The currency note of my country has 16 languages. The people speak an additional 125 dialects. Four of the world’s religions were born here. Eight more have amalgamated into our culture. We have dozens of festivals and a hundred ways of celebrating each one. Our 28 states and their peoples have their own distinct characteristics and swear by them. To add to the diversity, we have a range of skin tones, ancestry, history, castes, communities and beliefs. And any one of these permutations and combinations can be my neighbor, friend, boss, parent or client. As an Indian, I don’t really have time to analyze the complex dynamics of interpersonal relationships in my world. I just live it. I am, like the people around me, happy to swim in the diversity that unites Indians.
Through childhood, college and work, the diversity that you come across in India empowers you to accept differences and to work and learn from them. Bias is not absent. But bias, more often than not, is based on personal experiences, good and bad, rather than on genetics or geography. So with this set of values and perceptions I started my journey towards earning an MBA in the United States. The first step was marked by breaking away from my comfort zone and moving away from my people, my family and my friends.
It has been 8 months since I stepped on this soil, and from the moment I arrived at JFK airport until the time I walked into class, I have felt a sense of discovery, a strange feeling of walking into something new each time. There are so many facets in this country that are unique and intriguing. The subtle signs that each place and each landmark conveys has left a mark in my memory. For instance, on my drive from New York City to Drexel University, I was scared and anxious about staying at a new place, meeting people from different nationalities and working with them. The same thoughts that excited me at the Indian airport were now transitioning into anxiety, and amidst the cyclone of thoughts, I looked out of the car window and my eyes fixated on a “LOVE” sign in a park. This sign settled the mental cyclone and managed to get a smile. Something led me to believe that I was heading in the right direction and had nothing to fear. I will never forget that moment and the comforting feeling it gave me. With so many varieties in nearly everything from climates to foods, from cultures to cars, from museums to pubs, I am living in an extension of my culture in a way that resonates with the thought that defines India – “Unity in Diversity.”
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