Seven Rivers to Ten Thousand Lakes

Over the centuries, The Banyan tree has taken on significance as a symbol of fertility, life and resurrection. It is a fitting symbol for ‘DesiStoriesAshaUSA’ which presents the stories of South Asians who have wandered far and wide from their ancestral homes, traversing new frontiers and setting down roots and networks in the US. Our goal is to connect and establish closer ties within the diasporas of the South Asian community and facilitate a dialogue with our readers, one story at a time. We will showcase stories of achievement and success and also resiliency and hope during the COVID pandemic.

Our story today features the versatile Preeti Mathur, a longtime Twin Cities resident and an active member of the Indian American community.

THE BOOK

Preeti’s crowning achievement in a career spanning many years as an Instructional Design and Technical Communication consultant, to now a freelance writer for her local paper the Shoreview Press, is the publication of her book ‘From Seven Rivers to Ten Thousand Lakes’.

She was invited by the Minnesota Historical Society to write the book, after participation on the advisory committee that localized ‘Beyond Bollywood’, a Smithsonian exhibit in 2016.

Beyond Bollywood/Minnesota

Through personal stories and vivid photographs, the book offers an overview of the more than 40,000 people of Indian descent residing in Minnesota. It presents their pursuit and celebration of cultural and religious traditions, and the professional, political and economic contributions to their adopted state and country. Profiles of prominent individuals, businesses and organizations who form the cornerstone of the Indian American community in Minnesota round out the narrative.

Preeti’s hope is that the book’s stories told through the eyes and voices of the Indian American community will “bring down the walls and divisions created today about people and views that are different from your own”.

The book is available through Amazon and the Minnesota Historical Society: 

https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Rivers-Ten-Thousand-Lakes/dp/168134114X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_pl_foot_top?ie=UTF8.https://shop.mnhs.org/products/seven-rivers-ten-thousand-lakes

ARRIVAL IN THE US

Preeti’s story in the US began as a 21 year bride, following a long distance two year courtship, that kept the postal services busy between St. Paul and Hyderabad, India. As Preeti aptly summarized the years leading up to her nuptials, “you can have an arranged marriage, but you cannot arrange your emotions”.

Her husband first saw her at her maternal grandmother’s home, when a marriage union brought their two families together. He claims that “from the moment he saw Preeti, he knew he was going to marry her”.

Young Love

Preeti and her family would visit her grandmother’s home ‘Charminar’ during the muslim festival of Muharram. In the annual 10th day procession, the elephant carrying the Bibi-Ka-Alam (holy relic), would stop and collect the ‘Offerings’ from the windows of their respective grandmother’s homes.

Forty years later the romance continues, and the story of their courtship is memorialized in a painting by Preeti.

Preeti’s pictorial reconstruction of courtship during Bibi-Ka-Alam


SERIAL VOLUNTEER

Preeti’s family and friends have affectionately titled her a ‘Serial Volunteer’.

Soon after arriving in Minnesota in 1978, Preeti started her long commitment to SILC (School of India for Languages and Culture). “SILC was an integral and very important part of my life here. I met so many like-minded people who have become life-long friends”.
Preeti joined SILC’s predecessor Bharat School the year she arrived in the US, and became not only a founding member of SILC but its first treasurer. With no computers “everything was recorded in a notebook”.

She was also the editor of the newsletter ‘SILC Road’ a play on Silk Road, the renowned route connecting China and the Far East to the Western World. The group found a resonance in the work they were doing through SILC, to the ancient route’s lasting impact on Commerce, Culture and History. The SILC newsletters are now part of the Oral History project at the Minnesota History Center.

Over the course of an intense twenty year involvement, Preeti taught Hindi, Indian art, Pre-School, Culture Courses and served as Treasurer, Principal and President!!!

Following her father’s voice of “assimilating and giving back” as a beacon, Preeti also dived wholeheartedly into volunteering at her kid’s schools; scout troops; food drives; and soup kitchens. She was one of the first Indians to be nominated as an ‘Associated Fellow’ by her peers at the Society For Technical Communication on a national and international level.

CULTURAL AMBASSADOR

Through her work with SILC, she played the role of Cultural Ambassador during her early years in Minnesota. She saw her role as promoting and talking about Indian Culture. Preeti organized and arranged exhibits for the ’Festival of Nations’, and publicized the festival on WCCO radio and KTSP TV.


As an IAM (India Association of Minnesota) board member she organized an Inter Faith prayer meeting at the State Capitol after 9-11, and gave presentations on India at various schools and organizations: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN Department of Transportation and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.



TRADITIONS

Rituals and traditions have always played an important role in South Asian families.

Preeti’s family tradition was inadvertently established from the realities and necessities of daily life.

