Durham, NC — Normally for Mother’s Day, moms are given flowers, chocolates or even breakfast in bed. But the first time I asked my mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day, she told me she wanted me to finally clean my room. Begrudgingly, I did, because she’d been asking me for months, and I did not want to be the one to ruin the holiday for her.
Traditional American holidays aren't celebrated much in my house. Normally, my sister and I make our parents a funny card and clean the house. It’s simple, and that's the way we like it.
But Mother’s Day is always a good time to reflect, and well, I have a lot of reflecting to do. Not just on my mother, but everything she’s done for me.
My mother was born in Ichalkaranji, a small town in Maharashtra, India. There, she went to public school and graduated at the top of her class, eventually receiving a full scholarship to attend BJ Government Medical College, in Pune. I still remember her looking back on her experience, and telling me about the struggles of being a first generation college student: the homesickness, lack of resources and lack of finances. After meeting my father, my mother moved to the United States when she was 30 years old.
But the challenges didn’t end there. Despite the fact that she had been a practicing doctor for years in India, she had to redo her entire residency and fellowship in the United States — both while she was pregnant with my sister and me. She had to let go of everything she had always known, and adapt to new customs, people and even a new language.
Sometimes, I feel a little guilty, like I don’t really deserve everything my parents do for me. When I first started doing musical theater, my mom expressed how much she wanted to do theater as a kid, but couldn’t because the opportunity was never available for her. In times like these I remember how fortunate I am that because of her hard work, I am able to explore the things I’m passionate about.
For me, Mother’s Day isn’t just about celebrating my mother. The holiday comes with a sense of responsibility, to create a better life for my children, the same way my mother did for me. I can’t go back in time and give my parents the childhood they deserve. But I can pay it forward and carry on their legacy.
A version of this story also aired on KCBS.