Families are like fudge—mostly sweet, but with a few nuts. Welcome to ours!
Click on a name to learn more.
I was born with the name Perfection (Uttama). Perhaps because it was too heavy an expectation, I sought out the beauty in all things imperfect. At Northwestern, I found myself knee deep in a case to free a wrongfully convicted prisoner on death row. I learned Joey was his favorite character on Friends. While on the editorial team at Highlights magazine, I spent every free minute responding to letters from children asking for help with problems, from peer pressure to dying pets. A child once asked, “Can blind people see in their dreams?” And although I received a distinction in my psychology masters at Cambridge, I found the true test was working with learning-disabled children in a country that severely stigmatized mental illness. Even there, I discovered a shy little girl unable to speak or walk, who softly held my finger when I was fighting back tears.
I learned one day, while sitting on a beach and scribbling a business plan for South Asian Parent, that everything I ever wanted had always been within me. That my name, just like my fate, was written in moving sand. Of all the places I lived, I identified most with who I was, an Indian—a South Asian—a girl who recited prayers in the morning and rap lyrics at night. And no matter where I traveled, I found the stories of South Asian families the most intriguing, but also the most heartbreaking. Blessed with parents who lived truer to my name, I was adamant to make a change in families not quite as tranquil as mine. And so here I go again, inspired by this imperfection…
People call me: Uttu, Yods, Utts, Utti. Nobody calls me my name.
Inspiration: Always the little things: extra chocolate in my croissant, letter in the postbox, a smiling baby, kindness from a stranger, hugs.
If I were a toy, I’d be: Polly Pocket
Dream: A time in which children will be born and recognized as their own souls—not a canvas on which to paint their parents’ dreams.
Role model: My father—who never uttered a word unless he could put it into practice. My mother, for limitless strength.
Favorite childhood memory: How could there ever be one? Hiding under a tree to watch leopards hunt, camping in pouring rain, snuggling close to mummy on a night train across India, lighting a thousand candles with my sister for Diwali, swimming in a pool surrounded by peacocks, pretending to sleep when daddy kissed me good night. My childhood is the favorite memory of my life.
Achievements: In my heart: revealing my true self to my family, having the courage to always follow my dreams, and never being afraid of falling in love. On paper: succeeding at Cambridge whilst hating it, surviving a year in small-town America as the only ‘colored’ person, and South Asian Parent, South Asian Parent, South Asian Parent!
Inspiration: I seem to find inspiration all around me from art, architecture, nature, history and especially from seeing the power of imagination and creativity come to life.
If I were a toy, I’d be: Either something that brings out your imagination like a Kid-O-Bilibo – a turtle shell type thing that can be used as a bucket, a seat, a hat, a tobogan, anything really or something arts and crafty like Klutz travel books.
Dream: To be up-close-and-personal with a whale in the ocean (preferably not as food but more as a friend)
Role model: I am surrounded by role models – my friends, family, husband, colleagues and even acquaintances – I learn how to be a better me by emulating the best in each of them.
Favorite childhood memory: Too many to choose from – reenacting The Sound of Music with 6 family friends for all our parents to watch (over and over and over again) or doing activities from our arts & crafts encyclopedia or learning Madonna dance routines with my sisters and friends.
Achievements: I graduated with a Joint Honours in Economics and Finance, have worked in both economic consulting and consumer packaged goods marketing and received awards/recognition for my work but my greatest achievement is being surrounded by great people who love, inspire and support me in every way – without them none of my “achievements” would be worth it!
People call me: Most people call me Dhara, but sometimes it’s just “D.” Family members get away with more creative nicknames that won’t make it to this website
Inspiration: Traveling really gets my juices flowing—there’s something about literally crossing boundaries that makes anything feel possible.
If I were a toy, I’d be: An etch-a-sketch
Dream: To be a travel writer; to open an Indian fusion restaurant with my husband; to hang out on the Galapagos Islands for as long as they’ll let me!
Role model: My parents for their courage, confidence, and flexibility. And, for demonstrating just how a relationship endures the ebb and flow of reality.
Favorite childhood memory: Storytime at the library every Thursday before starting school—although I can’t remember the books or the library all that well, I absolutely treasured the walk there and back with my mom.
- Driving from California to Massachusetts with my sister, my car, and all my stuff when I left for grad school;
- Conducting a research study about Indian international graduate students’ adjustment to academic, social, and emotional life during their first year in the U.S. (published results coming soon!)
Finishing my PhD and entering the “real world’ (although I have a feeling I will forever be a student).
People call me: Kumkum
Inspiration: People who go just out of their way to help others—no matter what— without any agenda of their own.
If I were a toy, I’d be: a ‘cuddly’ cheetah!
Dream: To be a melodious singer. ( I am tone deaf!)
