SECOND SHOT SITDOWN — Raj and Anna Asava are the co-founders of HungerMitao, which is a grassroots volunteer movement to mobilize the Indian American community in support of their local food banks.
Jenny Anchondo wanted to learn more about their story so she sat them down for a Second Shot Sitdown. Here is just a preview of their conversation:
This interview is part of a 30-minute Second Shot Sitdown. Click here to listen to the full episode.
How is HungerMitao going? I know you have been traveling, how is the effort going?
“Amazing. Actually, the community is stepping up in a big way. Last time when we were here, we kind of gave your audience a little bit about what HungerMitao is. It’s a movement, not an organization. We are asking other communities to step up. Thanks to you, we got the word out to other communities. Last week, we launched the HungerMitao movement version for the Hispanic community,” Raj said.
I wanted to talk about how you’re mobilizing the Indian American community.
I’m glad that the title of this show is Second Shot Sitdown. Life is all about second shots. So never give up in life. An interesting thing happened to me growing up in India. I was a brilliant student, in fact, to the point that my teachers actually had me skip a few grades. I was coasting along and I was looking forward to a good career. Suddenly, I had typhoid. That had me on bedrest for almost a year, when this opportunity to come come to America came along. I jumped at it. But my dad, he’s an interesting fellow. He really believed that at a young age, people should stand on their own two feet, and not become dependent on others. My dad sent me on a fly-now-pay-later ticket. The moment I landed in America, I was already in debt. Fortunately, my sister and brother-in-law were there, so I stayed with them. I found the first job I could get. The first job I could get back then in 1974, was as a dishwasher, working at the dishwasher at the hospital. My wages at that time were $1.85 an hour.
How did you meet? This circumstance is something that’s super unique to me, and I don’t know much about it.
The conversation shifted around the dining table, it shifted from like college and courses to, ‘Now that you’ve graduated, it’s time to get married.’ My parents were very open with me [in asking], ‘What are your aspirations?’, ‘What kind of a family [do you want]?’ The conversations [about my marriage] were always about family. Yeah, they talk about the boy [they wanted me to marry]. But [they also realized that I was] going into a family.” I feel like the arranged marriage system is different from match.com. Because you’re not just looking at a life partner, you’re also looking at a family background. Is that compatible? It helps because marriage itself is such a struggle at times, you have to put in a lot of work. If the families are compatible, his family, raised him very similarly to how my family raised me, so the values were similar. It’s helpful. My parents would ask me what kind of a life I wanted, and I’d be open with them. So I kind of went through the same thing that he did. I’d be shown proposals of, ‘Hey, here’s this person. Here is this person?'” Anna said.
How old were both of you at this point in time?
“I was 19,” Anna said.
“I was 25,” Raj said.