We have tried our best to feature other ethnic groups, more the Europeans, in Austin. This time we wanted to feature AIN which sounds a bit Asian but stands for Austin Intercultural Network – and its current local leader Shalini Komarla from India.
Please introduce yourself ?
Hi! My name is Shalini Komarla and I was born and brought up in India. I came to Austin, Tx almost 20 years ago, with 2 bags, and an unfaltering determination to make a life for myself…and never looked back since!
I started my career in hi-tech as a programmer and worked my way up to various leadership positions in hi-tech companies including Rackspace, BMC Software and Allianz. I currently serve as the Executive Director of Austin Intercultural Network (a non-profit that aims to celebrate and promote diversity in the community) and am on the Board of Directors of AFSSA (formerly SAHELI), a non-profit organization that provides assistance to Asian and other immigrant families dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking issues. I live in beautiful West Austin with my wonderful husband, 2 amazing kids and my adorable dog.
What did your parents do and where are they now?
My father was a Brigadier in the Indian Army where he served for 30+ years and he passed away in 1999. My mother was mostly a home maker and now spends her time between India and the USA, spending quality time with her grandkids.
When and why did you move to USA , where have you lived before that – how did you choose those cities/career?
I grew up in India and studied Computer Science. I moved to Austin in February of 1995, straight out of college and with a job offer to work as a consultant to IBM. At that time, the hi tech industry was booming and the dot com bubble was just starting to form. It’s been upward and onward from there!
What do you love about Austin?
There is so much to love about this city! I love the beautiful hills of West Austin and Zilker Park and Town Lake. Austin is a melting pot and you can find people from all around the world living here. It’s great to come across and learn about all the different cultures and how international our city is becoming. I also enjoy the live music scene and eclectic vibe of the SOCO district.
Usually there are some negatives, what are the ones for Austin that really stand out for you personally?
For me personally, I dislike the allergies and in more recent years, the congested roadways and traffic related issues during peak hours.
What is important to you in life — Why? Since you are more multicultural in my opinion you may have more varied likes/dislikes.
My family is very important to me and they are my priority! We love to go on vacations together and enjoy going on adventures. I love to sing and dance! I am a Bollywood dancer and keep my passion alive by performing occasionally in and around the Austin area. I also enjoy meeting new people and learning about other cultures and AIN provides me the perfect opportunity to do so.
Where is home for you outside US? And how often do you go back home? What do you miss the most – and the least?
Austin is home for me now, and my mother’s home in New Delhi, India is my home away from home. I try and visit every 2-3 years, though I wish I could go back every year! I miss my extended family, my cousins, but thanks to Facebook and Skype, the past few years I am able to see them and keep in touch with them more frequently, without having to visit them and deal with the pollution and traffic…it’s really bad!
What is your favorite food/s and drink?
I don’t have a favorite cuisine but generally I like spicy food (surprise! surprise!…LOL!). Oh and I love a cup of hot Chai Tea and am always up for grabbing some with a friend!
What would you like anyone know and appreciate about your country? (food, music, culture, people, history….)
India is an extremely diverse country. The people from the different parts of India speak different languages, follow different religions and customs, cook different kinds of food and wear different types of clothing. However the hospitality, friendliness and warmth of the Indian people resonates everywhere and is much appreciated by everyone, especially visitors.
Would you ever return to live there full-time?
Frankly, I have no idea.
Would you share with us what are your plans for the future?
I want to continue to serve the community, bring people together and make a difference in their lives. At AIN, we are planning an International Fashion Show (March 2015) and an International Festival in Austin (November 2015), in collaboration with other local organizations. This festival is an opportunity to celebrate the uniqueness of the Austin community by bringing different cultural groups together. At some point next year, I will launch my own business, but it’s a little too early to discuss that.
What is it in life that makes you happy or content – that means different stuff for all of us.
I look forward to my meditations each morning – they help me stay connected with my inner self and help me stay focused on what truly matters to me. I also enjoy walking my dog, which I find very therapeutic and relaxing. It makes me happy to spend time with my family, especially the weekends. I cherish the time I spend with my friends – we talk about anything and everything over a good glass of wine. I like to meet people and I love to dance and read when I can. I am so grateful for every new day and for the opportunity to live life and realize my dreams!
Anything else you would like to share with us?
I met Mother Teresa during my younger days back in school in India. She visited our school for an annual day celebration and was giving out awards, and I was lucky to receive an award from her and shake her hands. It was a profound moment that I will never forget…
Connect with Shalini Komarla: