When I was six, my family immigrated to Edmonton from India. As a child growing up, I remember that it was just assumed that my destiny had already been written. I would study hard, get good grades, get a good university degree, get an arranged marriage, have babies, and be a good wife. For the longest time, I accepted this to be my future. I didn’t believe there were any other possible options for me.
I remember attending campus orientation with my parents. I was interested in chemistry because it was my highest grade in high school, physics because I felt challenged by it, and computer engineering because I had always been fascinated by computers. I ended up joining the Honors Physics program through the process of elimination. Chemistry seemed too much like cooking to me, and when the students at the computer engineering session talked about the late nights they spent in the computer labs, one look on my parents’ faces was enough to tell me it was a non-starter.
I realize now that my time at U of A was a time of huge personal development. I watched my friends talk about their dreams and aspirations as they planned out their future lives after graduation. It was then that I started asking myself the question, “why not me?” It took me years of internal debate to answer that question, because the decision to break with tradition is not an easy one and comes with many implications, good and bad. There is no right or wrong answer: I believe that each individual should have the right to choose his or her own destiny.
I know this is not an unusual story. It is one that repeats itself around the world and here in Canada. Over the years, so many young women of South Asian background have reached out to me to talk about their dreams, aspirations, and fears. Many fight courageous battles to pursue their dreams, many live double-lives, and many give up because it’s too hard.
I had always participated in volunteer programs to encourage young women to pursue careers in science and technology. When I read about U of A’s estate gift program, the idea of establishing a scholarship to support female students in their science education seemed like the perfect legacy I could leave behind, given the course of my own life. And if I can help even one young woman pursue her dreams and potential, it will have all been worthwhile.