The fear so tangible, my whole body started trembling, tears welling in my eyes, as I desperately tried to suffocate the sound so no one could hear.
I was only three, but I knew I had to keep listening. I had to find out why my mom was weeping behind the closed door and begging my father not to say anything. To please, keep quiet that if we went back to India, that I would not make it. Succumbing to the environment that ravaged my body.
I pressed my ear closer to the door. We were still at my aunt and uncle’s home in Seattle after moving to the United States just months earlier. I caught a few words from my father, the one phrase engrained in my mind, “doing the right thing.”
I would learn years later, the seismic decision my parents faced. We were not citizens of the United States. My mother’s older brother, my uncle had sponsored us, which meant we could be sent back, especially if there was any hint of trouble.
And, it was more than just trouble my father discovered. He is an accountant by trade and was just hired as a state auditor. It was an entry level position, but he still noticed something awry in the budget.
I think this is where I get my tenacity and my curiosity that led to my career in journalism. My dad refused to ignore it. He dug deeper, ultimately finding multiple people skimming the books. But unlike the chapters of a book, where the deception is later revealed in greater detail, my parents kept this from me. The only clue was the incessant sobs from my mother behind closed doors.
Slowly, through the years, like pieces of a puzzle, the story came together. A story that would for years push me not to give up. My father risked everything, even his own daughter’s life. He took his findings to his superiors. The information climbing up the government ladder and later leading to the forced resignations of top tier government employees.
My father’s actions, not only uncovering deceit, but opening eyes, catching the attention of not only his superiors, but also one very special woman.
A woman who would later make history in Washington state and irrevocably change the course of our lives.
Within weeks of that night, I stood outside my aunt’s bedroom door. My family indeed would be packing up and leaving. But not back to India. Rather, again like a book, a new beginning. One I thought was only found in fairy tales.
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