Television host and model Padma Lakshmi shares what it was like being a toddler separated by thousands of miles from her mother in a moving new essay.
Lakshmi’s mother Vijaya moved to the United States when Padma was two in search of work after the end of her abusive marriage. Padma remained in India with her grandparents for several years. “Every day, I’d sit on a step outside our house waiting for my mom to come back from work in America,” she wrote in an piece for CNN Opinion. “The anguish of separation may have even contributed to a skin condition I developed around that time — terrible blisters all over my body in the summer heat, so bad my head had to be shaved.”
Lakshmi wrote that she was inspired to share her story while reading news stories about the treatment of families with children who are detained while crossing the Southern border. “As I watch the Trump administration forcibly separating children from parents as they make their way to the United States looking for refuge, my heart breaks,” she wrote, quoting government figures that say more than 700 children have been separated from their families from from October 2017 through April 2018. Those same reports say that over 100 of those children were under the age of four.
The “Top Chef” host added these stories felt particularly personal to her because those years away from her mother have had a lasting impact on her psyche. Padma and Vijaya would be reunited when Padma moved to New York in 1979 at the age of 9.
“The temporary loss of my mother affected my confidence and my ability to see the world in a positive light,” she noted. “… When I finally came to the United States at 4 years old, I remember catching my first glimpse of my mother at JFK airport, so pretty and carrying an afghan she had knitted for me — and thinking the world was whole again.”
The Top Chef host is now a mother herself to 11-year-old daughter Krishna Thea Lakshmi-Dell. In a recent interview with the Hindustan Times, Lakshmi said she was working hard to make sure Krishna was aware of her immigrant and Indian heritage and the importance of using her voice to speak up on behalf of others.
“I don’t really care if she wears jeans or saris,” she said of Krishna. “I care more about what kind of human being she grows up to be.”