The South Asian Cultural Arms Race for Impressive Biodata

Srinivas Rao
13 min readJul 22, 2020

Anyone who has grown up as an Indian American knows it’s a culture of immense pressure, expectations, and judgment which comes from family members, peers, and community.

But there’s an opportunity cost to this.

I’ve always joked that when an Indian parent gives a motivational speech, it can be summed up one sentence.

“You can be any kind of lawyer, doctor, or engineer you want to be.”

We force people to choose from the options in front of them and blind them to the possibilities that surround them. This limits a young person’s entire future to just a few possibilities before they even know who they are.

As a result, we rob them of the opportunity for self-discovery, exploration, personal growth, and many other things that lead to a meaningful life.


Because in Indian culture, we define ambition and success by crossing off the checkboxes of society’s life plan instead of designing a life plan of our own. What are the checkboxes?

  • A prestigious college
  • An impressive resume
  • A wedding
  • Kids

From the time we’re old enough to understand what it means to have ambition, we race towards an imaginary finish line or mythical date in an unwritten future. Whenever I felt like my life plan wasn’t on track, my best friend from college used to say to me, “Srini, it’s not a race to death.”

But it is for Indians. Sometimes I think they’re on what author Randy Komisar calls a deferred life plan because they believe in reincarnation. With the shit I’ve done, I’ll come back as a cockroach, so I’m going to take my chances in this life instead.

In his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks makes an important distinction between resume values and eulogy values, which he defines as follows:

The resume virtues you list on your resume are the skills that you bring to the job or the market. They contribute to external success

Srinivas Rao

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