My mother is a founder and officer of a Silicon Valley tech company. She grew up in India, but I think she was born to be here in America, in Silicon Valley, at this specific point in time. She is an optimist, a workaholic, a lover of pop culture, an avid reader of mystery/suspense novels, a Beatles fan, a feminist, and a person for whom meritocracy and the American Dream have worked.
When she was in her twenties in India, my mother wanted to work in electrical engineering, even though it was not yet commonplace and cut against the social mores of that time. It presented a wholly different path than the paths her seven sisters were taking. My grandfather let her leave town to live by herself with male roommates?again, completely against the times?so that she could pursue her dreams.
When we came to Pennsylvania, initially so that my dad could go to graduate school, we had nothing. We walked everywhere and I played mostly by myself with secondhand toys. We ate dosa and rice and sambar and idli at home. We never ate out. We did not go to the movies. We clipped coupons and reused yogurt containers. My early childhood was marked by lack?a child's perception that I was missing out on something that the affluent people around me had. Of course, this feeling of lack did not go away when we moved to Palo Alto. There, my family's one luxury for years was getting pizza from Round Table every other Thursday night.
We visited India every few years, but my grandparents remained strangers to me, far more curious about me than I was about them, to my continuing shame now that three of them have passed. When I travel to Chennai now, I still can't communicate with my sole grandmother because she speaks Tamil and I have only a kindergarten level understanding of what she is saying at any given time.
So it is crucial to me as an adult that my daughter have a different childhood, in which she knows her grandparents well and does not constantly dwell on what she might be missing. She has for her mother somebody with a hot-tempered and sensitive personality. I've read enough contemporary memoirs to know these are not character traits that daughters value in their mothers when they grow up. But fortunately for her, she has in her grandmother somebody who is measured, persistent, assertive, successful, and loyal and is such an excellent role model for girls. There is nobody I know who deserves her success more than my mom, nor is there anybody I would rather my daughter have a close relationship with than my mom.
Seeing a woman who has taken huge risks, followed her dreams, worked hard and succeeded in a male-dominated field is so empowering and inspiring. I've faced challenges in my life, but the luck of having my mother in my corner has more than made up for them. I would not trade that good fortune for any external measure of success. Happy Mother's Day to all the hardworking Silicon Valley mothers, who so rarely appear in any movie or television show or book?and mothers everywhere.