In 1975 Matra immigrated as an Occupational Therapist and her fiancée came as a graduate student to the University of California at Berkeley. They got married in the USA.
Matra could not find a job in the Bay area and she moved to Los Angeles. After working two years in Los Angeles, she got a job in the Bay Area and moved back to rejoin her husband. He finished his masters in operational research and got a job in the Bay Area. After working for couple of years her husband Raj started a consulting company.
Now Matra works at the Stanford Hospital and teaches there as well. She has also participated in research on stroke at the VA Hospital. Matra serves on the board of the International Association of Yoga Therapy (IAYT). She is a certified yoga therapist and at Stanford, she integrated therapeutic yoga with various patient populations.
In 1980 she became a naturalized American Citizen and with the help of her husband they brought Matra’s
parents and sibling to the USA which was a great benefit to their children.
Matra was a founder of the Indo-American Community Service Centre (ICSC) which provided support to East
Indian families around issues like depression, domestic violence, and raising bi-cultural children. ICSC
acquired a full fledge non profit status as an independent family service agency through the United Way incubator program. After running the ICSC for 15 years she decided to give back to the mainstream community.
Matra was also on the board of the Society for Art and Cultural Heritage of India (SACHI) that collaborates with South Asian education departments such as Stanford and Berkeley Universities to increase Indian art and cultural awareness in the Bay Area.
She joined The Palo Alto Family Y and Chaired the Diversity Wellness Committee. At present, she is chairing the Healthy Living Committee at the Y.
She has two daughters, one lives in Mountain View and works for Air BnB in the City. Another daughter
works for Time Magazine Inc. and lives in New York City.
As an immigrant to a new country, one goes through a process of adaptation to new customs. Even though in India Matra learned English, initially she had a hard time understanding American English. She took classes on the American English pronunciation and listened to the English conversation tapes.
Raising children in the USA
Matra feels it is challenging to raise children in the USA. Her first daughter was the only East Indian girl in a predominantly white school and she went a through very hard time getting accepted among her peers.
Fortunately there was help and support from Matra’s parents who are very patient, progressive and very
well educated about various child rearing techniques.
Matra, Raj and Matra’s parents shared stories about India, its customs and festivals in their daughters’ classrooms. Their home was open to their children’s friends. At home, they had fun cooking sessions. Even though believing in giving freedom to children and encouraging independence, they did not sleep well during their daughters’ teenage years. Most worrisome was children going out with friends at night and
returning home very late at night or sometimes early morning.
In India, Matra’s parents gave her lots of freedom that was greatly appreciated and she stayed within social norms. She valued the trust and freedom from her parents and became even more responsible. Somehow Matra did not feel same with her own children raised in USA. They focused pretty much on their own needs. Today however, her two daughters are very open and close to their parents.
Matra has received many awards including, an Art of Caring Award from Stanford University, an Asian Hero Award from Santa Clara County, the Carpendale Award for leadership from The Palo Alto Family Y, a Distinguished Service Award from the Federation of India Association and a Leadership Award from the Indian Women Empowered (IWE) organization.
Matra was interviewed at a Palo Alto YMCA Diversity Celebration and subsequently edited her account.