This photograph, of my mother gazing into a pool of water by the Taj Mahal, says everything to me about the fluidity required by an immigrant lifestyle. My family moved across the globe in search of safety, freedom, and opportunity. Here it's as if my mother is gazing into her future, where she will be asked to negotiate the image she sees of herself. Like water, we immigrants have to adapt to whatever new landscapes we find ourselves in. We take on the flavors, the shapes, the colors around us, sometimes losing parts of ourselves along the way. Much of the time, in order to survive, we must reflect what we see and blend in as best we can, finding nooks and crannies to inhabit as long as we are welcomed there. Not everything translates. While I was born in the midst of this flow westward, my mother entered it mid-life. While I've always had to negotiate identity across cultures, during the transition to America my mother lost most of what she had established: an extended family, a recognized career, social stature. While I benefited from all of her sacrifices, she suffered the consequences. I earned an American degree recognized globally while her Indian credentials were lost along the way. I built strong connections here while she became estranged from hers. Watching her smile every day and feeling her enduring love despite these difficulties has shown me what it truly means to be strong, compassionate, and versatile.

Place(s): India
Year: 1991

– Shireen Khan

Relationship:  Im/migrant who arrived as a child Im/migrant who arrived as a child