by a society that binds, befuddles, berates, and besmirches women. She fought for her job, for her place in the family, for her right to be loved, for the money she’s owed, for recognition of her many talents. But despite everything, she never became bitter. She kept her softness, her kindness, her friendliness, as she does to this day. And she poured it all in me.

We are all products of the many people who shape our lives, from the way we laugh to the way our handwriting looks. These are the two people who have shaped me the most, and continue to do so. They have done their best to give me their best, and to protect me from their worst. Despite their best, I carry it all inside. A marvelous amalgam of strength and weakness, of vice and virtue, of the best and worst of us. We are all vehicles for life experiencing itself.