Moving from place to place has inspired Pranav Nalam to find constants in his varying hobbies


Prior to 6th grade, all junior Pranav Nalam had known was his life in India. When his family decided to move to Virginia, though, everything changed. The schools were different, the culture was different, even the ways of thinking were different. This process of moving has allowed Pranav to conceive a more fluid outlook on life than most.

“The move [from India to Virginia] was a big one,” Pranav said. “One of the main things that sticks out to me [about the move] was the way that I used to think. It was different. I would sit in a math class, and I knew what they were talking about, but I wouldn’t understand because the way that they were thinking was different than what I was thinking. It’s kind of hard to explain; it’s like a different thought process. That was hard, and it took me a little while to get used to.”

Pranav says his parents were initially concerned about his well being in school; however, his kind and open personality proved to make the transition smoother than they anticipated.

“My parents were really concerned about bullying,” Pranav said. “Especially because I stand out. Because I’m different. Even within the school I used to go to, where there was a decent Indian population, I still stood out because I was more Indian than them. But, I was a very calm kid; I never used to get into anybody’s business.”

Pranav had always possessed an aptitude for the piano since the age of nine or ten; however, as he grew older, he began to look for ways to broaden his musical interests. This resulted in his pursuit of the guitar during his early teenage years.

“The interest [in piano] carried over into the guitar,” Pranav said. “Music really runs deep with my family. So it kind of comes from there. It’s kind of cheesy, but I remember my mom listening to Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC and other music from her day. That kind of music carried on to me. I particularly emphasize my interest in music because I listen to everything: classical, hip hop, rock and roll, jazz, blues. There isn’t really one genre that I stick to, which is why my deep interest in music is really profound.”

Although his regard for music is a driving force in his life, Pranav has decided not to participate in school-centered musical activities such as band. For him, music is the most fun when it remains more focused on the individual.

“As much as I like music, I hate reading it. I believe a lot in intuition and ear training,” Pranav said. “But, I’ve had teachers. I had one for three years who sort of took me from the basics of the field of music. [He taught me] not to look at it as a dynamic thing. It’s sort of an easy path if you know what you’re doing.”

All this moving sort of put me in this crisis about finding where I belong. I haven’t found it yet; I’m still looking.”

— Pranav Nalam

Despite this, however, Pranav remains quite sure that music has been, and will always be, a large part of his life.

“[Music] is definitely going to be a part of me for the rest of my life no matter what happens,” Pranav said. “But it’s never going to be that one thing that I’m going to pursue. I like to spread out my interests.”

One of these interests is theater. Pranav says that he has always had a passion for acting and singing; however, his parents were not always as supportive as he would have liked. Part of this, he says, stems from their slight fear for his younger brother and him.

“I remember in 7th grade when we moved here we were planning out the course sheets,” Pranav said. “I asked my dad if I could do theater arts, and he said ‘Nope.’ I’ve always had an interest, but then my parents didn’t support it. They were just afraid because in their opinion theater arts is a waste of time. I don’t really blame them. They were just thinking way too far ahead. That sort of paranoia between my brother and I was what kind of stopped me.”

For this year’s musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Pranav decided to take matters into his own hands.

“For this one, I kind of auditioned and didn’t tell them,” Pranav said. “I got in and then they sort of figured out because they got an email or something. They were like ‘Just do it this once,’ and then they saw the show and thought, ‘You know, you’re good at it.”

Pranav says that his role as one of the brothers in the musical proved to be much more exciting than he had originally anticipated.

At first, he says he expected the process to be difficult and rigid. As he got to know the cast and his relationships with the people around him blossomed, he began to realize that the process was not that grueling.

After seeing Pranav in his most recent show, his parents began to open up to the idea of his active participation in the arts. They are even encouraging him to be engaged outside of the school play and musical by auditioning for the Civic Circle.

In addition to acting and music, another of Pranav’s passions can be found in the world of chess. After one of his friend’s brothers taught him the game around the age of nine, his knowledge only grew as he began to teach his own younger brother.

“I was playing for a little bit but then I put it aside,” Pranav said. “I really got into it when I was 15. I was in chess clubs, but I really got into it when my brother started playing. I was trying to help him out, and I sort of had to learn a little bit more to teach him. Me and my brother both play chess.”

Due to their frequent moves, Pranav and his family have a special bond.

“[My family] has always been close. It’s a different kind of close than what you might think,” Pranav said. “It’s not a ‘hug and kiss every day’ kind of thing. It’s more like ‘Ok, I understand what you’re going through. I might not be able to help completely, but here’s what I can do.’ ” 

Over the course of his life, Pranav and his family have moved through many different cultures, places, schools, and homes. Now, as he looks toward the end of his high school career, Pranav is hoping to begin to figure out where he is meant to be.

“If time permits, I would like to stay in Michigan, but you never know where opportunities are,” Pranav said. “All this moving sort of put me in this crisis about finding where I belong. I haven’t found it yet; I’m still looking.”