My Ancestors’​ Story of Inclusion

In honor of Women’s History Month and Inclusion Day, Tejal wanted to share her family’s story of courage and inclusion.

Being the daughter of immigrant parents from India, I grew up listening to stories about my great grandparents and grandparents in India. As a child, I found these stories entertaining and interesting as their lives in the rural villages of India in the early 1900s was so different from my experience growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey. Now, as a woman in her 40s who is growing personally and professionally, I realize that these stories are so important because they allow me to see that the decisions of my ancestors forged new pathways of inclusion that have given me opportunity and access to thrive today.

One of the stories that resonated the most for me was that my maternal great grandfather decided to send my grandmother to boarding school in Africa while he was on assignment there. Like in many places in the world, the idea of educating women was commonly considered a waste, since the only expectations were that she would tend to home and children. Yet my great grandfather believed more was possible. Unfortunately, he passed away unexpectedly, which forced my grandmother to leave school early to help her mother in India to raise her siblings.

However, that belief that more was possible was in my grandmother, and fortunately, that same belief was in the man she married, my grandfather. While her main responsibilities were tending to home and children, my grandmother forged new pathways for women in her village who were often overlooked and mistreated by their own families. She would teach these women how to read and would even covertly take them to access needed medical care. She was a true champion for women.
My grandfather was also a champion for women in that he encouraged and supported his daughters in receiving higher education and believed anything was possible for them professionally. This led to my mother not only getting her college degree but also earning a master’s degree in chemistry.
The pathways that my ancestors, including my parents, opened are directly tied to my ability to live in the US, be college-educated and most importantly live with the belief that anything is possible for me professionally. I also think that the seed of championing others and opening up new possibilities is in me because of them.

The stories of my ancestors won’t be written in history books and will most likely live only in the stories passed down to my children. Yet, their choices created a ripple.

There is a beautiful Native American concept called the Seventh Generation. At its core is a belief that our choices today impact seven generations to come. I believe this to be true and invite all of us to celebrate those in our past who have had the courage to forge new pathways to inclusion for us, especially those whose stories may never be in history books. May their courage inspire us to forge new pathways to inclusion for those who come after us.

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