Family Dynamics This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     One of my best friends growing up was Amrita Ramakrishnan. We never had any classes together, but ended up falling into a friendship because of our assigned seats on the bus home from school. Amrita has always been beautiful - though she’d never admit it - with her dark brown skin and long, curling black hair. Raised by two brilliant professors at the local university and three years younger than a sister who was salutatorian of her class, Amrita always felt second best. I’d spent years trying to rid her of this illusion, but she still stood firm.
Three years ago, I was invited to Amrita’s sister’s graduation party. I was the first non-family member to arrive and I felt out of place. Everyone else was dressed in tightly wound saris, draping salwars of every color, and other matching outfits tailored especially for them. Each garment was made by hand, with beading along the edges and beautiful circling designs winding around arms and waists.
Mrs. Ramakrishnan had spent her day cooking, evident from the constant stream of spices that wafted from many pots and bowls. The food looked like nothing I had ever seen, which made me all the more eager to taste it. I filled my plate with a bit of everything and sat among the Hindi-speaking relatives and other friends.
The first thing I tasted was a deceptively boring-looking light brown mixture of beans that turned out to be filled with all sorts of spices. Next were a few milder dishes with colorful combinations of vegetables that I could not identify. I even tried a flaky crusted ball the size of a fist that looked benign on the outside but contained a thick mixture of the spiciest potato and rice blend I’d ever tasted.
As I looked around at the other guests, I could not help but be reminded of my own family, crowded around the dinner table during our yearly Passover Seder, singing “Chad Gad Ya” and eating my grandma’s famous kugel - things that would surely have been just as foreign to the Ramakrishnans as their gathering was to me. A few three-year-olds ran around chasing each other, reminding me of my brothers and cousins playing together each holiday. Amrita’s grandparents hugged and kissed her, and everyone there reminded me of my own nurturing grandmother. The beautiful skin-tight choli that Amrita’s sister wore as a gift from her parents reminded me of my bat mitzvah dress and how my mother and I had spent hours picking it out. The Ramakrishnans were, in essence, no different from my family. We all inhabit the same world; we just wear different clothes, eat different food, and speak different languages.
The universal sights and sounds of family were everywhere. It was a bizarre experience to observe a family that wasn’t mine but resembled mine in so many ways. It was also refreshing to be included in a family that had helped me see the beauty in my own.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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beautifulspirit This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 18, 2011 at 10:03 pm
Beautiful piece~ reading this I remembered the times I have spent with my own family. You have reminded us that family is family, though different in some ways but so alike in others.
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