When I first heard I would be interviewing Penny, the first two things I found out were that she made the best Chai Tea and owned her own dance studio so naturally, I was immediately intrigued. Our first meeting, I quickly found out that her Chai Tea was indeed the best I had ever tasted and she was one of the sweetest women I had ever met, eager to tell her story.
Right off the bat you could tell that Penny was full of love. Love not only for her family and arts and sciences, but for life in general. I got to experience this as she told me her experiences in India, her migration to the United States, the difficulty of leaving her family, and the meeting of who would soon become the love of her life where she would then have three boys. There were various ups and downs throughout Penny’s experiences so I got a feel for the true obstacles of migrating to the United States but also the great successes and opportunities that were achieved through her migration. The push-pull factors we’ve learned about in our migrant oral histories class really came to life as I listened to Penny’s story. She so badly wanted to stay in India because it was where she was happy. However, when the opportunity presented itself, she wanted to pursue a higher education and to see the world even if it meant leaving her family in India.
One theme that really came through in Penny’s story were her transnational ties to her family back in India. This was a topic of which we discussed in-depth throughout our course and I was able to make full sense of it after listening to Penny. It’s such an important part of all migrants that they stay connected to where they came from and to continue their cultural traditions and stay in touch with their family and friends. Penny has done very well at this. She visits India as much as she can and her family visits her in Iowa as much as possible as well. Her love for India shines through as she speaks and she expresses how important it is to her to see how India has changed over the years and stay connected with current events as she had once been part of the “New India.” Today, Penny is very much in touch with her Indian roots through her dance studio, teaching people of all ages traditional Indian dance among many others.
Penny is a truly inspiring individual who embodies the idea of the ‘American Dream’ and conveys optimism, showing that with hard work, bravery, determinism, and a light heart, one can achieve anything.