Tuesday, April 10, 2012

3rd Prize: "Survival of the Skittish" - Ronak Shah

Tiger moms and Bengal tigers. To the outsider, this is what life may have been like for my grandfather in India. It would be unfair to attribute too much of my grandpa’s success to his environment, however, I can reasonably say he became a product of his environment in the best way possible. My grandpa grew up in a very Darwinian culture where competition started at a young age and success meant everything. He quickly realized that education and money were the most consistent arbiters of success in his environment. By age 22, my grandpa graduated at the top of his class as a civil engineer, was married and had a newborn son, was running his ailing father’s business and was helping raise his younger siblings. At age 22, I still expect to be complimented when I wash the dishes without anyone telling me to do so. I have not faced the types of struggles my grandpa went through, yet my struggle seems to be one of living up to expectations of great men such as him. As a first generation Indian-American, I’m constantly reminded how much my parents and grandparents went through. As I get older and the pressure is ever mounting to follow in the footsteps of such personal heroes, I wonder if I have what it takes.

            At a school teeming with diversity, UIC has many first generation students. I’m sure the majority of them have heard similar stories of the struggle from their parents and grandparents. One could easily think that the age of heroes is gone because we live in a time where celebrities, athletes and reality TV stars serve as our role models. I don’t subscribe to the belief of being a part of a generation devoid of heroes because we all have a chance to accomplish something great regardless of when we are born. This is our environment and this is our chance to rise up and succeed. Instead of being encumbered with the family and societal pressure I face, I try to use it to make me a better person. My grandpa spent much of his earnings on philanthropy and has given countless low income students in India scholarships to attend college. Although he faced seemingly insurmountable odds as a low income child in India, he was able to overcome them and he wanted to enable other children to do the same. These are things I want to follow in my grandpa’s footsteps for. Without his hard work and perseverance, I would not be in a position to be able to succeed today. I’m not going to be an engineer like him, but that doesn’t mean I can’t follow his examples of hard work and generosity.

- Ronak Shah

I am a senior at UIC who is majoring in Psychology and graduating this spring. I serve on the executive board in Sigma Beta Rho Fraternity and Pre-Law Society and have also been a member of the UIC Model U.N. and Mock Trial teams. I spend my free time playing guitar, reading and learning how to cook.

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