What is success? Neal is driven because of his humble background, and his family is a part of the story he wants to tell. Weakness, mental illness or losing are not tolerated for either himself, or his family. Neal’s wife Roopa and his daughters Maya and Monica are well aware of this.
In the past, both career and a happy family and social atmosphere were measures of the quality of a person’s life. We live in an age where the barometers of success are money, achievement, power or fame – family and relationships take a back seat. Anxiety, depression and suicide are on the rise amongst adolescents, regardless of the demographic to which they belong. The internet and social networks, which are supposed to increase our connectivity, often make teenagers feel more disconnected and inadequate. Affluent children, who supposedly have everything, are under enormous pressure to ‘succeed’, and are even more prone to be damaged by what ails our society. This is the culture which I depict in ‘The Valley’.
The story of The Valley evolved from many of my observations and life experiences. I have witnessed the pressure that young people undergo to meet their parents expectations and its deleterious effects, particularly in the immigrant community. I have also seen mental health issues ignored because of stigma and shame associated with them.
My background is very diverse – I followed the traditionally prescribed path for second generation Indian Americans, and studied electrical engineering, making it all the way to a Ph.D. I worked for many years as an engineer, and then had two daughters. I wanted to prioritize my time so that I could spend more time with my daughters, so I started a successful building business, designing and building custom residential homes. In parallel, I pursued my lifelong passion, and completed a degree in film. It was not until later in life that I finally got the opportunity to what I wanted to do all along.
I hope that ‘The Valley’ will resonate not only amongst immigrants, but with all people struggling to keep up with the pace, demands and lack of real human connection in modern life. It is my desire that ‘The Valley’ finds a large audience consisting of a diverse set of ethnicities, and age groups.
– Saila Kariat