This week: An Immigrant Story that is Real Getting Personal
We had a Celebration of Life for my Dad, affectionately known as, “Dr. Billi” this past weekend, who passed at the ripe old age of 89 after a rich life well lived on multiple continents!
Dad, was a physician that in the 1970s left a good but known life in India, for the promise of a better but unknown life in America.
45 years ago, along with his wife and 3 kids and nothing but a suitcase each, he left India to create a better life for his family, to advance his career, and contribute to the emerging field of diagnostic medicine.
Go West young man. Go West!
Dad’s is the classic immigrant story.
Migration is an adaptive strategy for living systems. Birds, Fish, Insects, Animals and Humans typically migrate as resources are depleted, or climate and/or social/economic/political conditions change…
Humans mostly do it by necessity because they have no choice.
Others do it by choice because they are pioneers and trailblazers unwilling to “settle”.
The American West was “won” by pioneers and trailblazers. Their rugged individualism and spirit for better and for worse are celebrated in the American ethos.
Dad didn’t come to the US to simply extract value or live off the fat of the land.
He came to America, both to contribute to and benefit from the greater good he in turn could advance and manifest.
His nearly 40 years of medical practice at Loma Linda University Medical Center in the second half of his life, required starting from scratch, retaking medical exams and leaving family and friends.
As a teacher and a clinician, he taught every radiology resident and cared for innumerable patients, while pioneering computerized axial tomography (CAT scans) to create better diagnostic tools to serve humanity. He might have saved someone in your family’s life.
He never missed a day of work, except for annual vacations and addressing some sporadic medical issues of his own, retiring after decades of contribution to the local and medical community.
Dad was a member of the Zoroastrian faith, one of the first monotheistic religions on the planet, that now has less than 200,000 practitioners left on earth. His ancestors were also immigrants and came from a long line of priests. They left Persia generations earlier due to religious persecution and left with nowhere to go ended up sailing to the coast of India. Here, the locals that didn’t speak the same language, greeted them with a full cup of milk, suggesting that there was no place for them and they were full. (Sound familiar?)
After considering this dilemma, the newly arrived immigrants poured copious amounts of sugar in the milk and stirred it without spilling a drop, suggesting they would only add sweetness to the current condition not drain resources.
As a result they were let in and settled in Gujarat on the west coast of India.
The rest as they say is history.
The Parsi community as they came to be known (Pars = Persia) made and continue to make significant contributions to India and the world as captains of industry, professionals, philanthropists, educators, politicians and more… (look them up if you are interested)
Dad was a lifelong learner, and loved books and quotes.
On Dad’s passing we found a handwritten note in his wallet that said,
“In life, be like a cube of sugar, so when you are gone you leave a sweet taste”.
While his particular migration was by choice and not by necessity, the aspiration and outcome was the same.
Making life sweeter for others and for yourself.
As each of us faces our own mortality, in whatever time we have left, we must decide whether our fears or our dreams will dictate our present and determine our future.
If not forced to migrating geographically- and the threat of climate change suggests we are about to see massive human migrations the likes of which we have not seen in recent memory globally in the next decades- let us at least all migrate our thinking and actions to be more tolerant, more inclusive, more global, more sporting, more mischievous and more fun as was so brilliantly and authentically modeled by my Dad.
Odds are you might find your story is tied to our story.
We are all in pursuit of the American dream and striving to make life sweeter for all.
It is not a zero sum game unless you choose to make it so…
I love you Dad!
Thanks for EVERYTHING!
Paying it forward and spreading the light this week so you don’t have to do so yourself…Love,
“In life, be like a cube of sugar, so when you are gone you leave a sweet taste”—Dr. Billi”