Indian American teens Maya Eashwaran and Gopal Raman recite poem at White House, felicitated

Maya Eashwaran attracted the audience by narrating a poem that shares her experience as an immigrant.

2016 class of National Student Poets with First Lady Michele Obama at White House ceremony (Courtesy of White House)
2016 class of National Student Poets with First Lady Michelle Obama (Courtesy of White House)

Indian American girl Maya Eashwaran attracted a sizeable audience at the White House by narrating a poem that shares her experience as an immigrant and how it was painful to replace her mother tongue Tamil with English.

“I have lost more than I have ever lost in sixteen years. I have started shedding ethnicity like hair: Mother, I fear I’ll go bald,” the 17-year old concluded reading her poetry “Ma, I haven’t spoken in three years” amidst applause from the audience.

First lady Michelle Obama felicitated her and four others including another fellow Indian-American Gopal Raman with the prestigious National Student Poet in recognition of their poetry skills.

Maya even received a shout out from the First Lady in her speech.

“Maya – where’s Maya? You put it best. These are your words, I’m told: On the stage, there is no way to leave unnoticed. Did you say that?” Michele Obama asked Maya.

“My family is Tamil. I was born here. I write a lot of my poems based on my culture, my heritage,” Maya, who born in the US to her Tamil parents, told PTI after her White House event.

“The poem that I actually read at the White House linguistics is based on experience of losing my mother tongue and kind of replacing it with another, which is very painful thing to imagine to go through,” she said, adding that when she was in the middle school she started getting interested in poety.

17-year-old Gopal Raman, the other Indian-American budding poet who received national attention is a high school student and lives in Dallas.

“It (love with poetry) started in seventh grade. I had a really great English teacher. He really pushed me in writing in more creative way. I choose poetry as my avenue of writing,” he said.

“I am super honored to meet the First Lady; I also want to plan for pre-med. My dream job right now is some short of medical doctor,” he added.

Gopal’s parents – father from Chennai and mother from Kerala – moved to the US in the 1980’s and he was born here. At the event, Gopal read out the poem “This Apple”.

The other three poets honored at the White House are Stella Binion from Chicago, Joey Reisberg from Towson in Maryland and Maya Salameh from San Diego in California.

“This is the last time we’re going to have the pleasure of welcoming a class of National Student Poets to the White House, at least under this administration. So I’m feeling a little melancholy here, because this has truly been an Honor and a privilege and a joy,” Michelle said.

The First Lady recollected how it all started when they first came to White House, they wanted to use this incredible platform to inspire young people to dream really big for themselves, to think about what their lives could look like beyond what their everyday existence is like

Since its inception in 2011, the National Student Poets Program has showcased the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success for audiences across the county.

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