Hoping to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Kareena Batra, a 9th grader at Bloomfield Hills High School, dreams of attending the University of Pennsylvania to become a dentist. Passionate about the arts and gymnastics, this talented young lady is eager to show her community that hard work and perseverance are key to becoming a successful individual. She spoke to the Indian SCENE about gymnastics and staying in touch with her culture.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
The Indian SCENE: Tell me about yourself.
Kareena Batra: I am 14 years old and go to Bloomfield Hills High School. Since I was 3, I have participated in trampoline and power tumbling gymnastics. Since I was 8, I have been a competing gymnast. I have also been doing Indian dance since I was 6 years old. I am in 9th grade, soon to be in 10th. Next year, I will be taking honors 11th grade math. Some things I love are kids, art, and cooking. In past summers, I have babysat neighbors, and I plan to again babysit. This summer, I hope to shadow at a dental office (possibly my mom’s), and also would like to shadow at a general hospital.
IS: Since the tender age of three, you have been participating in gymnastics. What sparked your interest in the sport and what does an average day look like for you?
KB: When I was a little kid, I actually didn’t like gymnastics. I was forced by my mom to go every week, and I would be so tired. But I remember the year I was in 4th grade, I was watching the gymnasts in the Summer Olympics, and I realized how much I actually loved it. However, I don’t do typical artistic gymnastics, but I like what I do more.
IS: Have you participated in any competitions? If so, what were they and what was the outcome?
KB: I have been competing since I was 8, and I have about 7 competitions a year. Summer is offseason, except for nationals, which happen in the beginning of the summer and are the most important meets, where you compete against gymnasts around the country. I used to get close to last place every time when I first started, and that’s what made me hate it so much. But I worked at it for years, and now I typically place within the top 5, depending on the group size.
IS: How has this pandemic impacted your ability to continue gymnastics? What alternatives have you found to keep yourself physically active?
KB: During this pandemic, I haven’t been able to go to gymnastics, and the owner isn’t sure if it will still be open when this is over. However, I have gymnastic mats at home, so I use those frequently, and I also workout daily.
IS: I know that you also enjoy Indian dance. How and when did you begin this art? What draws you to this particular dance and how have you come to appreciate the Indian culture as a result?
KB: Again, I was a very stubborn child, so I didn’t take a liking to Indian dance immediately. But if I look back, I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I have been doing it since I was 6 years old, and it keeps me engaged in my culture through all the functions we perform at.
IS: It seems to me that you truly have a passion for the arts. As someone who loves to paint, what do you use as a source for inspiration? Do you showcase your work to the public?
KB: I do have a passion for the arts, yes. I love to paint, but I never got much time during my normal life. During this stay-at-home order, I have been able to be much more artistic, and I like it because I feel more wholesome with any sort of art I do.
IS: With very little spare time on your hands, what do you do in between schoolwork, sports and the arts?
KB: I am a busy person, undoubtedly. But I like my life how it is because I couldn’t imagine sitting at home all day doing nothing. My parents have raised me to always stay productive and to always be willing to learn during any free time I get. Granted, I am a teenager who likes to spend time on Netflix and social media, but I also like to spend time with my friends and family, do art, and hopefully this summer be able to shadow and work at a couple different places.
IS: Your dream is to attend the University of Pennsylvania. What plans do you have there as a student?
KB: My mom went to Penn, and now she owns a dental practice. I also would like to pursue dentistry. More specifically, out of high school I want to apply for the seven year dental program they have. This is going to be hard, but I think of myself as well rounded, so I think I can get there.
IS: What specifically about Indian culture makes you feel proud?
KB: I honestly don’t think I could pick one thing. When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the culture at all. I hated the smelly food, the itchy outfits, and the loud gatherings. Now, I couldn’t imagine not being Indian because I love the beautiful outfits, the unique foods, the dancing, and everything else.
IS: What is one piece of advice you can offer to our younger readers who struggle to understand their Indian heritage and place within America?
KB: One thing I would tell them is that I was just like that as a kid. I wanted nothing to do with my culture because it seemed so embarrassing. But, just like I did, they will have a turning point where they can’t imagine anything else.
Kareena’s Best List:
Favorite book: Refugee by Alan Gratz
Favorite Indian dish: Saag Paneer
Favorite quote to live by: “When you reach the end of the rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt