A Father’s Story

Solace, companionship, and hope. These three words come to mind when I think about a guardian and protector, who begins work at the crack of dawn and doesn’t end his shift until the only thing illuminating the night sky is the moon, whose kindness melts your heart and can make even a stranger feel at home, who can answer even the most impossible questions, and whose dedication insures that he will never let go of your hand until you are ready to walk on your own. This physician is so much more than a doctor; he is a healer, a companion, a teacher, a lover, a photography enthusiast, a friend, a role-model, and an extraordinary gift to this world. This man is not just a remarkable physician, but he is my father.

Dr. Pratheep Arora began his educational journey at just twelve years old when he left his home in Thailand to attend boarding school in India. His family held highly the importance of getting an education and learning the English language in order to better the lives of their children in the near, though shaky future. In 1976, Pratheep and his two younger brothers were sent off to the boarding school St. Joseph. The three boys began their educational careers and strived to be the best versions of themselves that they could be, despite extremely hard circumstances. Not yet teenagers, the boys were thrown into not only a different country but a completely different environment, and without parents. Scared, sad, and confused, they struggled hard to adapt, leaning on one another for support.

When moving to different countries commonly for the purpose of education, many students experience a phenomenon called culture shock. Culture shock is the process of being confused and unaware of the new environment that one is in. It can sometimes take years to overcome, and takes a toll on the student or traveller mentally. The only way to overcome culture shock is through living for extended periods of time in the new environment, which can generally be difficult, as the student already feels uncomfortable in their new home. Studies suggest that over seventy-three percent of students who travel abroad for their higher education experience not only culture shock, but also experience reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock is when the student returns back to their home country after having adapted to their host country, and now have to once again familiarize themselves with their original country. Being only twelve years old, Pratheep and his younger brothers experienced culture shock in a greater concentration, and they found their situation and environment extremely difficult to adapt to. Culture shock is a problem that cannot be directly solved, but it takes appreciation and understanding of another country’s norms, and that can be a nearly impossible task to comprehend being just a child. When the boys left their home at such a young age, they adapted to their environment in India and relied on one another to be their family. Upon returning to Thailand, the boys had become men, and the only thing that was familiar to them was their parents. Everything they had once known was now different, and overcoming the change in their hometown was a struggle that they had to overcome as adults.

Dr. Arora in Columbia School of Medicine

Dr. Arora had a strong passion for medicine and the act of helping others and set his mind to becoming a doctor at a fairly young age. His passion stemmed early on in his life from watching his grandfather fall ill, and he wanted to be able to serve as the person who helps his family as they supported him in his every endeavor. As he completed his junior high and high school years, his passion only grew stronger, and he became motivated to do everything in his power to achieve his dream. He had to jump through many hoops in order to enter just the beginning steps of becoming a doctor. Upon finishing high school, Dr. Arora was immediately granted admission into Maulana Azad medical school in India. Their motto is “Immortality of Mortals by Cure”, which is something that he very much connected with. He spent the next four years learning each and every detail of the human body, gathering an even larger appreciation for medicine. At the the young age of twenty-two, he graduated medical school and had an M.D. behind his name.

Upon finishing medical school, Dr. Arora began searching for place where he could complete his internship and residency. While searching for the place to start the next stage in his life, he was also urged to marry; in fact his parents arranged a marriage after he chose a girl of his liking. In Indian culture, arranged marriages are very common and can be considered an “in-person Tinder”; this is how my father met my beautiful, brilliant, beaming mother. They were married in India, and were lucky enough to fall in love after their wedding. The dynamic of their relationship is essential to the progression of my father’s story, and it shifted his motivations and purpose in life.

Dr. Arora and his wife, Neelam, at Pikes Peak 2017

The newlyweds soon moved to Thailand to start the next stages of their lives together. They lived together with extended family consisting of Dr. Arora’s parents, uncle and his spouse, and his cousins. As the he was the oldest Arora child, he was the first to bring a bride home. They lived in Thailand for several years before they made the decision to move abroad to the United States. Dr. Arora wanted to use his MD in the States and practice modern medicine and expand his opportunities. While they were planning their move, the got news that a little boy was on the way. My brother was one of the biggest motivators in the lives of my parents. Suddenly the lives of two beings revolved around my big brother, and everything they set out to do was just for the benefit of him. They decided to stay in the country until they had their baby boy, and to eliminate any unnecessary stress on my mother. Soon after my brother was born, they moved to the United States, where my dad had dreams of making it big. Unfortunately being a foreign medical school graduate made finding a job extremely difficult, and my father found himself under tremendous amounts of stress and in finding a career and trying to support his family. As endless interviews went by with months of hard work and dedication, he was accepted to Columbia University’s residency program, as they saw the brilliance which was contained in him. He continued to climb the ladder in the medicinal world, and soon found himself able to support himself on his own two feet. Coming to the United States was a time of hardship, as it is not as glamorous as the Hollywood immigrant stories, and it was extremely difficult to become successful in a world full of intelligence and immense competition.

