Tisha is the youngest of three children. She has a sister, who is a teacher in Austin and a brother, who is an investment banker in New York. Her parents still live in Katy and that’s where the family calls home. Tisha says learning about the Nepalese culture from her grandmother has helped connect her to her roots. Tisha’s essay was a part of her college application for UT, and she acknowledges that was also an opportunity to express a deeply held belief that being different is ok, in fact, she says it’s a good thing.
Here’s Tisha Shrestha with her essay for Houston Public Radio’s This I Believe.
“I believe that acceptance starts with your self. I am brown. When you first meet me, it’s obvious, given my Nepalese background. But for the longest time, skin color was the only thing that made me Nepalese. Most of my life, I wanted to be the all-American, blue-eyed, blonde girl, but now I realize that there’s more to being brown.
After years of thinking that everyone was the same, I found out how wrong I was during my fourth grade “All About Me” project. I told classmates that my favorite color was pink, my favorite food was pizza, and I was married to a piece of fruit. Yes, married—to fruit. I know it sounds strange, but to me it wasn’t a big deal because the ceremony seemed so natural and normal. My classmates had a different opinion.
“You married a piece of fruit?” someone blurted out incredulously. I felt my face get warm as people started to snicker. My teacher told me to explain the cultural ritual and its meaning. I just shrugged because I didn’t really know. After being humiliated, I decided that I did not want to be different anymore.
Years passed and I forgot about that day until a recent visit to Nepal. My family and I were reminiscing about our last trip when I asked my grandmother about the purpose of my marriage. At that moment, I realized how strange it was that I had taken so long to ask — I guess I just wanted to ignore anything that made me different from everyone else.
My grandmother explained how this marriage is a very special occasion in our Newari culture. Since the Nepalese society looks down on widows, upon entering adolescence, young girls marry a Bettlenut, representing God, so that they never become widows. I had no clue something so strange could be so meaningful — maybe being different wasn’t so bad after all.
Now, as a student at the University of Texas, I have started to see the beauty of diversity. Although there are still those girls with the long, blonde hair that I used to envy, I don’t have to seek their acceptance anymore. It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve finally realized that the only acceptance I need is from me. Learning about my background and embracing it has helped me to see how special this brown girl really is. This I believe.”