As an older sibling, I’ve come to appreciate the saying that “every girl needs a sister.” That was evident in the closeness between Isha and Eera Bhatt. On a steamy summer’s day in June, the Bhatt sisters invited me to their home in Troy and showed me the loving relationship which sisters sometimes possess. Isha is a junior at The University of Michigan who keeps close ties with her seventh-grade sister Eera, sharing a love of music, passion for volunteering and some afternoons window shopping at the Somerset Collection. Despite a considerable age gap, these two sisters demonstrate a kinship which truly defines the term “sisterhood.”
The conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.
The Indian Scene: Tell me a little about the both of you.
Isha Bhatt: My name is Isha Bhatt and I am attending The University of Michigan where I am studying electrical engineering and also pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship. I am passionate about music, hard work, diversity and inclusion on campus – these are really the three main things. I have been really passionate about music my whole life, and at the same time STEM efforts and pursing hardware and electrical engineering have also been a big thing for me. I have also been proud of being a woman in STEM, especially as a woman of color in the field. It has been also been something that I have worked on.
Eera Bhatt: My name is Eera Bhatt and I am going into the seventh grade. For most of my life, I have been passionate about music. I play piano, the electronic keyboard, the violin and I sing. I also help mentor music students and I believe strongly that practicing in anything is important if you practice it the right way.
IS: A large age gap exists between you both. What is your relationship like? How often do you see each other?
IB: So, it’s true that my sister and I have a large age gap, but a lot of times I feel that that’s a good thing. Especially nowadays, when I am in college and she is at home, we don’t see each other that often. But when we do, we catch up on everything that we have done. There’s never a moment where I feel that we are bored with each other. We do bicker sometimes, like siblings do, but we always catch up in talking about important things. I talk to her about growing up and have told her about my experiences. Because of that, she has learned a lot and she has been able to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made. I am really happy and proud of the person that she has become.
IS: Would you say that you are more like her sister or more like her mom?
IB: I wouldn’t say that I am like her mom – I am more like that person who is in between. She is sometimes is a mom to me. It’s a little bit of back and forth.
IS: Are there any special things you two enjoy doing together? How do you spend time together?
IB: Honestly, I think that we both do a lot of typical sister things when we are together. We go to the mall together sometimes. When I do come home from college to visit, I do take her out to eat food or we get some ice cream and we just spend time catching up.
IS: Isha, you are a junior at The University of Michigan and pursuing engineering. What has your experience been like?
IB: So I am at a pivotal point right now in my undergraduate. I have reached my halfway point. So far, I have to say that college has been the two most life-changing years of my life. I came to Michigan and was immediately at a culture shock because I was one of not that many Indian women studying electrical engineering. Even in my close group of friends, I am probably still one of the only Indian women. It’s been an interesting experience. In the beginning, it was really tough — I was shy at making friends. Over the two years, I have gotten to know a lot of people who are taking the same classes and we are all struggling through our homework. While engineering is very difficult at Michigan, I have also gotten involved in lots of different extracurriculars outside of my classes. I have been a part of projects where I have been able to build a car or even a part of a car and it is amazing to see when it works. I have built parts of drone and have seen it fly. It’s so cool!
At the end of the day, even though engineering is hard, being able to apply my knowledge and theory to the real world is actually pretty rewarding.
IS: In your opinion, why do you think there are so few Indian women in the field of engineering?
IB: I think that there are a few reasons why there are so few female engineers in the world. From early on, in very subtle ways, we are taught to not to go for engineering or are pushed away from the field. I believe that it’s a bunch of small things from an early age. Take my sister’s age, for example. A lot of the middle schools have more boys than girls in the robotics team. I remember when I was in high school. The robotics team was mostly made up of boys.
The Indian Scene: What are your plans after Michigan?
IB: I would say that it really depends on what happens after my undergrad and what I see fit. I am currently working at Skyspecs as a technical operations intern. I have really loved it there and that could be an option. Next summer, I am also thinking of working at another place. So, if I like that company, that could be an option. In any case, I am always thinking on a 24-hour basis and I am honestly not sure of what my plans are for undergraduate just yet. I plan to continue in engineering and in building, designing and testing hardware for various applications including aerospace engineering and other applications that I might find interesting later on.
The Indian Scene: Eera, I know that you have a deep interest in music and that you play a couple of instruments. What sparked your curiosity for this area?
