This is Smriti. She is from India. She is not afraid of a bit of adventure. In fact, she loves it: skydiving, trail hiking, river-rafting, even packing up her life and moving across the globe… This self-proclaimed adventure freak has done it all!
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When Smriti got engaged to her husband Tanmay in 2012, he was employed in Atlanta, while she was working as a business analyst in Ohio and preparing to take on a new project for a Canadian bank. But as their wedding date drew closer, the couple decided they did not want to spend another minute apart. And so, Smriti denied the job opportunity in Canada and joined her husband in Atlanta instead. “Initially I didn’t think too much of it, because at that time I just wanted to be with my husband. Still, it was hard, because all of a sudden you have so much time on your hands and even if you do all the things you want to do, you still feel there is something missing.” For sports junkie Smriti, finding ways to occupy her time was something she did not struggle with. In Atlanta, she loves to fill her days playing a vast array of sports, from lawn tennis at the ALTA tennis club, to badminton, international dance classes and swimming at the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center. “I always used to dream that if I could do something different with my life, I would play a sport professionally! That is almost what I’m doing right now! (laughs)” Nevertheless, while adjusting to her new situation was not the challenge she had feared it would be, explaining how she fills her time in useful ways to others has proved to be quite a challenge at times. She feels that, especially in today’s society where women’s rights and independence have become such powerful concepts, only people who have been in similar situations can truly understand her decision and its impact on her life and mindset. “My husband has been trying to convince me to further my studies, but I just haven’t been able to go back to the books. Maybe it is the length of time I have been away from my studies, because I never had issues with studying, but now the feeling that I will not be able to do it constantly hits me.”
For Smriti, surrounding yourself with a group of close friends when you are thousands of miles from your home and your loved ones is paramount. She tells us that the Georgia Tech International Spouse Group has been like a lifeline for her because it has offered her a chance to meet friends who not only share her experience of moving abroad, but understand the impact it has had on her life. “Going to a new place and meeting new friends is like starting from square one. The group has helped me make great friends in Atlanta!” Even though Smriti now has plenty of friends to share her life with; as a family person, she feels that friends can never really take the place of family in your life, no matter how close you become to them. “I love to be around my family… I think it is in our culture, we are more family-oriented in India than many other societies. For example, I stayed with my parents until I got married, whereas in the United States, people often move out when they are 18 or so and they live on their own for a while.” As a result, staying in touch with her family is also very important to Smriti and she talks to her family in India every day. “I am in touch with my family all the time! It is almost like a news broadcast: this is what I am doing, on these hours of the day. (laughs)” To make herself feel more at home in Atlanta, Smriti has included a few elements and items of Indian culture into her new life. She tells us that she still likes to celebrate certain Indian festivals; one of her favorites being Diwali, the festival of lights. She tells us that Diwali is always celebrated in a grand way in her family’s home, where the tradition is to play poker or tambola. So, in Atlanta, Smriti keeps the tradition alive by inviting her friends over for a Diwali party, where they will all play a round of poker to keep the tradition alive.
Even though Smriti has come to love her home in Atlanta, where the weather is excellent and the lifestyle and quality of life are favorable, there is no doubt in Smriti’s mind that she will eventually want to go back to her home country. “If my family moved here, I’d be ok with staying in Atlanta. It’s really just the connection that I have to my family that pulls me back to my country. I feel that my parents took care of me all these years and in a way they still do, so now that they are getting older, I want to be with them and be able to take care of them. Now is the time that they need us and we are so far away from them. That is what makes me want to go back to my country.”
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Interview and writing by Tineke Van Varenberg
Make up by Denise Batista
Interview and Photography by Sonal Sukheeja