I spent the first 12 years of my life oblivious to a genocide my entire family was targeted in. My dad’s guilt of trying to shield me from my history took over one night while my mom wasn’t home. It had been a few hours since dinner and we were watching a movie that neither of us was really interested in. He was talking to me about his childhood. My mom never talked about when she was young, but I could squeeze it out of my dad sometimes when he wasn’t paying attention. He stopped for a second and took a deep breath. I thought he had nodded off, but he said to me, “I was nine when I saw my cousin get thrown into a fire outside of his own house.” I didn’t respond. “Don’t you want to know?” He asked, I still didn’t speak, but I nodded my head yes.
My parents immigrated to America in 1986 after facing genocide in 1984. On October 31st, 1984, Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards. The days after mobs massacred Sikh residents in India, focused on New Delhi. There was a complete media blackout and the genocide got labeled as “riots”. Riots are disorganized crowds with a common intent, but when you could walk down a street and only 6 out of the 20 houses are Sikh, and only those 6 houses are destroyed, it is a planned attack. Both my parents’ families had dealt with addiction for generations, and this only escalated it.
Most of the men on both sides of my family were wiped out in 1984, my grandpas were two of the few to survive. It’s not like my parents knew each other or lived in the same area, but out of the 500,000 Sikhs that lived in India in ‘84, 8,000-17,000 were killed in 2 days, and most of them were men. The women in my family lost the rest of the men to drugs that the government planted in Sikh communities to keep them weak. My Dadaji (grandpa on my dad’s side) took a hard stance against alcohol and drugs, he even yelled at me for taking melatonin. And my Nanaji (grandpa on my mom’s side) lost his father, uncle, and twin brother to overdoses, so he was against it too.
My parents grew up completely isolated from drugs and alcohol until they went to high school. My dad hit ninth grade and started dealing. I read his texts once and found out he used to sell meth, but that’s the extent of what I know. His dad’s hard work of keeping him protected from addiction went down the drain due to the American public school system. My mom didn’t do anything crazy in high school, but she got sick at 22 and takes opioids daily to keep her pain under control. I don’t blame her for it, she genuinely needs it, but most of the time talking to her is like talking to a wall.
But no matter what they have tried their hardest to be there for me, together. They’re trying, and I see it, even though I may not tell them explicitly. My dad is clean now, and my mom is fighting. When my mom was pregnant with me she fought through her addiction to her medications so she could have me. She started taking higher doses again after I was born, until one time she was too out of it to fasten my car seat incorrectly, that was rock bottom for her. She has fought every day since then, against her chronic pain and addiction to opioids. She has her highs and lows, but she has never not been there for me.
I want to be a doctor, but it feels more like a need than a want for me. It is a doctor’s fault that after my mom got sick, and went through an unnecessary surgery that took away her ability to walk, leading to the start of her path of addiction. She rarely went to the doctor after that, no matter how much pain she was in. I never knew what I wanted to do with my life, so when I mentioned a career doctor to my parents, it just stuck. I volunteered at a hospital over the summer, and I loved it. For the first time in my life, I know my next big step. I will major in Pre-med and minor in Psychology, then go to medical school. I will help those who have never been able to advocate for themselves, give them a voice in the one place in their life they deserve complete control over, their body.