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Kamala Puram

Kamala Puram

Women’s Mentor & Businesswoman

Born: Andra Pradesh, India
Heritage: Asian Indian, Hindu

Get an education. If you do not get educated, you will not get a job. Do the best that you can; you have wonderful teachers and take advantage of this. In many places, kids cannot go to school because it is too violent, but you are safe here. My advice is to take advantage of your opportunities here.

Kamala Puram

Women’s Mentor & Businesswoman

My name is Kamala Puram. I am from India and was born in 1956. In India there are 26 states. Every state speaks different languages. I am from Andhra Pradesh, but grew up in a different state. My mother’s tongue was Telugu. The local language was Kannada. Our national language is Hindi.

Since I was born in India I am Hindu. At the end of the day Buddhism, Christianity, and all religions all share the same values. The foundation is the same.

In Hinduism we are not expected to go to the temple, we can pray at home. We have hundreds of gods we pray to, different gods for different purposes.

Growing up, education was given the most important preference. When you think about it, education will carry you throughout your life. No one can take it away. You could be rich one day and poor the next. When you study well, you will be successful. EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION!

In India we did not have organized sports. We went to school, did our homework and played games with the neighborhood kids. We played marbles, ring tennis, and volleyball. I learned English when I was 12 years old. Because of British rule in India we use different words and speak very quick English.

One thing different in India than in the United States is the arranged marriages. I have an arranged marriage. This means your parents select your partner for you. Here in the United States you find your own partner. I was 22 when my parents selected my husband. My husband’s uncle visited with our family in Rome. They proposed that I marry their nephew. We got married 27 years ago in 1979.

I first came to the United States when I was 23 years old with my husband. I asked a friend what it is like in Minnesota, and he said, “Put your head in the freezer for an hour and you will get an idea.” I was a housewife and did not work. I felt bored, so I began volunteer work in schools and libraries. I decided to go back to school and got an MBA from the University of Minnesota in communication systems.

My father had a big influence on me. I have a lot of respect for him. I believe if you work hard you will always be successful in life. I started on the first level and worked up to a vice president of a large corporation. When you work hard, people recognize that and give you a chance to grow.

My first son is Sid Puram. He is 23 and doing his PhD at Harvard. My second son, Rishi Puram, is a junior at MIT. My children learned a lot from debate and speech. You have to present yourself, do a lot of research, and think on your feet. Those are great skills to have. Studying and doing well is important.

I was active in the PTA, developing curriculum in schools, the homework, languages being taught, and the technology task force. The world is opening up. Now you will be dealing with kids outside the United States. Your community is your world from China, India, Russia, Europe and all over.

Today I do mentoring for women. Menttium is the name of the organization. They identify women in leadership roles and team up with a mentor who has met some achievements in their life. I have been helping women like me who have come from India and need guidance.

You say Namaste to welcome a person, which means you respect them. You put your hands together, bow, and say Namaste when you see another Indian. This is a gesture of kindness and friendship; it lessens our sense of ego and self-centeredness, requiring some humility to do it well.

Notation: Download PDF

Honoring Kamala Puram


My name is Kamala Puram
Can you guess where I come from?
I am from India
Mother spoke the Telugu tongue
The local language Kannada
National language Hindi
When you get an education
You will succeed
Namaste, Namaste

The British controlled India
For many, many years
We had to learn English
To persevere
When you think about it
Education will carry through
Be you rich or be you poor
No one can take it from you
Namaste, Namaste

Unlike here my marriage
By my parents was arranged
With my husband’s uncle
On my wedding day
Everyone was invited
Two thousand people came
One year after marriage
Moved to U.S.A.
Namaste, Namaste

When I first came to this country
Stayed home and woke up late
I became a housewife
I needed to escape
Went to the library
Became a school volunteer
Then went to college
Got my MBA in a few years
Namaste, Namaste

One month after graduation
My husband and I moved
I was expecting
I’m telling you
Only two weeks later
In the name of love
Did work between contractions
For Siddarth, our first son
Namaste, Namaste

Three years later
Gave birth to Rishi
Now both are doing well
From Harvard to MIT
Always do your homework
Do your best to get A’s
If you do less than your best
It is not okay
Namaste, Namaste

My parents are Hindu
That’s my religion, too
As in all religions
I salute the divine in you
Trust and respect each other
Never tell a lie
Always be humble
Put hatred aside
Namaste, Namaste

Words by LARRY LONG with Lisa Stordahl’s and Nickie McClure’s 5th Grade class of Countryside Elementary
(Edina, Minnesota)

© Larry Long 2006 / BMI

Listen: Namaste