Saris and Swimsuits

Grayslake, Illinois circa 1951

Sometimes the best experiences are the ones that challenge our everyday world. My parents were never hesitant about new opportunities. About ten years before I was born, my parents decided to temporarily leave India to study at Northwestern University. There, Papa completed his doctorate and Mamaji completed her masters. On the weekends they took a break from the bustle of city of Chicago and visited new friends in the small town of Grayslake, Illinois. While I knew they had studied in the city, I did not know about their connection to Grayslake. Imagine my surprise when 43 years later, I purchased a home in Grayslake and found some articles related to my parents’ visit in the local church archives!

In this photo, Mamaji is almost ready to give birth to my brother, Emmanuel. She is modestly dressed in a sari, while posing next to her friend wearing swimsuit. In 1950’s India, it was definitely not acceptable for women to be dressed in such a manner, much less pose for a picture wearing similar clothing. I am most struck by this fact; while it is evident there were many differences between Mamaji and her American friend, they still seem to have found so much in common. More than likely they bonded as women and mothers and learned that even though they lived in entirely different worlds; there was still a connection. Mamaji reminds me to be open minded, welcoming and to embrace new life challenges; no matter how unfamiliar they may be. How much we can all learn from this simple picture, taken so long ago!

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