I used to work for the Mumbai team of a financial services group based in Boston. I remember one of my Boston colleagues asking me if Indians still used elephants to commute! Clearly there was a need to increase cultural awareness across both teams. So we decided to host 'India Day' at Boston headquarters.
I remember packing all my Western suits and gowns for the travel. My mother noticed this and asked me to pack a few sarees as well, so that I could showcase my Indian identity. I put them in my bag, but I was not sure that I would wear a saree to the event.
However, once in Boston, I pulled out a saree and decided to wear it. I was very nervous because I was the only one in Indian dress at the event. I stood out in the crowd of 175 people. I wasn't sure how people would respond to me.
After the event, our CEO spent 45 minutes talking with me over dinner. Many people would kill for such an opportunity. Our conversation started with him asking me, "What is this garment you are wearing?" After I told him about the saree, we talked about India's textile industry and its rich cultural heritage. I also told him how to drape a saree. He asked me to show him around India when he visited next and also take him saree shopping. I am happy to say that's what I did when he came to India.
Sometimes, creating an opportunity is as simple as showing up as yourself and being proud of where you come from. Today, I confidently take my Indianness with me wherever I go."
Garima Varma is a Communications Leader at GE's John F Welch Technology Center. She adapted this story from an essay she wrote for HerStory.