Being a foreign medical school graduate, and just a foreign job-seeker in the United States used to be a highly intimidating title to hold. Immigrants have to jump through endless hoops in order to make a name for themselves in the United States. Their days are filled with racism, accusations of being unqualified for the job, and overall they experience a lack of respect and trust. Being in an unfamiliar environment only makes the process more difficult, and regardless of the job an immigrant is looking for, the competition strikes in, and the entire process is hindered. Along with the immigration process comes stress and anxiety. Dr. Arora had immense dedication to his family and career, and would stop at nothing to get the best possible life and living conditions for him and his family.

In the United States, once you have a big house, two kids and two dogs, a beautiful wife, a secure job, and everyone is happy, life is set. These are the parameters that are set to achieve the American Dream. What is not shown when the well-known dream is spoken of is the blood, sweat, and tears that follow. That dream does not become a reality for a majority of people living in the United States. Immigration in the United States is much more than a simple relocation and hard work at a newly attained job. It requires months of waiting for proper documentation, finding an apartment that can support a family of four while being in a safe area of a fast-paced city, proving that one’s credibility is valid, and much more that takes a toll on the immigrant and makes them feel as if they do not belong in this country. The odds of actually becoming a highly successful entrepreneur in the States is extremely slim because of the demanding process. It is often mistaken that a highly credited immigrant will make it big in the US because of their qualifications, however that is not the case. Even though in that specific situation intelligence, qualifications, and higher level education is not factored into the equation, other factors such as racism come into play. This is seen time and time again when immigrants speak of their experiences with their transition into the United States. Even someone as highly qualified as Dr. Arora faced struggles when coming to this country, and till date struggles with the acts of racism.

Dr. Arora faced many struggles when he moved from Thailand to the United States. He was faced with problems such as being discredited for his work, racism, and more. Dr. Arora was a qualified doctor by the time he moved to the United States and took numerous amount of exams which proved he had the proper education and skills to be a doctor. He spent countless hours behind textbooks, learning each and every detail about the human body, and strived to be the best doctor he could possibly be. He struggled to find a job, and also faced many social issues when he moved to this country. His story explains the struggle of immigration in the United States and the social problems that come with it. It took Dr. Arora and his family years to be granted citizenship in the US after holding permanent residency for an endless amount of time. His story shows the struggle of immigration and the hoops that immigrants must jump through in order to become successful in the United States.

The story of Dr. Pratheep Arora entails details about this struggle of becoming successful, the unbreakable bond of family, and the struggles of immigration in the United States. Dr. Arora’s story starts with the struggle to become a figure of greatness as young as age twelve, when he had to leave his hometown and move to a different country to get a higher education. Living in a foreign country made getting an education very difficult, and for most people at the time, it meant continuing family work that has run for generations. Dr. Arora had different plans, and had an immense passion for medicine. He wanted to help people on a grander scheme. He had respect for his family and everything that they did, but he wanted to strive to reach greatness, and he knew what prices he would have to pay in order to reach his goals. His story reveals the struggle that it takes to become successful in a harsh environment, and how is normal life, even today, is impacted by the struggles he went through starting just at his childhood.

Dr. Arora’s story targets many important themes which include the struggle to become successful, the bond of family, and immigration culture in the United States, all of which are crucial to the person that he is today.

***

My father is someone who has always been there for my family and I in every step of the way. Starting from the birth of my brother and following with my existence in this world, my father has been one to support us throughout every hardship. Every tear is equivalent to a thousand stabs in the chest, every bit of sorrow is his suffering, and every ounce of joy is his entire happiness. Even today, my father strives to be the best version of himself that he can be, and continues to use his family as his main form of motivation.

I am constantly inspired by my father and the greatness he achieved by such a young age. I often find myself wondering if I’m on the right path, always comparing my accomplishments self to those accomplishments that had already been achieved by him at my age. The hardships he went through only push me to be the best version of myself that I can be, and his perseverance motivates me to accomplish and go after everything I want in life. My father has been my biggest support system, and he always knows what to say and when to say it. I am fascinated by the fact that a simple and quite humble man has such a past to him, and it reminds me that everyone has a beautifully complex story behind them. People come from so many different backgrounds, and it is eye-opening to take a minute to pause and listen, and a stunning story emerges from it. I find this happening every time I speak to my father, and I want to further indulge in everything he is, and further understand not only his background, but my own roots.

My existence within the Arora family is the best thing that could have ever happened to me, and for my amazing father, mother, and brother, I am so forever grateful.

Pratheep and his daughter, Nyanika, 1999
Dr. Arora and his kids, Jd and Nyanika
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