A Letter To Kezang

Dear Kezang,

I remember the first day we met. You were hiding in the crevice — between two large book shelves . Your eyes glued to the screen and headphones plugged in. It was my first day meeting you, a gracious third grader who’d made her way from your small family village in India, to the concrete gold paved roads in America. At least, that’s what you thought. But reality was different for you here. The road wasn’t mined in gold, the sky was a shade darker than expected. Your sahelis, giggling playing in the park before mama called you for dinner became a simple memory tucked away.

We started the first week tackling multiplication, line segments, and patterns. You only uttered numbers when you needed. Hesitantly whispering the answers, which were almost always right. Even when you encountered a problem that looked impossible, you persisted. You never gave up.

I returned the second week, and a student came up to you and asked “how are you still in that problem?” You didn’t respond, and instead gazed towards the floor. I waited for you to answer, but you exchanged a smile and got back to work. “She’s doing very well actually, thanks for asking,” I responded. My foolish self was expecting you to command pushback, but you invited him with kindness and warmth. It happened again the next week.

I went home that day, and I kept looking for answers. Why didn’t you speak up? Why were you silent? At that very moment, I was reminded of myself when I first entered elementary school in America. When I fearlessly used the bathroom pass, so Ms. Guzick wouldn’t call on me to answer questions. Afraid to release my voice. Afraid to not get the intonations of every word spoken. At that moment, I was angry at myself. How could I not understand? I’ve been where you are. Not wanting to speak up, no matter how confident I was in my answer. Trying to unlock the door of silence I’d help build myself.

But something special happened later that week. As I exchanged a few words in Nepali, you immediately took flight, vocalizing in a bigger and bolder fashion than ever before. You told me about your mother who fell ill. How you missed playing with your friends, and the familiarity of home. The pani puri your dad brought home, every time you scored well in an assignment. We spent most of our time that day sharing our childhood stories, connected by our mother tongue. A harmony felt abound.

As our time together is ending, I know you’ll continue being, and doing incredible things. Surround yourself with people who will help you solve existing problems, instead of rushing to move on to future ones. Trust your voice, and use it to question, challenge, and change. Embrace the caramel color of your skin, as it beams against the golden sun. Take pride in your name. Use it as a reminder to pay thanks to your ancestors. Not everyone is lucky to have two families from two different parts of the world. Be honest with your experiences from the past, and draw meaning from your struggles. Share them. Don’t stay hidden in the crevices of those book shelves.

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