Shadhika Shadhika


"My life isn't about whether I get like an A or an A- on a test. It’s supposed to be about what I can do for the world."

“I am my mother’s daughter:” In conversation with Lekha, from the graduating class of 2022.

By Vanita Ganesh, Digital Media Coordinator

May 12, 2022

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In May 2022, Lekha is graduating from high school. Her family lives in Colorado, but she goes to boarding school on the East Coast. Lekha and her mother Marsha reflect on what this graduation season means for their mother-daughter relationship. 

You are graduating at the end of this school year. What are your reflections looking back on what you’ve accomplished?

Lekha: The biggest thing I’ve accomplished is integrating within the community of my school, but also trying to create smaller communities and trying to create support for other people. Learning how to be a supportive role model for the freshmen and the sophomores has been really important. My academics have been a really important part of my experience, but I feel like that’s not all. It’s also who I’ve helped here, who I’ve made friends with, and who I formed connections with. I definitely feel like a lot of that is due to my parents. We are a family that places a lot of importance on academics but I was always taught the importance of community and helping others. My life isn’t about whether I get like an A or an A- on a test. It’s supposed to be about what I can do for the world. My parents are very supportive because they want me to go out into the world and help others as well.

This is such a special and meaningful moment for Lekha and your family. What does watching Lekha graduating this year mean to you as her mother?

Marsha: I’m getting emotional already. Lekha is an amazing kid. We call her “T” because she’s tenacious. That’s been her nickname since she was like four years old. She’s someone who perseveres despite whatever challenges are in front of her. She has all these goals. She has hopes and aspirations, and she’s always, in a very gentle but very persistent way, kept at anything that she works hard at. And she has done incredibly well–not just academically, but also she has built tremendous friendships at school. So in this moment, I feel pride, gratefulness, and true appreciation for who she is.

Shadhika Club founder Lekha and her mother Marsha.

What are you most excited about in your next steps? And equally, what causes you the most stress right now?

Lekha: What I’m most excited for is being in college–especially in New York City–and getting involved in groups, especially social justice groups. That’s something that’s always going to be really important to me, no matter what career path I end up choosing. I’m really excited to meet a lot of international students and people from all over. I love making cross-cultural connections. My life is so much better for that. In terms of what I’m nervous for, I guess I’m just leaving behind a lot of the friendships and the relationships I made with teachers and people here. That’s pretty scary. For four years, you’ve worked so hard to build up all these friendships and then you have to start over. So I’m nervous about meeting people who are as amazing as the people who I’ve met here.

Through Lekha’s entire education journey, what is the moment that makes you most proud of her?

Marsha: Her tenacity and persistence really are her core. At the end of her junior year, we were dealing with COVID and all these disruptions, but she really wanted to do an internship with the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center and the application process involved all these essays, in the middle of college applications in just a few months. So she put in all this effort, only to find out that the Smithsonian was not offering that internship anymore because of COVID. It was such a disappointment. But within a day or two, she said:  “Mom, I found something else and I’m going to apply for this.” I thought: “Wow, she really has this incredible ability to look for another opportunity, look for another path, and to really keep going.

We call Lekha tenacious and I imagine that’s what it takes for these girls in India to push through as well: incredible tenacity and perseverance.

One of the most humbling experiences in life is recognizing those around you who supported you on the road to hard-earned success. What would you like to say to your mother as you graduate into a new stage of your life?

Lekha: I’m my mother’s daughter. When I first came to boarding school, I had a bit of a hubris, like I can handle it on my own. Then over the years, I realized how much I actually really missed that time spent with my parents, especially with my mom. We like to watch old movies, gossip about some aunties, or go to the gym together. It must have been really hard for my mom to give that up. I’m so grateful that she let me figure it out for myself, but was also there for me. I recognize that I come from a very privileged background and that’s because of how hard my mom worked when she came to this country. I feel very lucky because my mom has given me a very global perspective and encouraged me to connect, not only with the Indian part of my family, but also my dad is half Iranian. My mom taught me how to look at life with nuance and to respect human existence by having empathy. I really am my mother’s daughter. I’ll always love her. 

Parents raise their children to be happy and to be able to face the challenges of life on their own. But we always worry. How has your daughter shown you she is ready to take on this new step in her life?

Marsha: These last couple of years, Lekha demonstrated to us all that she can take care of everything that is in her court and we rarely have to intervene. Through this whole college application process, there were 10 or so moving parts and she stayed on top of all these logistical things, especially since we were not physically with her. The other thing is that she manages all the different things she has on her plate (academics, extracurricular, friendships, etc.). She’s such a multidimensional person and she’s able to do all that and manage it on her own. She still needs emotional support and we truly love it when she comes to us for advice and support. When your child leaves home, I think: “Are they prepared?  Can they handle the academics? But also, what kind of person will they be in their community?” And Lekha is not someone who just thinks of the people around her, but she really is a global person and is ready to be a member of that bigger community.

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