People in Iowa #3: Pragnya

My third interview for "People in Iowa" was with Pragnya.
After emigrating from India to America, Pragnya is raising her 9 year old and 6 year old sons while running a dance academy. 

I met Pragnya through the activities of the international organization CultureALL.
Her workshop was so impressive.
She attracted participants with interesting storytelling and wonderful dances.

Immigrating to a foreign country and doing work and raising children there ... it seems very difficult just imagining, but Pragnya always looks calm and content.

I talked to her about how she is balancing her every day life.

About her career

Q. Could you tell me something about your career?

In India, after obtaining Masters of Business Admistration, I was involved in recruitment at the company's Human Resources department.
In 2005, I married my husband who is also from India.
At the beginning, We travelled to Australia on my husband's job and later he was offered to travel to USA on work. 
In 2006, after my husband 's working period was extended in the US, I resigned from my previous position and decided to move to the US.

I am from Bengaluru, Karnataka State in South India.
Since I was 3 years old, I've been learning traditional Indian dance called "Bharatanatyam" and later got introduced to another art form "Kuchipudi" and I completed my proficiency State exam in Bharatanatyam.
I have performed all over India, and have performed on few TV programs.

I always wanted to continue dancing wherever I went, and a few months after immigration, I got the opportunity to perform at Hindu temple in Iowa.

Those who watched my dance there told me they wanted me to teach them how to dance.
In addition, I was also asked to conduct a dance workshop for American students by the founder of CultureALL.

I supported the efforts of CultureALL to introduce various culture of the world to the students, so I decided to have dance workshops.
I decided to open my dance academy, after looking at the students' reaction at the workshop.
At the same time, I started studying management at a community college.
Ten years have passed since I opened the academy.

About the Indian family life

Q.Please tell me about the values of family life in India.

There are still some conservative families in India, but the idea of "women should always protect and take care of their families" has been fading since my generation.

There used to be negative attitudes to women choosing a career in singing, dancing, painting, and having other hobbies, but now, many people accept new values.

I am so lucky because my husband and parents-in-law are cooperative with my dancing.

Q. How did you meet your husband?

It was an arranged marriage.
In my generation, 70% to 80% of people had arranged marriges.
Currently, I think it is about half.

According to this marriage system, men usually visits women's house to greet the family.

Although I was able to talk to him, only men and the parents talked and decide to arrange the marriage in some cases.
During our talk, he comforted me so well and was an open minded person who cared for the things I mentioned and viewed which impressed me and made me feel yes, He is the one! 

I also watched his polite behavior to my parents and relatives.
So I decided to marry him.

How to balance between child rearing and work

Q. The period of birth of the first child and being in school were at the same time.
How did you manage your time?    

I was supported by my husband.
I am very appreciative and grateful to my cooperative husband.

Q. When was the most difficult time so far?

While raising children, it was hard to stay motivated about running my dance lessons, house work and taking care of kids.

Before the recitals, I had my parents and my husband's parents come to our house alternatively in the U.S. and stay for about a month.

They helped me a lot with many things.

I needed to teach students three hours of performance, 35 to 40 types of dance all by myself, so I had to think about how to spend time.

My husband also took care of the children as much as possible when he had no meetings or was able to take off from work.

My friends who live nearby also sometimes took care of my children.

Q. How do you share housework with your husband?

Honestly speaking, I have never discussed with him about sharing of household chores.

If the tasks one of us is working on have not been completed, the other makes them so.

There were times when it was difficult to make dinner when I was taking an afternoon class at the college or out for a performance.

At that time, my husband would take care.

About parenting

Q. What is important about parenting? 
We value our family time and the time to experience the culture of our home country very much.

My children are American citizens born in the United States but I want them to be in touch with the Indian culture.

When they come back to India, I do not want them to feel strangers.
They play Indian instruments and also read the history tales of India.

Also, I try to return to India once a year, and I teach my mother tongue kannada to my children so that they can communicate with Indians.

As they grow up, it will be difficult to keep them interested in two cultures, but we are encouraging the children to be interested.
I think this is our role.

