Meet Priyanka Acharya and learn how she came to love life in Chennai.
Hello there Ritz readers! My name is Priyanka and my buddies at Ritz have decided to give me space in their magazine to write about this and that. If you haven’t already come across my writing on my blog www.chennaisuperqueen.com, allow me to introduce myself and explain why you’d be interested in my perspective.
I’m a classic ABCD, born and raised in the U.S. with little emotional connection to India aside from regular (forced) visits to see my relatives in Madras. I grew up in Tampa, Florida, and graduated from New York University in 2008. I’d aced the LSAT, the entrance exam for law school, with a 98th percentile score and was taking a year off to do some soul searching and social work. This gap year brought me back to the site of those forced visits, now called Chennai, where I taught spoken English at an NGO and worked on my law school applications. In a surprise twist, not to mention a plotline that could launch any modern Bollywood movie, I met a tall drink of water named Chetan and we got engaged in five weeks, with parental approval and all!
While supportive, my parents were also stunned at my decision, as was everyone else who knew me well. I was their Americanised little brat, who didn’t speak a word of any Indian language, didn’t have any Indian friends, and had never expressed a desire to settle down anywhere other than the U.S. But I was also 22, confident, open to adventure, and in love! Spoiler: it ended up being a great decision.
It’s been ten years now, and the journey has been one of constant learning and adapting. Early on I learned that a familiar trope for people who moved here from other cities is to compare and complain. I’m happy to report that aside from the usual grumbles anyone would have about living in India, I am not one of these Negative Nancies. The question I get asked most often to date is “How did you adjust?” The answer is, “Very well!”
Whether due to some primal, ancestral connection to this land, or simply to fortunate circumstances, I am very content with life in Chennai. I find it brimming with character, from the cawing crows to the little tunes trucks play when backing up, to the bursts of bougainvillea and the bustling coastline. As for the people? What our city lacks in razzle-dazzle, the people make up for with friendship and hospitality. There’s a strong emphasis on relationships, both with friends and extended family, and it’s the type of city where you’ll get by easier with the help of people rather than the internet.
On a personal level, I get a much wider array of experiences here than I did in America. The Chennai party scene gives me opportunities to get dolled up in both Western and Indian attire—what fun it is to run the gamut from sleek cocktail dresses to traditional Kancheevaram sarees, with a plethora of fusion looks in between! And food-wise, I’ve tried Udipi ilai sappadu courtesy of my Mangalorean in-laws, as well as authentic Korean bibimbap—exotic enough for me!
Did I mention that I’m a mom to two energetic young lads? Being a mother, wife, and daughter-in-law has become a core part of my identity, just as being American will always be. I’m trying to raise my little guys with the best values from both Eastern and Western cultures, and I’ve lots to say on the topic. For example:
The best tip American parents could learn from Indians? Install a health faucet!
The best tip Indian parents could learn from Americans? Put those brats to bed early!
Through the years I’ve enjoyed writing about my experience straddling two cultures. I hope you Ritz readers will enjoy my light take on various topics, whether I’m sharing my best make-up tips for sultry weather, reviewing a new restaurant, or reminding you to appreciate your locally grown keerai varieties instead of lusting after kale. ’Til next month!