Akshaya Annampedu, Director of Public Relations for the USS and creator of The StudentOp, discusses how her experiences as a young child has impacted her to this day.
“She keeps speaking her mother tongue,” said my preschool teacher to my parents about how I had asked to go to the bathroom in Tamil, a language foreign to her and the American school system.
I still remember how after I kept speaking in Tamil rather than traditional English in my preschool class, I felt as if others labeled me as a confused child, a completely untrue designation. In fact, speaking a difficult mother tongue implies everything but confusion. Nonetheless, I had to unnaturally and psychologically force myself to develop my English skills to fit in, ultimately leading to the loss of my ability to speak the complex Tamil language and turning me into one of the already plentiful ideal English-speaking students. I felt wronged; the Americanized classroom, and my fault-worthy, innate desire to fit in, constructed me into what society wanted, not necessarily what I wanted. I became a brand new computer, installed with new software and programming that I could do nothing else with except use.
Passenger beautifully articulates, “Only miss the sun when it starts to snow.” Only when I travel to India and attempt to converse with my Tamil-speaking grandparents, I receive harsh reminders that my loss has permanently altered my persona, because I can only manage to express meaningless stutters of my already broken Tamil, causing my grandparents to stare back at me in utter confusion.
Can I afford to let anything or anyone further diminish my values, beliefs, traditions, and actions? Definitely not. Honestly, the loss of Tamil still impacts me to this day. However, that loss had value, because it showed me, quite dramatically, that I cannot lose my qualities anymore, however trivial or significant they may be. Without these qualities, like the way I yearn for a hint of Indian ginger in my tea, add chili in my omelette, groove to Indian songs, do frequent Pujas, and call elders Aunty and Uncle, who would I be? I would exist as Nobody, or The Girl that Fits In, not Akshaya. As Amy Tan stoutly emphasizes, “You have to be your own person. You can’t let people’s opinions determine how you think about yourself.”
“Passenger beautifully articulates, “Only miss the sun when it starts to snow."
What do I do now to embrace my current software and use it to its fullest potential?
I expose my voice and write for a local newspaper.
I lead a meaningful school club striving to bridge the educational gap.
I volunteer to serve an authentic need.
I strive to attain the title of piano virtuoso by practicing constantly.
I keep these things closer to me, because I need to protect and savor everything I have left. I can say, with gratification, that I have adapted to my instilled software and learned how to optimize it for absolute success.