I refine my authentic voice alone and share it with others.

Two women of color smile at each other with open laptops.
Two women of color smile at each other with open laptops.
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

I chatted this morning with a friend and fellow writer of color. We updated each other about our lives during pandemic. We shared our surprise at how well our families are doing and the opportunities coming our way, even now. We spoke of our sense of life before. Life before the pandemic. Life before the death of George Floyd. Life before our president took office.

Life before life on a knife’s edge.

Like my friend, I write about all that and more from my perch. My audience is the entire world of readers. I don’t shy away from taking a…

Asking where I’m ‘really’ from is about their baggage, not mine.

Two contrasting purses against contrasting backgrounds.
Two contrasting purses against contrasting backgrounds.
Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

People often ask me where I’m from. Their tone reveals a focus on my darker complexion as ‘foreign.’ It’s like saying, ‘When are you due?’ to a woman with a larger waist. It’s awkward because we know there’s more to my story (and their curiosity) than meets the eye. My complexion can rattle some people’s assumptions of what’s normal.

One need not be an FBI interrogator to understand nonverbal communication and body language. There isn’t much goodwill when resentments and biases lurk behind a smiling mask.

People’s hangups about my family history reveal their discomfort.

Why does my story matter, really?

Some say they don’t see…

I find myself in the world of immigrant stories.

Three distinct patches of a quilt stitched together.
Three distinct patches of a quilt stitched together.
Photo by Raul Cacho Oses on Unsplash

I’m the first of my family born in the US, two years after President Johnson signed a law to allow non-European professionals and their families to immigrate to the United States. I’m also a daughter of the Midwest. These needle-and-thread facts shaped my identity and connection to my world.

My parents arrived here at the start of a wave of immigration from countries in South Asia to the UK, Europe, Canada, the United States, and beyond. Diaspora refers to the spread of people from one region, country, or ethnic community to settle elsewhere. …

Who matters is about seeing humanity and inclusion.

Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya on Unsplash

Concerns about legitimacy are in vogue again. Fortunately, we don’t hear the phrase illegitimate child anymore. We’re more concerned about the legitimacy of entire groups of people, their histories of coming to the US, and their contribution to our society.

Social tensions strike fear and shatter confidence in our sense of security and safety. We’re afraid of each other as we stock up on supplies to weather whatever storm lies ahead. We also question who can lawfully tap into literal and figurative reserves, like food banks, welfare money, and even goodwill and generosity.

We are less willing to see each…

I gave birth to my son, who teaches me about life.

Mother duck and baby duckling.
Mother duck and baby duckling.
Photo by Hussain Badshah on Unsplash

My second son was born twenty-three years ago today. His lessons for me have given my life meaning in the way only a child with special needs can. I was his first student, followed by the rest of our family. I’m grateful for the generosity his experience of autism has produced in our lives. We are better people because he is ours.

My son taught his first lessons to me, his mother.

I first learned to love unconditionally from his brother, who was nearly five years old twenty-three years ago. Little Brother grew into a dreamy, chubby baby and toddler. By age three, he was ‘different,’ slow to speak, prone…

It comes from within and without.

Photo by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash

I value authenticity, but I’ve never stopped to think about what it means.

I believe that honesty, integrity, vulnerability, humility, and lifelong learning help me live authentically and refine my character. Others will trust me if I give them a reason to do so. They take a chance, and it’s up to me to keep winning their trust. My internal commitments represent what I control.

People around me control the other part of my claim to authenticity. It is an exchange, a bargain, an agreement of sorts. The back-and-forth affects other sorts of earned authenticity. …

My Indian grandmother’s hand-spun hopes guide my path today.

Photo by Aditya Wardhana on Unsplash

I’ve loved the fragrance of Indian cotton as long as I can remember. My clothes, scarves, and cotton bags I bought over the years emit an evocative scent to this day. My memories of occasions, loved ones, and traditions weave together feelings of love, respect, and strength.

This handwoven thread of earthly origin and monsoon-rain represents history and integrity to me.

My Indian cotton clothes’ factory-woven beauty pales compared to a grander, legendary handwoven predecessor that captivated clothiers and connoisseurs in ancient Roman times. The British introduced Indian fabrics to the rest of Europe much later, in the early seventeenth…

My nostalgia inhabits a footstool, evoking unknowable stories.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

I strolled into an antiques store one Sunday afternoon, on historic Walden Street in Concord, Massachusetts. It was a dreary day, and I wanted to escape my boredom.

This clunky wooden thing whisked me away, evoking a child’s school project of sorts. I picked it up and found an engraving that reads, “Steve Dec-16–1952 To-Grace.”

The childish writing and workmanship-in-the-making patina served as ephemeral pen and paper. My emotions gushed a stream of consciousness to wake a romance between two star-struck lovers, interpretation and longing. Their attraction lit a candelabra whose soft glow melted my heart.

I put the stool…

That cookbook on sale might not be the ambrosia you seek.

Photo by Starks Don Pablo on Unsplash

Over-spiced stereotypes lack substance and nuance.

Representational images collapse Hindu and Indian. The term Hindu refers to those who practice Hinduism or live in a culture influenced by it.

Indian refers to something from India, a secular, pluralistic, and democratic nation. India, though predominantly Hindu, includes people who identify as Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Jewish, and atheists. Collapsing Hindu with Indian glosses over India’s rich diversity. People in India argue among themselves about the tension between these two words.

The discrepancy matters outside of India for a different reason.

Hindu religious symbols and images capture European and American imaginations to suggest ‘exotic’, ‘authentic’, and…

I shed nostalgia to see strength and wisdom in what’s broken.

Photo by Ekaterina Novitskaya on Unsplash

Nostalgia is a longing for simpler times to soothe pain in the present.

I’m thinking a lot about history these days. This summer is a backdrop to our fiery social and political strife — in the middle of a pandemic. Looking back at a time long ago feels like going to the beach for cool relief. If only beaches near me were open.

It’s not as easy as a summer escape. There was never a perfect, beautiful past; that’s the sad truth that nostalgia lulls us to forget.

Fractures and cracks are a part of group life. Each fissure reflects a (sometimes difficult) diversity within a whole. Plastering over differences breeds resentment for…


Punita shares her musings about midlife, her immigrant family, and life at the intersection of disability and diversity. She loves history, words, and culture.

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