Across the Sea
Preserving the Past

Anushka Kannan

Anushka Kannan

People ask me where I am from, and while my unhesitant answer is New Jersey, where I have lived with my parents since I was eleven, I know this is an oversimplification. My memories of life before moving to New Jersey are a blur of different schools, different cities and different people. I have lived just about half my life thus far and experienced some of my most cherished memories in India. I grew up there, moving to America to join my parents only when I was seven. By that time, I had already made deep ties with my extended family, and began to think of my cousins as my siblings. As the youngest grandchild on my dad’s side of the family and the oldest on my mom’s side, I had the best of both worlds. In India, I was always surrounded by people, as is the nature of life with extended family. So I was in for a shock when I moved to America and all of a sudden, it was just my parents and I.

I was in a new place and I did not have the emotional range to really feel anything but excitement. Everything was different; I had my first bagel at age seven, I thought ‘rap’ was a dialect of English and I struggled to pronounce the name ‘Clifford,’ among many things. For a while, I had trouble understanding what anyone was saying even though I had been learning English since I could speak.

More importantly, however, I loved that after three years, I was with both of my parents again, everyone was extra friendly to me and I was all of a sudden unique and different. However, I already had a life in India, and other than my parents, had no real sense of ties or attachment to America. The first few years in America, we moved from place to place quite a bit before settling down, which made it harder to build those connections. Initially, to my seven-year-old self, it seemed as though school in America was the extended trip and summer back in India was me going back home, where everything was familiar and welcoming.

The clock kept its stride though, and things were changing. Soon after moving to New Jersey, my parents and I started building a life here in the States. We have lived in one town long enough to have made relationships that make America feel more like home. Our trips to India became fewer and farther apart, and every time we did go, I would notice significant changes that had occurred when I was not there. My cousins grew older, went off to college, and got jobs in different cities. I missed three of my cousins’ weddings because of school, and one December night during ninth grade, my eldest cousin had her first baby. I remember feeling like I was missing out on a significant family event. Somewhere along the way, as connections in America formed, those in India faded. Life was moving forward, on both sides of the world.

I used to think that the best case scenario would be if I could live in America and also have all of my family here. In fact, I still want my youngest cousin who started eighth grade last week to come live in America. However, the person I am today is determined by my past, and I am thankful for my experiences. While I may not be as close to my family in India as I once used to be, I still love to go back, getting babied by my dad’s side and making my mom’s side proud by being the first of my maternal cousins to pass certain milestones. As I grow older, and time fills a larger expanse between then and now, I cannot imagine anything being different. Regardless of how frequently we talk or Skype, I know that family will always be family, and they have my back, just as I have theirs. As Katherine Ann Porter once said, “The past is never where you think you left it.”

Anushka Kannan is a rising sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. Preserving the Past appears every other Friday at

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