I come from a conservative Hindu South Indian family where being submissive and being predictable are considered the highest qualities. I have been handed the following script on how I “should” live my life:
Kids “should” get good grades and go to well-known schools.
By age 22, you “should” get a corporate job and get settled.
By age 25, you “should” buy a house.
By age 27, you “should” get married to a spouse from the same caste.
By age 30, you “should” pop out the kids to make your parents happy.
For the rest of your life, until you finally kick the bucket, you “should” pile up as much wealth as you can so you can be the hero of your kids and the son of proud parents.
However, I consciously have chosen to get outside of my own belief systems to live my own life just like I mentioned in the below speech I gave to the students of Columbia university in August 2018. I broke the tradition of marrying a woman within my own caste system by marrying someone from a country outside of my own.
In doing so, I had to answer a barrage of questions from my family and friends on the uncertainties of marrying a Chinese woman. They asked me questions like “How wealthy is her family?” “Will she divorce me and take away all my money like the spouses from western countries?” “Will she take care of my parents during their old age?” “Which country would we move to should our temporary U.S. visa get revoked?” Well, I did not have answers to any of those questions but I managed to convince them by telling them some cock and bull stories. Just joking. My wife has so many traits that makes her instantly likable.
The reality I haven’t shared with my friends and family until now is that my wife was at her lowest point in her life when we met. She hated her job, lived paycheck to paycheck and threw temper tantrums from time to time. She expected her husband to be her next savior, pulling her out of the trenches just like her dad did when she was younger. I could have easily let the dark side of our relationship and my family’s concerns confirm my worst fears but I chose not to give into them. Fears keep you inside of your box but I chose to believe in impossibilities and live life outside of my fears. My deep connection with my wife and her openness to see through our conflicts gave me the courage to overcome my fears, and I married her in March 2017.
Well, just a few months after our marriage life took me by surprise as I experienced unfamiliarity outside of my own box. We faced challenges in our relationship in the first few months of marriage but just like I mentioned in this blog post, I looked at every setback in our relationship as an opportunity to better myself.
Some unexpected opportunities also opened up as my wife’s own transformation inspired me on a journey to discover more about myself and the legacy I want to leave for the world. With her love, support and compassion she woke up the inner Gandhi in me and helped me realize the full potential of my true self. As a result, I reinvented myself as a speaker and a coach, living with purpose and greater fulfillment than I ever did. I also learned that I can get a US green card from a Chinese wife, a possibility that could not have happened in the next 10 years if I stayed in my own box. Today we were issued Green cards.
What I want to leave you with is that, it is your choice to live inside of your box or outside of your box. I experienced greater fulfillment living life outside of my box. But I caution you that life throws curve balls at you when you are living outside of your box and how you respond determines the size of your life.