Q.I heard that some foreigners living in the US do not teach children their native language and culture.
I think that it is wonderful for kids to be interested in Indian culture with dance as a trigger.
In addition to them, what kind of things do you emphasize and teach to your children? 

Show respect for people.
Accept things that have occured and take actions accordingly.
If they have something that they can't understand, they should discuss and try to solve them.
I prioritize these three things.

For example,Public schools in India have uniforms, but American public schools do not have uniforms.
It is sometimes hard to choose their clothes.

When children ask us to buy some clothes, we talk to each other properly to determine whether it is really necessary or not.
I do not want to buy whatever they want, so I always try to discuss it with them.

I don' t want to force them to accept my opinion.
Both the children and we may be wrong.

Through discussion, I want to bond with my children.
I want them to feel we can talk about anything, anytime.

About management of dance academy

Q. How many students are there at your dance academy?

Over 50 students.

Q. How did you increase the number of students?

Actually, I have never advertised my academy.
My students contacted me after they saw my performance on events.

Some people who saw my performance recommended me to make a homepage or facebook page.
But I think there isn't need to advertise because I have my dance studio for my students' and my own happiness and I don't consider it a business.

When I accepts students, I see if they are ready to learn.
For example, I will not accept them only because they want to learn something for a year.

It is a lesson to understand "What dance is, how to do it, how to polish it".
At the beginning, I tell them learning never stops.

Q. Is there anything you do to attract students' interest?
I think that we need to blend ancient traditions with contemporary culture in order to attract students.
For example, I sometimes use the latest music when I perform traditional dance.
Also, at CultureALL workshops, I sometimes dance with African drums to bring in the collaboration.

I like to teach them basic and core parts of dance so that they can understand what they are doing.
In that way, they will be able to dance to variety of music when they grow up.

In India, there are three kinds of dances, roughly divided.
They are classical dance, folk dance, and bollywood dance.
Bollywood dance became famous because of movies, but classical Indian dance is known to very few.

At the annual recital, we practice not only classical dance such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi but also Indian folk dance, because I want them to know different concepts.

Sometimes I give students a homework to make dance freely on their own.

Q. What was the most impressive thing while running your dance studio?

I was so glad that audience said "That's amazing!" when they looked at our performance. 

And I like the atmosphere that we create with everyone's cooperation in dancing, cooking and decoration for the recital.

Not only students and their families but also my friends and neighbors supports our activity.

About her way of thinking

Q. I think your personality also makes people around you cooperate with each other.
What do you try to do when you communicate with people?
I always try to be friendly.

If my mood isn't good, people in front of me will not want to talk with me, nor to support me.
I always try to have emotional leeway in my mind so that people can easily talk to me.
Also, I always try to be understanding.

Q. What's your motto?
I believe that learning will not end.
We need to constantly learn, advance, challenge ourselves, and make the most of what we have learned.

It's important to share your knowledge and experience to other people instead of simply learning and keeping them only for yourself.

Q. It is exactly what you are doing in the US.
      Do you have a mentor?

I am learning from everyone.
I am learning "patience" from my husband.
Sometimes, I also learn a variety of things from my students because each student faces each task and makes efforts.

Q.Do you have a habit to keep your good mood?

Every morning, I offer a prayer.
I have a room for praying in my house, and there are statues of the gods.
I also like taking a walk. Keeping yourself fresh and energetic helps you to accomplish your tasks.

Q. Could you give us a final message?

I pray for everyone to have a dream, challenge it and achieve it.
If you can not achieve it, try to look for other means.
Let's try and learn on how to prioritize and balance.
Please accept changes and be flexible.
I think there is a conflict within us to build a career while raising children, and it may take time.
But please be patient and know that there is not only one way.
Try various ways to achieve your dream.


Thank you so much, Pragnya!

Here is Japanese Version↓

「道はひとつじゃない」People in Iowa #3:Pragnya」


アメリカ生活 本 旅 アート 英語 アメリカ中西部 駐在生活2年目(2016.9〜) 英語学習・ボランティアしながら 自分の道を模索中。 日々感じたことを丸ごと綴っています。


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