• Route: Ozarks
  • Ride Year: 2017
  • Hometown: Sugar Land, TX

About: People, persons, and things! I was born in the same year Woody and Buzz Light Year became friends in Riverside, California. Moving to and living in India for three years of my life has shaped my character in more ways than can be imagined. I have had the fortune in being imbibed in the context of the culture I was raised in. Growing up, I was taught everything from habits like touch my parents’ feet in the morning (as expression of love and respect) to using minimal resources to finding my way around streets of Bombay to finding and binding my own books for school. Until my sophomore year of college, I survived without owning a license, car, and smart phone!

There are a few people I hold dear to my heart: my sister, my father, and my mother. Even though none of the three can complete my sentence at any given time and we all have varying perspectives on every other issue we discuss, each one of them have molded me into the easily excitable and wide-eyed child I am today. My sister, with her radical support for all free-spirited things, has turned me into a music loving and adventurous. She’s taught me that every adventure, no matter how seemingly insignificant is made better with a companion. My father, having raised me as a single parent for half my life, to this day, impresses me with his dedication to helping the people around him lead healthier lives. Owning a pharmacy in an underprivileged area, he has selflessly dedicated himself, with me by his side to improve the community around him by holding health fairs and day-camps for children in the summer. Lastly, my mother has shown me to treat all persons with unconditional respect and has supported every one of my whims and endeavors (especially those involving drinking frappucinos and faloodas at 1 in the morning).

That brings me to today: third year neuroscience (with a computer science certificate), likes slam poetry, TedX, food and expression of emotion through art. I love everything about Austin’s urban nooks and its nature friendliness and I hope to, one day soon, complete the 50 Things Austin Bucket list from Etsy. With no clue as to what I will be doing with my life, I’d love to do something that helps me capture the essence of the human experience. To me, everything that deals with what makes us go from humans as a species to people as interconnected stars in a galaxy is utterly fascinating; i.e. from what makes people cry thinking of the past to what makes people crave chocolate in the middle of the day is utterly fascinating to me.

~Email me, call me, text me! My ears are open, because your story and your friendship is just important to me~

Why I Ride

I was in the fifth grade when I first moved to Sugar Land; having a short stature, no friends and an underlying accent, I had trouble making friends. Like any caring father, mine was quick to act. He encouraged me to make friends at my temple as he continued to sign me up for sports at the YMCA. I can’t recall the first day I met the Mehta family, but what I do remember is that when they first moved to my neighborhood, they were my second family in Sugar Land. Alay was the jock-y older brother that I always wish I had; he introduced me to NFL, pop culture, politics, etc. Anuj was the third musketeer (as my dad would say), always down to play basketball or football or capture the flag with me and Alay.

I spent almost every weekend with them, with either of our parents making delicious food to feed our growing bodies. Binita Aunty, I remember, used to make the greatest tacos, better than anything on the Taco Bell menu. It’s the seemingly trivial things you remember about those that have fallen… As we got busier going to different high schools, our schedules changed, and our friendship was put on the back burner. [Fast-forward a few years]

It was sometime in high school that I overheard my grandma telling one of her friends that Binita Aunty was diagnosed with breast cancer. Indian culture is filled with talks under hushed tones and sheltered children. The two were a terrible combination, because my sister and I were kept in the dark for a majority of what the Mehta family was going through. At the time, it was decided my adolescence didn’t need to be bothered with serious issues or real emotions. Getting any and all information from private conversations between the adults in my family was my goal. Secretly, however, I didn’t want to hear them count up stages through hushed tones. To be honest, I wish I was brave enough to go to their house and offer any kind of support to Alay and Anuj. Cancer wasn’t a bildungsroman-themed life lesson to me; it was putting together terrible news from my family every few weeks and denying what Alay and his family was going through week-in, week-out.

I remember catching a glimpse of her face two months before her passing, seeing the same stern look on a much weaker stature. I could tell just from that face her family had been fighting a long and hard battle. Until then, none of it had been real, just figments of my dull, foggy imagination. It hit hard; I prayed for her family almost every night until her passing.

I ride for Binita Aunty and her courageous family that supported her at a time I wasn’t old or mature enough to accept real hardship. I also ride for my loving grandmother who beat breast cancer 8 months ago.

I truly believe that what Texas 4000 does as an organization goes beyond just philanthropy. I urge you to help me ride to Alaska, through which I will help build a community along the way bigger than my Texas4000 team, pervading college campuses, crossing borders and boundaries, and helping each other grow in a positive direction. In the future, I really hope that cancer will no longer be the taboo topic in Indian culture it is today.

~Cancer affects almost every one of us in a different way and the sheer number of lives lost does not make anyone’s story any less special, so I ask you in friendship to read about the rest of my teammates~