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Capturing culture: Harper’s story

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Capturing culture: Harper’s story

After my mom’s marriage to my dad, her family poses for a picture in their one-bedroom apartment in Kolkata, India.

After my mom’s marriage to my dad, her family poses for a picture in their one-bedroom apartment in Kolkata, India.

After my mom’s marriage to my dad, her family poses for a picture in their one-bedroom apartment in Kolkata, India.

After my mom’s marriage to my dad, her family poses for a picture in their one-bedroom apartment in Kolkata, India.

As a first-generation American, I often think what my life would be like if my parents didn’t come to America. If my mom didn’t get an IT job in Chicago. If my mom wasn’t one of the few girls at her engineering college. If my great-grandfather got his way and my mom didn’t go to college at all. If she wasn’t at the top of her class at an expensive private school that my grandfather worked day and night driving taxis and fixing watches to pay for.

If my mom hadn’t defied her great-grandfather, I wouldn’t know how easy life could be. I wouldn’t know how it feels to have a stove, or a fridge, or hot water until I was an adult. I would have dropped out of school after eighth grade just as my grandma did and be married and have a young child at my current age of 16. I would get excited over the littlest things, like getting a dining table or a new hand-sewn kurta (traditional Indian casual wear) from my mom.

Instead, I enjoy the pleasures that we so easily take for granted.

My mother and her three siblings, along with her mother, father, grandmother and grandfather, shared cots in a two-bedroom apartment, with only the privacy of a curtain to conceal the toilet. My grandfather spent his life savings on a new house, one that he wouldn’t live long enough to enjoy. My grandmother spent her life caring for her children and fighting her father-in-law to give them a better life.

Where would I be — physically, mentally or emotionally — if my mom didn’t come to the U.S., if she wasn’t at the top of her class in her high school in Kolkata, if she hadn’t gone to college and earned a degree in a field severely lacking female representation? If she had stayed close to home? If she had followed the crowd and hadn’t taken the risks?

The answer is nowhere. Sure, Harpreet Dhadde would still exist. But Harpreet Dhadde the singer, actress and journalist wouldn’t. I wouldn’t exist. Even if I was physically myself, the me my friends and family know today wouldn’t exist. The me who is free to pursue music instead of pursuing a living to help my struggling family. The me who is supported in her decision to leave home after high school. The me who does not have to excel in school because she can still get by on her parents’ money. I wouldn’t love K-pop, I wouldn’t dance, I wouldn’t sing, I wouldn’t enjoy the simple pleasures of soaking in a hot shower on a cold winter day. I wouldn’t complain about the little things like not getting a solo performance in the show choir that my mom pays $1,200 a year for me to be a part of. I wouldn’t be me. I’d be happy, because I wouldn’t know what could have been, but I wouldn’t be me.

So the answer is simple. I’m here, right now. And I have to strive for greatness to reach new levels of success so that my mom’s struggle to move up in the world wasn’t in vain.

Still, I can’t help but ask: what if?

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About the Writer
Harpreet Dhadde, Staff Writer

Harper is a junior at Naperville North. She enjoys spending her time singing, dancing and playing the piano. She is a member of the NNHS show choir, High...

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Capturing culture: Harper’s story