Indian Trailblazer

Hi everyone, thank you for reading my blog! It is my first one. For years, people have asked me to share my story. I am finally opening up to the idea and will share my journey in hopes of helping others.

A brief synopsis : I left home at 18. It was the most heart wrenching decision of my life and sometimes I still wonder if the heartache was worth the cost. I carry so much guilt more than two decades later.

My parents arranged my marriage. I do not blame them for doing so! They are first generation it was what they know and what they thought was best. 

Every parent’s goal is to do what is in the best interest of their child. I know mine certainly is! 

But this decision was not one I could live with. Since I was three years old I wanted to be a television journalist. So, I left my protected shell and went out on my own. Leaving all my loved ones behind. My parents, my siblings, my aunts and uncles, cousins. The only life I knew.

As many can imagine, it is a very hard and dangerous road for a teen to embark on their own. I was no exception. As time goes by and my bravery builds I will share some of those battles.

I did manage to put my self through college.

I did become a four time Emmy award winning journalist with four additional Emmy nominations. I was even named Journalist of the Year.

But perhaps you can help me figure out-if it was too hefty of a price to pay.

As I write this, I thought leaving home was the most difficult battle I would encounter. 

How wrong I was–as I enter a new one that I hope to share.

This blog won’t be limited to my story.

I am humbled to have a very successful broadcasting career.

Lets have fun too! I want to review books, talk about make up and fashion, what kids are interested in. The love of my life is my 11 year old Sammie.

Thank you for getting to know me! 

Let the journey begin!

Indian Trailblazer: The early years, blog 1

Me with my beautiful mother

I was born in India. The first child of my parents, whose marriage was arranged. 

People always tell me that they are amazed by what I have accomplished. I am talking specifically of leaving home at only 18, putting myself through college and actually fulfilling my dream as a broadcast journalist.

But, there has to be a place where the inner strength came from. An example of sorts. For me, it’s easy to figure out; it came from my father. You see, he is the true hero. It is from his tragedy and how he rose above it, I was able to do the same.

My beautiful parents shortly after their marriage

My dad is one of seven children. When he was growing up India was in turmoil, in the midst of a civil war. Religious groups were fighting over territorial rights.

My dad’s father held a powerful position in this battle, but the stress proved to much. When my dad was only 14 years old, his father had a heart attack and died right in front of his eyes.

There was a lot of fear that my grandmother (My dad’s mom) would be targeted in this battle. So her protectors, rushed her to Pakistan. Tearing my dad away from his mother and most of his siblings. 

His older brother stayed behind in India and vowed to take care of my dad. But, so much went so wrong so quickly.

India is an impoverished country. During that time, it was even worse. My father had little food and often went hungry. But he dedicated himself to school, vowing to secure a better life. That meant walking miles to study. I remember vividly him telling me, that he did not have proper shoes. The soles so worn, he had bruises and cuts on the bottom of his feet. This knowledge along with going hungry will become very important as I share more of my journey. 

Back to my dad, he was a natural born athlete, a soccer player. The talent opened doors. He was able to go to college and get a degree in business.

He was very handsome as well. I know I am biased, but I have heard this from many people. He stood at 6’2 a rare height in that country and as many told me had the looks of a “movie star.” And, again, he was an athlete.

These details are important because it is how he ended up marrying my mother.

India has a “class” system when it comes to arranged marriages. I know that sounds awful, but that is the reality. My mom was in the most desirable category. But my father, now was penniless. He also did not have parents to even present a proposal of marriage. But, he had something else that’s priceless: determination. 

It was my mother’s sister in law, who actually spotted my father at a market. She asked him if she could introduce him to someone, my mom. Instead of saying he had nothing to offer, my dad agreed to meet my mother’s parents.

Like any father, my grandfather (my mom’s dad) was very apprehensive when he met my dad. A 23 year old with not even two pennies to his name. But he saw that determination in my father’s eyes. So, defying cultural guidelines he agreed to the marriage proposal.

My parents married shortly after that. It was humbling on many levels though. My dad had to move in with his in-laws. But within days he secured a job as an accountant, slowly starting to build a foundation for his family that was growing.

I was born a year later. Then when I was two, my sister, Shala was born. We were still living with my grandparents. That turned out to be a huge blessing because I started to get very sick. I could not hold anything down and I was withering away.

My parents used every dollar they had on doctor’s to figure out what was wrong. It was not good news. Physicians told my parents I could not withstand the environment and if I continued to live in India there was no doubt I would die.

My parents were fearful, but my dad channeled that fear into action.

He contacted my mother’s brother, a successful architect in Seattle to sponsor them into the United States. Another huge blessing the sponsorship came through and more quickly than anyone thought.

So, we got on a plane. The month was October and even though I was only two and half, the memories are as clear as yesterday. My handsome father carrying me across the airport. I felt so safe and secure in his arms.

Only later would I learn, even though he never showed it. How scared my father must have been. He was a husband with two children and one on the way. In his pocket: only $24.00.

Indian Trailblazer: The early years, blog 2

Me at the age of two, right before we left India

Back to the journey. I do not remember much about the plane ride. But, I do remember a stop in Tokyo. As I shared in an earlier blog post, my father had only $24.00 dollars in his pocket. I did not know that until years later. I was hungry in the airport. I rarely could keep anything down and I wanted a piece of fruit and crackers.

I recall a look passing before my parents faces. My mom looking at my dad with such anguish. He just shook his head, as if to say, it’s ok. He got up and bought me an orange and crackers. As I write this, my eyes are swelling up with tears. They had such little money. I can only imagine the concern, but the priority was to feed their dying daughter. For the first time, in a long time, I kept food down. A small victory. A sign they did the right thing.

To lighten the mood, I will also share a story my sister just told me.

The airport was the first time my mom saw a television! She did not know what to make of it. She touched it tentatively and stepped back fearful. I can picture her doing it. Her beautiful long black hair in a braid, wearing a sari, not an ounce of make-up, but I am sure still turning heads.

Little did she realize then, the daughter she was so desperately trying to save would one day be broadcasting from one of those “strange machines” as she called it.

Back to the journey, our final destination was Seattle, Washington. My uncle, Ahmed Jaddi had sponsored us to this country. He had arrived years earlier first living in St. Louis because he was one of the architects who led the construction of the St. Louis Arch back in 1963. Humbly, I would like to add, I am so proud of so many amazing people in my family and their extreme intelligence. It is with such gratitude to my uncle that we are here.

I don’t recall stepping off the plane or how we got to my uncle’s house.

But, the first thing I do remember was the weather. It was chilly. I was used to the searing hot sun of India.

My father quickly wrapped his arms around me to keep me warm. I also clung to my little sister Shala. God, how much I love her. I express this overwhelming love because to this day, I really don’t know how I did what I ended up doing? Leaving them all for years. How did I do it?

My uncle had a party for us at his home. There were so many tears and so many hugs between the family. This day was an emotional roller-coaster. And there was so much food! I came from such an impoverished country, and while my grandparents did well by all accounts, there was never this much incredible food to eat!

Me with my mother and sweet Shala in her lap. I do not recall the little boy

My memory is very hazy of those first few days. I do recall my parents being very happy. I was eating and gaining a little weight. It seemed oranges were my favorite food.

Life seemed to be getting better. But then just days after arriving, I was walking down some steps. And, all of a sudden my legs gave way. I only remember the piercing screams and then laying on a hospital bed.