Role model: Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda
Favorite childhood memory: Of age 5; I took a white smooth oval-shaped stone and installed it in a four brick ‘mandir’ as an image of God—after my Mother told me that God was in everything.
Achievements: Have done BSc from Delhi and MEd from the University of Toronto and taught for 5 years in DPS Delhi. I am happy about being able to adapt to living in 9 different countries, making close friends and entertaining successfully as the wife of a diplomat. I derived most satisfaction from conducting spiritual study groups for women and Bal vihars for children. It used to be a nightmare trying to put over 50 kids (ages 3-16) on stage. But it was all worth it seeing them give wonderful performances depicting ‘Dashaavtar’, scenes from the Ramayana etc. Most of all I am proud of my two sons, two daughters-in-law and two adorable granddaughters!
People call me: With a name like Suparna, I’ve heard both nicknames I love and ones that make me want to hide. Here goes: Soups, Sups, Soupie, Soops, Sahiba, Poops, Poopsicle, Superstar, Souper, Supernatural, Suprano, Tomato, Campbells
If I were a toy, I’d be: …a Rubiks Cube. I’m vibrant and colorful, always present a challenge, but totally worth it once you figure me out 😉
Dream: To marry Aamir Khan.
Role model: Jacqueline Novogratz (founder of Acumen Fund) and Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Founder of Grameen Bank) because they have both been indisputable game-changers in global development, but mostly for their compelling vision of the future.
My personal role model is my daddy whose inner strength and pure heart are a constant source of hope and love.
Favorite childhood memory: The day my baby sister was born. The doctor had to softly reprimand me to stop incessantly kissing and holding her. I had never before and have never since felt such overwhelming love and fierce desire to protect someone.
Achievements: The achievements that matter most to me are the impact I’ve had on the world around me. Helping my friends and family fight their battles and fulfill their dreams. Running a city-wide Stop Violence Against Women campaign. Managing a non-profit with extensive local and global reach. Helping businesses engage the community and be more socially responsible. Empowering others to realize and believe that they too, can make a difference. Never giving up the fight for good.
People call me: Summer (Winter, when I’m in a bad mood)
Inspiration: The creator and the creation. Everything is inspiration if you take the time to detach yourself from it, step back and see it in its own light.
If I were a toy, I’d be: A Pogo ball! It’s in my nature; when people try to step on me, I rearrange their balance, bounce back and take them with me. Plus, I’m nothing if not colorful.
Dream: To publish a novel, fly and write my name (graffiti style) on the wall of a few great monuments.
Role model: My mother, who taught me that sometimes being a “bad example” can teach the best of lessons; if someone learns from your mistakes they were worth making.
Favorite childhood memory: Sleeping under the stars on my grandmother’s roof in Pakistan.
Achievements: I’m a writer by passion and teacher by profession. For me, the greatest achievements have been to inspire young people to read, write and create beyond the limits they set for themselves.
People call me: Usually by some terrible variation of my real name. Unless you are those dearest to me who know my real name but call me something completely unrelated and silly.
Inspiration: tool, Sri Saraswathi Devi, my tribe
If I were a toy, I’d be: the velveteen rabbit
Dream: to live in India and the US, work as a midwife and train midwives, have babies and adopt babies, to travel the world and build a community…
Role model: Nap Hosang and my tribe
Favorite childhood memory: When I traveled to India as a young girl, my cousin and I would always bathe outside just as the sun was going down. I remember standing on the dark grey stone with our moms pouring water from the well over our naked bodies. We’d be shivering but it felt so good after a day of sweat and heat. Being a woman now I’m no longer allowed to partake in such rituals. This is one of my favorite childhood memories.
Achievements: Professionally, obtaining an MPH from UC Berkeley, pursuing a clinical doctorate, and having the audacity to become a nurse midwife in a tradition where midwifery is considered “low caste”. Personally, simply just learning to be who I am.
People call me: Himanshi
Inspiration: music, dance—kathak
If I were a toy, I’d be: snow
Dream: To dance with soul!
Role model: My grandfather Asha and Uncle Kirit
Favorite childhood memory: Sitting on swing and staring at flying birds; Eating mangos in India
– Technology/Management Consulting
– Software Engineer
– Leadership with non-profits
– Masters in Innovation and Technology
– Bachelors in Computer Science
People call me: Karishma/Kari
Inspiration: Coffee, Bookstores, The Ocean, Colors, People and Places.
If I were a toy, I’d be: Crayons
Dream: To open my own restaurant one day.
Role model: My grandmother and Coco Chanel.
Favorite childhood memory: Playing catch, taking long walks and collecting shells on the beach every Sunday morning with my baby brother and our house-help, Shankar.
Achievements: Spending an entire month teaching, gardening, learning and playing with children at an orphanage in Bali. And then ending that fabulous trip by becoming a licensed Scuba Diver!