“I made Khitchrie (a lentil rice dish) for dinner every Sunday. It started in the years when my Dad came to live with us after my mum passed away. He lived with us for 18 years and those were the busiest years of my life–working full-time with many deadlines, a husband who was always traveling, two active school-age kids and taking care of my Dad. So when it came to Sunday dinner, a one-pot meal like khitchrie worked well, especially since it appealed to both my Dad and the kids. I did not realize it had become a family tradition for my kids until my daughter, a new bride, called on a Sunday and told me she was making Khitchrie for her husband per our family tradition. I laughed so hard when I heard this”.

Over the years, Preeti has extended her family Khitchrie tradition to provide succor for friends in need of comfort and recovering from illness. Her insistence to all and sundry to ‘Eat Eat’, has been an inherited influence from her mother. Her sister-in-law has fondly labeled her ”Annadata” or giver of food. As her son once commented “my mum feeds kebabs even to the Geek Squad guys”.

COMING FULL CIRCLE

As life comes full circle, it is all about the lessons that come from our parents. In honor of her dad and the influence he had over her own family during his eighteen years of living with them, Preeti dedicated her book ‘From Seven Rivers to Ten Thousand Lakes’ to her father Anand Mathur.

His parting advice when she left India in 1978 on her journey to Minnesota, was “assimilate and adapt without giving up your values. Do community service; be proud of your culture and share it; but make sure you also learn from others”.

”Daddy I hope I have made you proud”.


DISCUSSION : Our goal is to start a dialogue through the stories we present here. Please send us your thoughts and comments either by leaving a reply or posting a comment at the bottom of this blog, and/or sending an email to ’ashausastories@gmail.com’. We will collate all the feedback we receive and share back with you. (And let us know if you wish to remain anonymous).

A. What has been your evolution during your life journey in the US?

B. What life lessons/insights have you gleaned from Preeti’s story?

Please follow our blog ’DesiStoriesAshaUSA’ by entering your email at the ’Follow’ prompt at the bottom of the page. You will be among the first to be notified when a new story is published.

AshaUSA’s mission is to provide culturally specific programs to the South Asian community to foster health and harmony in their lives. Please visit our website ‘ashausa.org’ for more information on our programs, volunteer opportunities and resources.

12 thoughts on “Seven Rivers to Ten Thousand Lakes

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  1. Thank you for sharing preeti’s story,
    It is easy to draw parallels to when I first arrived in Minneapolis in 1971 as a 14-year-old not really appreciating where I was and always wanting to go back home I missed my friends I didn’t know how to navigate the streets there were no landmarks that I could hold on to to find my way.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for your comment. I really appreciate it. I hope to be able to share the sentiments from the comments as we collect a few more.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. After reading Preeti’s story and the book I traveled back 50 years. I have walked on the same path yet different experiences. It is amazing to see in India from being and growing up in different regions you grow up with different backgrounds and yet there is this one single thread that weaves them together and makes one beautiful garland that is our Indian culture. As we migrated from that to new horizon we all go through somewhat similar emotional journey. Book is excellent to get the understanding of this culture,focus this richness of different experiences, learn from it. I have seen how much work had gone into creating this book.Preeti had captured Indian contribution to Minnesota very well. Well written, well balanced, interesting with lots of pictures. Everyone must read it and own it. It will make conversational piece at any gathering. Congratulations to Preeti and blogger for bringing it on forefront.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing Preeti Mathur’s story. Thanks much to Preeti for the tremendous work she did in articulating the history of and the contributions made by the Indian American Community in Minnesota in her book ‘From Sever Rivers to Ten Thousand Lakes’. Preeti, her husband Anoop and their family have been a big part of that history over the past 40+ years, having led and influenced many community efforts over that time. What a fabulous story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Vipin for that wonderful comment. You are absolutely right. Preeti has made such an impact on the community. It was a great experience writing her story.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this during a busy week and didn’t have time to comment. Have just reread and savoured evrry word. Its lovely after 40 years i could learn more about my mum…”can’t arrange emotions” is beautiful! I also felt a lot of joy seeing mum’s painting finally finished (she started painting while pregnant with me and stopped whrn she heard of Lennon’s death) and a giggle at the kichidi tradition… which my kids now find as tradition!

    Traditions always start from somewhere, don’t they? And they continue because we find comfort in their familiarity. And we need to be able to recognise when traditions serve us and discard them when we start to serve them. This is true for all people (Christmas traditions for instance) but i think it’s a struggle to find that balance for immigrants and other dual cultural people. Where is the line between preserving and continuing culture and being able to live your life?

    Thanks for sharing these stories and apologies for the slightly off-topic musing, but this is what popped in my head when thinking of immigrant stories

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Shruti. I have heard so much about you. Preeti is an inspiring person and I feel so privileged to get to know her and to tell her story. Thanks for your musings. They are inspiring to me too. Must have been a privilege to grow up with Preeti and Anoop. Hope I get to meet you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed reading Preeti’s story very much. Reading these stories just brings home that we have more in common than we realize. What wise advice from your dad to assimilate and share. If only we could all heed his advice, what a wonderful world we would have. Great Job!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Gale, thanks for your wise and astute comment. Yes if only we all did that we would truly have a wonderful world. Thanks for reading Preeti’s story and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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