LXXIX. Rooted in my Ruby Shoes -
(My personal Op-Ed/journalistic coverage of the 2nd Annual Sikh Leadership Summit)
At the cusp of sunset, traffic into the west side of Manhattan on a Monday night was mild and yet heavier than usual, redolent of the upcoming holiday season.
Upon entering a large and open lavish lobby with floors that act to enhance the sound of even the smallest heels, the well-suited doormen directed me to turn left and up one flight of escalators.
The 2nd floor provides just the right amount of exclusivity while also being inviting.
I was attending the Sikh Art & Film Foundation-sponsored 2nd Annual Sikh Leadership Summit.
Dressed in a colorfully paneled dress, black blazer, patent leather back heels, and a cross body bag that possesses the right combination of utility and aesthetic, I was initially surprised that the doorman knew what event I was attending without me wearing any ID or flashing the e-mail invite.
Initially, I had smiled in spite of myself: He must have identified me as Sikh or Punjabi!
Clearly, kinship and being identified with a people makes me content.
I quickly realized that this may very well be the only event taking place in the building hence the doorman’s quick instructions for how to navigate the lobby.
Regardless, with registration out of the way, I had entered the “cocktail and reception” area.Here, I stepped onto the red carpet.
Mind you, the red carpet was not those associated with award ceremonies and celebrity dwelling. The red carpet was not an isolated rectangular piece placed on top of of a visibly barren ground. No, the red carpet ran from wall-to-wall.
That is not to say that celebrity-status was lacking.
Indian leaders in the United States were in attendance: Ex-Citibank President, Mr. Victor Menezes, Ambassador and India’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Manjeev Singh Puri, and Mr. Ajay Banga, President and CEO of MasterCard, were all there. I only became aware of their presences after they had introduced themselves at the start of the panel.
As the night progressed I was content that the Indian nationality was not separated from the Sikh faith, as it sometimes is.
Still, as the night progressed, I realized that I disagreed with 50% of what was discussed during the panel with reference to unwarranted praise of a country and mindless talk of the going-on of academia without the speakers actually having been students at an American university for at least 2 decades.
Slowly but surely I developed a pounding migraine.
These successful persons were speaking to and about the youth in a nonsensical and somewhat patronizing manner.
The panelists offered challenges for the Indian-American youth to pursue discourse within U.S. Politics.
I do not want to be a civil servant! I choose not to pursue a political, (in the traditional sense of the discipline), career, thank you very much.
The moderator suggested that my generation is into “gadgetry” and will not go to the library and take out a book.
False Ms. professor! I can speak for myself and attest to inhabiting the library on campus for the past three years where I had checked out a number of books.
The discussion was smart, however, and I truly appreciated the discourse… and aside from the aforementioned, there were parts of the panel that I wholeheartedly agreed with.
For example, I agreed with Mr. Ronald G. Weiner when he said that you are only making a difference if you are appreciated for it, the difference you made; if you think you are making a difference but are not being acknowledged for it, you were not making any positive contribution to society but were instead, wasting time.
Another point of discussion that stuck with me was Mr. Menezes’s remark about parents giving their children “roots and wings.”
Parents must ground you such that you are rooted in your culture, heritage, and value system.
Parents must also provide you with the wings to embark on necessary entrepreneurial instinct, so that you can travel and adapt to new environments.
_________________________ ◊ _________________________
I think I am rooted to the nth degree.
How do these successful Sikhs, Punjabis, Indians, take off and leave without their families by their side? We share a culture and the values that come with it.
Will there be a gurudwara nearby? Will there be an Indian restaurant?
Why is it so hard for me, born and raised in New York City, to go out of this ‘comfort zone’, so to speak?
Did my wings’ growth get stunted?
So much for my daily dose of Flintstones vitamins.
I want to travel, yes. However, I feel uneasy at the prospect of living in another country for a lengthy period of time, alone and without anyone to call my own. Yes, I know we’re all human but strangers are strangers and if I don’t know you, well then, I don’t know you.
I went on the train as usual and was almost swallowed up by people everywhere. The train car was full and yet with each stop made, more people squeezed their way in.
It was a horrible morning and the whole staying positive bit wore off with each passing second of numbness that crept up my right arm as I strained to hold onto a metal bar approximately a foot above my head.
This NYC subway transit experience is no longer fun. Was it ever? Maybe I was more tolerant of inconveniences before. Maybe, but I highly doubt it.
I think my wings grew quite a bit.
I should take an opportunity outside the U.S. if available. I need to see and experience novelty steeped in history.
A lot of growth needs to happen.
In the event that I want to come home, I will always have my ruby shoes.
I will click the heels of said shoes 3 times and I will say thrice:
“There’s no place like home.”