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Neel’s Gift as the ‘Indian’ Cowboy

My parents moved to the US in 1973, I was born in 1975. For some reason, whether it was by omission or intentional – I didn’t learn English.

Imagine showing up for your first day of school, in the country in which you were born – having (a) avidly watched Sesame Street daily & (b) being fascinated with being an American cowboy , only to be placed in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. 🙄

To be totally honest, I don’t remember what I felt at the time. I really don’t have distinct memories so I don’t think I was traumatized or set back in life anyway. What did happen was something beautiful. And last week, about 40 years later, I was reminded of it:

I was asked to help educate a group of Senior citizens via Zoom on Financial, Tax and Estate planning updates. All. In. Gujarati.

During the meeting, I got to look into the beautiful faces of 150 Indian-American couples who came to this country and raised the kids of my generation.

It was an honor to have spent the time to help those who have helped so many of my peers. The video is available here ( in case you, or someone you know would like to see/hear it.

And as for the impact of not learning English until I started school? I guess it wasn’t too bad. Pinky and I did the same thing to our kids after all.

I can’t wait to see how they choose to give back when their time comes. Thank you Mom (Anjana) for this amazing gift!

By: Neel Shah