Happy Birthday Dr. Didi!

Dear Didi,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, from your little sister and your baby brother! Thirty revolutions around the sun — cheers to you and cheers to our Mom. She was only 23 when she had you, her firstborn, half a world away. She labored in a hospital with no air conditioning to cool her pain on that hot summer night in Gujarat, but with her Mom beside her, with our collective Nanis’ and Daadis’ blessings renewing her strength, and yours. How far we have traveled and how far you both have come are the wonders of our world.

Nowadays, better late than never, everywhere from viral memes to Disney movies and sociology journals, our culture applauds the oldest daughters of immigrant families. The rest of us can only imagine being that strong. You simultaneously and flawlessly anchor, as both descendant and ancestor, our family and the broader communities of which you are a part. For so long when we were all kids, you were just Didi: our imaginative, curly-haired, patient yet impatient, in-charge but silly, beloved Didi. So steadily we almost didn’t notice, you grew into yourself with grit and grace.

Here, now, you are a “healthcare hero,” — Chief Resident providing primary care at a city hospital short on funding and miracles. You all deserve union protections and then some. Instead, you have survived disproportionately high infection risks, 80-hour work weeks, and “teachers” more interested in “pimping” students and trainees with practice questions than in teaching. You fight on, even commit to leadership, because to you the work is service, and service a higher calling. Since the pandemic began, you have caught sick babies in your arms, pronounced too many deaths, lost friends, family, colleagues, and gained clinical training, credentials, chronic stress. You are resilient because you have to be, because your patients, attendings, students, we all need you to be.

We see you. We celebrate, today and always, so much more than just the work that you do. We see your inhales and exhales, frenzied at kickboxing, measured and consistent through your decades-long yoga practice, or finally, blissfully, deep and even when you nap on a rare “golden weekend” afternoon. Last year, on January 6th, one of your precious days off, we were admiring a beautifully architected Baha’i temple, closed because of Covid-19, from its snowy front lawn when insurrectionists reminded us, via NPR broadcast, of how much hate lives on in America. This country, home as far back as our young memories stretch, can hate so deep sometimes even the best medicine offers no cure. We see the way your lips move silently in prayer and your votes and volunteer work and solidarity in practice reshape you. We respect your hard-earned love for the brown skin we were born in, despite all this hatred at home. Our motherland too is challenged, still struggling to save the girl child, measuring too many women merely by marriage, hailing goddesses of strength but failing to protect girls from violence. You have made it to thirty, despite all the hurdles placed in your path by harmful individuals, institutions and systems on multiple continents, with feminism that, like you, is both Indian and American, vocal and reverent, assertive and community-oriented.

We are so proud of you, Didi, and we think the whole world should stop for a moment to celebrate who you are. You are important and worthy and inimitable. We love you. Not just your endless social and professional capacity for caretaking, advocacy and empathy, but also every part of your identity, every inhale and exhale, every vestige of the silly creative child you were and every varying vision for who you may grow into. We have no idea what the view at the top will look like, but we know we’ll get there if we keep following in your footsteps. Let’s all take in the beauty and chaos as we go. Happy birthday, and cheers to many, many more.

Durva and Shiv



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