by Pooja Patel
Michael Jordan. Marion Jones. Tiger Woods. Lisa Leslie. Michael Phelps. Venus Williams. Jerry Rice.
These sports stars are ingrained in American culture. They are synonymous in the sports they represent. Idols. Role models. But, could you imagine names like Vijay Singh, Manny Malhotra, or Mohini Bhardwaj garnering the same attention? With the exception of Vijay, there have been very few South Asian athletes represented in American professional sports. An observation that can easily be made by many.
“It’s been well documented why kids of Indian descent here don’t pursue sports with the same level of seriousness as kids of other ethnicities,” says Aditi Kinkhabwala a sports writer for The Record, a New Jersey newspaper.
“Indian parents,” she continues, “don’t view sports as a way to break out of less-than-stellar backgrounds, or for social purposes. That’s what education is for, right? Still, just because Indian-American kids don’t NEED sports doesn’t mean there’s no value in pursuing sports.”
Kinkhabwala’s response is well qualified, as she has spent most of her career covering the American sports scene. She first got into writing by accident, her high school friend needed help with the school’s paper.
“I chose sports,” she says, “because I thought it would be the most interesting.”
This gig landed her a role at local newspaper, where she covered multiple beats until the summer after her sophomore year at Cornell when she started working at ESPN’s SportsTicket, and at Sports Illustrated the next summer.
“All through college”, she continues, “I worked in Cornell’s Sports Information Office, writing program features and press releases. And I never thought I’d be a writer. I was supposed to go to law school.”
Her plight seems to be common among South Asian students today. Many parents push their children into typified professional fields: doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. But, as it were, Kinkhabwala has broken the mold and joined the ranks of a rising number of South Asians in other fields- many of whom are pioneers.
Although she didn’t pursue the route to law school, she’s always loved to write. It’s this love that’s taken her so far so fast. Kinkhabwala is one of only 65 voters in the Associated Press poll.
“Even though the AP rankings are the ones all media outlets use,” Kinkhabwala explains, “and the final AP No. 1 is crowned a national champion, the actual poll doesn’t carry any real weight in the BCS picture. Still, I definitely think it’s an honor and enormously fun to be an AP voter.”
She’s found a love for traveling all over the country, covering all sorts of stories. It’s not just about the games to Kinkhabwala, but the impact and influence of sports on our world and the characters.
When asked what advice she would give aspiring journalists or other professions a typical of the South Asain mold, Kinkhabwala emphasized the importance of internships and writing experience over a major in journalism.
“The more experience,” she says, “the better. Don’t be afraid to follow what piques your curiosity. You have to go to work at your job every day, not your parents. First, you should never sign up for anything you’re not passionate about and second, your parents are going to ultimately always love you. Even if you’re not a doctor. Mine do.”
What interests you? What career paths have you chosen that are off the beaten and narrow? Have any comments? Post below!
First image provided by Aditi Kinkhabwala