Life Is Good Here
At 435 South magazine, readers share with us every month what they enjoy about living in this part of the country. The friendly people, the award-winning schools, the restaurants and shopping, the arts, the philanthropy, the churches, synagogues and temples, the opportunities to succeed and raise a family. The inspirational stories are endless: neighbors helping one another in times of personal challenges, college graduates who return to pursue their dreams, entrepreneurs who are changing the business landscape.
We’ve come to know these people who reach out to tell us about what makes this place so special as community voices—and late last year, we decided to make it official.
Meet Shamita Mahajan, one of 435 South Magazine’s Community Voices 2012. Mahajan’s heartwarming essay captures the emotional essence of what it means to live here.
You’ll meet more people like Mahajan during 2012—your neighbors, colleagues and peers who embrace Johnson County, work to make it a better place and truly believe there’s no place like home.
Searching For Home by: Shamita Mahajan
“Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home.”
This is the response that I used to have ready whenever people asked about which place I considered home. Over the course of my life I have lived in Mumbai, London and Paris and in several different states in America, including New Hampshire, New Jersey, Kansas and Georgia.
I spent my entire childhood in Mumbai but once I left at the age of 22, I rarely visited. When I left my childhood home in India, I felt that I never found what I was looking for. Soon after my marriage, my parents both passed away and I never again felt that I had a home in India. As my husband and I moved from place to place, I began to feel that I no longer had any roots.
In 2001, we moved to Overland Park. When we first moved here, friends and family told us that we would never fit in in Kansas because it was not culturally diverse, that we would be bored, that people would not accept us because we were from India. All these dire warnings about the mistake we were making in moving to a ‘small town’ after living in the biggest metropolitan cities of the world made us apprehensive, to say the least.
However, we were pleasantly surprised. Not only were we completely accepted by the community, we met some of the friendliest, kindest people in the world. Our kids loved their school, parents were extremely helpful and life was wonderful.
In fact, having always lived in very big cities, we were unprepared for how polite everyone was. Drivers always stopping to let pedestrians cross, shoppers allowing others to get ahead of them in line, people waiting patiently without honking when a driver took a second too long at the light—these were all novelties for us. In New York and Bombay, for example, waiting for others to pass might mean we would be waiting forever. It made us pushy and aggressive, but in Kansas we felt we could be laid back.
Despite all these wonderful experiences, we still felt restless. We remembered the warnings of how we were in a place that was not culturally diverse or exciting. Kansas did not have a wide array of universities, hospitals and Fortune 500 companies like New York or California. We always questioned whether we should move and live in a place with a diverse culture and landscape, more mountains, forests and oceans.
Last year we were presented with just such an opportunity. My husband took a new position in Atlanta and his company moved us there. Although we were sad to leave Overland Park, we were excited about being back in the big, bustling city, close to CNN World headquarters, Coca-Cola’s global headquarters and home to famous rap artists and NFL players.
We did enjoy some of it—the malls were fabulous, the sightseeing was good and we could drive to the beach in a few hours. But on the flip side, the traffic was horrendous, life was stressful, nobody had any time to stop and take a breath. In a very short time, we began to miss the comforts of Overland Park, the peace, the wide roads, no traffic congestion, kind and helpful people. The list is endless.
By a twist of fate, my husband’s job changed and we came back to Overland Park.
We realized in the short time that we were away that you don’t need Fortune 500 companies to have a good life, nor do you need lots of museums or mountains. You need a good life on a daily basis, good friends, conveniently located stores and good schools. Life is easier that way.
Most of all, after all these years, I recognized that I had finally found my home. I was searching everywhere, but when I left Overland Park, I realized how much I missed it. Where else would a complete stranger hang up his cell phone so that he could stop to give you directions? Where else would the school principal personally call to welcome you back in town? This is what gives life its sweetness!
Kansas is often known only as the place that Dorothy came from. Many, many people don’t know what a wonderful place Overland Park, Kansas is to live in and raise a family. The neighborhoods are fabulous, schools are highly rated, shopping is convenient and restaurants are plentiful.
True, Overland Park does get voted year after year as one of the best places to live in, but it is yet unknown to most of America. That has been to our advantage because it keeps the crowds away. It is a hidden jewel, hidden like a diamond in a mine or a pearl in an oyster and we are so glad that we have the privilege of living in such a fine place.
I know now that so many thousands of miles from the place that I was born, I have finally found my home.