2013 At a Glance

As 2013 was winding down, I asked myself “Did the year go by fast or slow?” In trying to answer this simple question, I decided to jot down some thoughts which touched me, affected me or meant something to me in 2013.

I published my first book – a memoir about the journey of a small-town Indian immigrant woman from her childhood in an unknown town of India named Hindustan Cables Limited to the here and now. This ought to have been a very happy moment for me, but I was ambivalent. On one hand, I was thrilled and proud to have traveled this unknown path of ‘writing a memoir’ rarely traveled by other Indian immigrant women before. On the other hand, I was nervous and apprehensive about the reactions of people around me precisely for the reason I felt proud of myself.  The Indian immigrant community is a fairly private community, and it is incredibly difficult and uncomfortable to talk about our failures and pains (the memoir had a few of them) openly. So I did not expect anyone to read, let alone buy the book. However, many of my friends surprised me by buying several copies of the book and distributing it to other people, an act of unconditional love and kindness.

I took a long-awaited trip to India with my daughter after I became a single mother more than a year ago. Single motherhood was an unknown and terrifying concept to my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. My mother did not have the courage to share her pain with any of her sisters until I landed in India this summer. I spent every minute of my ten-day trip shopping, dining, visiting family members, and even visiting my engineering college for the first time since I graduated two decades ago. At the airport, my parents gave me a teary farewell, but I knew they were more peaceful and courageous than when I first landed there.

Oishi started teaching math to the inner-city kids at Trenton this September as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She teaches 5th and 6th graders at Urban Promise in a church setting. What started out mostly as a project for Oishi is morphing into a passion for teaching math. She had always enjoyed peer-tutoring or solving puzzles with my friends. But I see and hear a different Oishi when she shares her teaching stories with me. A more mature, responsible and passionate person. Hopefully, this is the beginning of something new and lasting in her life.

Now that Oishi is a junior in high school , we started visiting colleges. Every college visit was a mini-vacation for us when we got up early in the morning, ate breakfast outside, listened to the admissions officers talking the best about their colleges, participated in a tour given by an enthusiastic college student and finally wondering “Is this college right for us?” During these trips, I was acutely aware of the diminishing number of days Oishi will be home before she heads out to college and there were tears – both from joy of watching her grow into this smart, compassionate young lady and from the sadness of not being able to see her almost every day when she goes off to college.

Amidst all these, I heard about great losses in our community – kids losing both their parents one month apart and parents losing their child in car accident. The impacts of losses are amplified in small immigrant communities presumably because we do not have extended family support. But I witnessed an extremely compassionate community who came together during these trying times and offered unprecedented help to the affected family members. The message of hope was delivered when we least expected it.

Last but definitely not the least, I learned Thai cooking from a Thai chef. More than learning, I enjoyed cooking Thai food for 40 people in my home.  Thai Basil chicken, Cauliflower green curry, Pad Thai, Pineapple fried rice and Tom Yum Goong soup were a few of the dishes served to the guests. I will leave the readers with the thought of the wonderful aroma of Thai food augmented by lime leaves, basil leaves, Galangal and Lemongrass!

What better way to end a year than a beautiful, thoughtful and loving gift from Oishi. She collected Swagbucks Rewards points to get an Amazon gift card, which she used to get a turquoise jewelry set.

In the end, I declared that 2013 sped past me. While I learnt and grew throughout, I still have much more to learn and accomplish and eagerly look forward to a new year.

HOPE ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE in 2014 and beyond… – Oishi and Sharmistha

Sharmistha’s Book

Turquoise jewelry from Oishi
Turquoise jewelry from Oishi

Published by

Sharmistha Das

Sharmistha Das, an Indian immigrant engineer and entrepreneur, is the author of "From Hindustan Cables Limited - Journey of a Small-Town Indian Immigrant Woman". Every South Asian woman who has immigrated to America will identify with the adventurous journey of Sharmistha Das. Born in a small rural company town of Hindustan Cables Limited in Bengal, India, Sharmistha grew up with her brother, mother and father in a simple home without running water or furniture, but with a great amount of love. Supported by her parents, she left her hometown for Kolkata and became the first female engineer from her community. After her marriage, she moved to Bangkok, Thailand and finally to America, the land of opportunity and heartache. While working and bringing up her daughter, she got her Masters in Business Administration and started her own business. Unthinkable for a girl from Hindustan Cables, she got divorced in 2012 and adapted to a new life as a single woman and as a single mother. Sharmistha’s story will inspire any women to dare to live her dreams.

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