EB: It started when my parents inspired me and then I became a self-learner so I explored it myself.
IB: I think that my sister heard my dad singing, then she heard me and then my mother. However, I believe that the main inspiration for all of us, including my mother, is my dad. He grew up singing and learning Indian classical music and performing it too. He brought that here to the United States and has continue it throughout his life. We have learned a lot from him and it has made a huge impact on us.
IS: Well, speaking of performing Isha, you were a finalist on a show for an Indian singing competition. Can you please tell us about that?
IB: Yes, back in my junior year of high school, I made a lot of small videos here and there and put them up on YouTube. There was one video that I had put on my Youtube channel and my dad told me about an Indian singing competition which was coming to the United States. I had heard about that reality show and always watched the singers perform on the show, so I was really interested and sent in my video with no expectation at all. Once it became public on my channel, I received an email that said that I was selected as a top 60 finalist. Along with my dad, I flew to New Jersey and performed in front of the judges. They had asked me to come to India, but I was in the middle of my SAT and ACT exams and it was not possible during my junior year. However, it was a nice experience to have.
IS: What a great experience to have in life! How do you both manage such experiences, including extracurriculars in your busy lives? Eera, I know that you volunteer a considerable amount of time at the temple.
EB: We have been going to the temple for a long time, so it was a good idea that we give our time there. It does take up a lot of time, but there comes a point when the only solution is to just get through it.
IB: Managing extracurriculars in college is a tough thing. I am in an Indian Classical Club called Michigan Sahana and I am also involved in a Space Lab and started my own group for Diversity and Inclusion. On top of that, last semester I took 18 credits and some were very hard classes. In the middle of that, I do practice mindfulness such as meditating every day or every other day. Music has been a big thing for me which is another form of meditation. Calling my family and friends and talking to them is a good break.
The Indian Scene: Yes, everyone can use a break from the challenges of today. Why is being a young adult so difficult in our world today?
EB: I feel like when you become a young adult, your responsibilities change, and it becomes very difficult. But I also feel like being a young adult is more difficult in our minds than in reality.
IB: That’s really true, Eera. Things are a lot easier than we make them out to be. That’s, again, where the whole mindfulness thing comes in. I think that it’s important for us to know where we are in the moment. Also, I do feel like being a young adult is very hard because there are so many expectations which are placed upon you. A lot of times, because we are in the same schools and classes, I feel like there is a lot of competition amongst the generations today. We often get caught up in what other people are doing and we need to stop ourselves from losing sight of our own goals.
EB: I agree that when you are a young adult, many people expect many things from you. But I think that young adults should know that it is not wrong for others to have those expectations.
IS: What about being a Indian young adult?
EB: It means more expectations! (laughs)
IB: I agree that there are even more expectations because we are in an Indian community. We are all so close together that the expectation seem like more than they really are — maybe more than they should be.
IS: What is your favorite part about being Indian?
IB: I think quite literally we celebrate being Indian. My favorite part about being from this community is going to our family friends’ parties. While I am there, I feel like I am at home. Our family is Gujrati and we attend a lot of garbas during Navaratri and we perform too. So that feels like home, which we all enjoy together. Celebrating is one thing for sure!
EB: Speaking in my mother tongue gives me a feeling of pride too. Also, the food is delicious!
IS: What is your favorite food?
EB: Probably dal.
IB: My favorite food is pani puri. I can literally consume plates of it and I will keep going until my mom tells me to stop.
IS: What aspects of our culture would you like to see carried on in future generations?
IB: I would love to see the food carry on. I want to learn how to make Indian food and get more involved in learning. Also, the Indian language, which is a big one. Speaking and understanding one another in my mother-tongue is like a safe space. It feels like home. I have only been to India two times, but I never miss India because I am watching Indian television shows and speaking to my family in Gujrati.
EB: Part of my upbringing has been learning Indian history. I feel that it is important to know about your history and the basic things about the country. I might also add a little bit of Indian style music and dancing because it is important to know who you are.
Isha and Eera’s Best List:
Favorite thing to do as sisters: Watching Bollywood movies
Best quality about each other:
Isha on Eera: “She is extremely honest—sometimes brutally!”
Eera on Isha: “She is hard working.”
Favorite quote or advice to live by:
Isha: Fail fast and fail hard.
Eera: Without any effort, there is no such thing as failure or success. It’s simply a null result.