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Health and Wellness

By Sameer Kumar, Esq.

Keeping Up With the Patels

The Malhotras, Reddys, Mukerjees, Srinivasans, Guptas, and let’s not forget the Krishnamurthys. Take your pick.

As Desis, we have an insatiable desire to excel in most, if not all, facets of life, whether they be career, relationships or monetary success. I know this phenomenon transcends cultural boundaries, but this is a Desi medium and the fact of the matter is we are a competitive bunch. I’m all for good, healthy competition. It’s the loss of our individual identity and focus on what is truly important that concerns me. Keeping up with the Patels gets the better of us in our quest to, well, keep up. We end up competing and attempting to shine in areas of life where we shouldn’t be competing.

Sameer Kumar, Esq.

Money, marriage, success, education, whose daughter is a better Bharatnatyam dancer and whose husband drives a nicer Mercedes (usually it’s the guy whose wife whips up the sweetest gulab jamuns) are at least some of the hot buttons. We brush over our unhealthy competitiveness by disguising it under the façade of becoming “well-settled.” That doesn’t make it seem so bad. Who doesn’t want to be well-settled?

If we settled for being “well-settled” it really wouldn’t be such a terrible thing. The problem arises when we all turn these fundamental parts of life (family, marriage, career, education, children, etc.) into the ultimate contest. These are all highly personal matters and fundamental to our beings. So having to emulate our fellow Desis in these areas is simply ludicrous! Societal pressures to succeed are huge in our community and unfortunately we measure each other—and ourselves—by this so-called success.

We have all had our share of hearing Uncles and Aunties (including our parents) go on ad nauseam about the accomplishments of their children. Once again this transcends cultures and is, in fact, socially acceptable—so long as we are simply talking about parental pride. We should be proud when our children get into great colleges, start their own businesses, get married or have their first-borns. The problem arises when this parental pride turns into a way to subtly (or sometimes not-too-subtly) indicate that your child doesn’t quite match up—Sorry! The shame that your son went to a state school, now works at Starbucks (where, of course, he serves my daughter skim lattes) and was unable to find a suitable mate with whom to procreate! No doubt—a worthless existence!

If you are trying to measure up to standards arbitrarily set by Uncle & Aunti Dosa, may I make a suggestion that is simple to say but difficult to accomplish? It’s simply, “Be true to yourself.” By all means go ahead and admire the successes of others and even try to emulate their success but:

Photo by Camilo Morales

- ONLY IF you love what you are doing,

- ONLY IF you feel that what you are doing is purposeful,

- ONLY IF the relationships you are attempting to emulate are what you—and only you—want and need,

- ONLY IF you are raising your kids in the way you imagined, not competing with your neighbors,

- ONLY IF you love the car you drive, not the status it affords you, and most importantly,

- ONLY IF at the end of the day you go home feeling that you’ve kept true to yourself.

If you’re just keeping up with the Patels, then it’s time to revisit why you do the things you do.

If you discovered that you’re just keeping up for the sake of keeping up (or maybe you have sensed this, but your Desi pride doesn’t allow you to admit it), then glance over the following tips and incorporate them until you know that what you’re doing is truly for yourself:

1) Realize that there is no universal definition of “success.”

2) Your parents, relatives, etc. want you to be the best at everything (as those of you who are parents want for your children). But no one is required to be, nor can be, the best at everything. By the way, second best is not such a bad place to be.

3) You do not have to become a doctor. You can become an artist, a social worker, a filmmaker, or even a professional bhangra dancer.

4) Money measures one thing—how much money you have. It plays practically no part in measuring happiness.

5) If you want a husband with a Mercedes, be sure to mention that in your profile. If you want the sweetest gulab jamun maker in town then I think she’s on This is not an contest to see who gets the best husband or wife; it’s about YOU and what makes your life complete, regardless of all the stuff that Uncle, Aunti, Mummy, Daddy, Bhen (sister), Bhai (brother), and your fourth cousin’s wife’s Mamaji thinks is good for you (although oddly they sometimes do know what’s good for you, so take it with a grain, if not a pinch, of salt).

6) Parents, ease up on your kids! Nothing feeds success like success. When Chotu (little one) comes home with a “B+”, let him know he’s a superstar. He’ll tell himself, “Imagine how Mom and Dad would react if I came home with an A.” Keep in mind that the “A” might not matter when Chotu decides to become a filmmaker. Support him then too—he’ll make it.

7) Finally, maintain your perspective. Once in a while—no wait, everyday—look at the people who have it tougher than you. You’ll be grateful for where you are instead of being miserable about where someone else is.

We all have our own unique set of life experiences—I have been speaking from mine. So, as always, I encourage you to take what you like, leave what you don’t, and simply consider anything that makes you think.

Sameer Kumar, Esq. is in the business of helping individuals achieve personal success in life. He is the managing partner at the Law Offices of Sameer Kumar, P.C., a Certified Personal Trainer, and an inspirational speaker & writer. He can be contacted at

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