A husband at the office, a wife at home, one house, two cars, and 2.5 kids: for decades, this image defined the ideal family. While it is still a viable option, recent decades have brought us many exciting options. Today, two parents who work outside the home must navigate both a successful career and the development of well-balanced children. Can it be done? One Buffalo family answers, “Yes!” Meet Aalok Karambelkar: Buffalo husband, attorney, father, and foodie. A Pennsylvania transplant, Aalok first moved to New York to attend the U of R, beginning his education towards becoming an attorney. It was at the U of R that he met his wife, Neha, in a classic boy-meets-girl moment. Their eyes met across a crowded room, and by graduation, they were a couple.
Both Aalok and Neha were pursing their law degrees. When this took Neha to NYC, Aalok turned down a job offer to remain with his sweetheart. In 2013, Aalok and Neha were married. The couple enjoyed life in New York City, but it was not where they wanted to raise a family. Both were seeking job offers, and Aalok was offered a position alongside two of his good friends at Kenney Shelton Liptack Nowak LLP of Buffalo. Neha also found a position with a nonprofit, so the couple returned to Buffalo. “My work focuses on the defense of injury claims for the most part,” he said. Although Aalok is a trial lawyer, he is quick to point out that it is not as glamorous as TV makes it out to be. “Not many cases go to trial; it is more like a long chess match,” he explained. “I may try an average of one case per year. What I really enjoy is the problem-solving aspect of my work: being able to look at a lawsuit and find a solution. People often think of lawyers as problem solvers, but that is how I look at it. I consider the issues of a case and work out a solution which puts our clients in the best position.” Even so, Aalok admits there is a unique energy in the courtroom. “It is an adrenaline rush you can’t describe when you hear that knock on the door indicating the jury has reached a verdict,” he said.
2020 brought a special blessing to the Karambelkars. In July, Aalok and Neha welcomed their first baby, Uma. “Good things seem to happen to us in 7’s!” laughed Aalok. “In 2006, Neha and I began dating. In 2013, we married and began new careers in Buffalo, and in 2020, we had our first baby girl.” “Becoming a dad is exactly how people describe it,” he continued. “Before Uma was born, I never thought getting 6 hours of sleep would be heaven. It is so much work, but it is just the best. You have these tender moments where you are looking down at your daughter as you rock her to sleep, and she smiles. That kind of joy is indescribable. It makes it all worth it.”
As anyone with children can tell you; however, parenting is not all cuddles and tender moments. Neha and Aalok feel fortunate to have several friends who offer a wealth of information and advice. “My welcome-to-fatherhood moment came at four in the morning,” said Aalok. “Uma had thrown up right after my wife had finished nursing her, so we took her in the changing room. My wife took off the diaper, and Uma started pooping all over the changing table. Neha handed her to me, and our baby peed all over me and the floor. It was all three at once with our baby screaming the whole time. We had to find the humor in that chaos!” Neha and Aalok have decided to face these parenting challenges as a team. “The jobs of parenting are real,” said Aalok matter-of-factly. “My wife and I are both professionals, so we support each other in terms of sharing parenting responsibilities and in our careers. We have a pretty good system of support, and we will make sure it stays that way even when my wife goes back to work.” Continuing their careers is a mutual necessity. “My wife and I are both ambitious people, so satisfying our desires professionally is extremely important,” shared Aalok. “She, too, is a lawyer and has no desire to stay at home with a baby permanently. Even if she wanted to, she jokes that I would push her back because I know that is what she needs.” Fortunately, the ability to work from home has gone from an exception to an expectation, a silver lining of 2020. “That didn’t really exist before,” Aalok observed. “The way in which the world has changed has really worked in my favor. Now, if I need to, I can set up shop right at home.” He adds that both grandmothers have also been very supportive, particularly during the first month with baby Uma. His employers at Kenney Shelton Liptack Nowak LLP have been understanding, as well. “I was originally in a rush to get back to meet my annual hours requirement,” recalled Aalok. “The people at the firm know how important family is having been through it, and they said not to rush back.” Aalok enjoyed three weeks off followed by a week part-time before he returned. “I am lucky to work for people who care about family,” he said. “When you find a place like that, it makes you want to stick around for the long haul.”
Aalok and Neha plan to be equally a part of their daughter’s life. “That is our vision of what a family should be,” affirmed Aalok. “We will figure it out. We don’t want to be the parents who say, ‘We can’t do this or that; it’s not worth it’ because it is more challenging with a small child. For example, we took Uma down to Ellicottville overnight, and the number of things we had to pack was just incredible, but we bundled her up, went to Pumpkinville Village, and enjoyed a Sunday morning with the fall foliage.”
Their love for travel and culture extends beyond planned vacations to include eating and cooking culturally diverse foods. “We actually love to cook,” he said. “I used to make these elaborate meals and post them on social media. Everyone told us we wouldn’t be able to do that once we had a baby, but we surprised them. Recently, we had friends over for dinner and cooked a Sous Vide Argentinian-style strip steak. It came out pretty well, so I was able to tell myself, ‘I still have it!’” Aalok and Neha are determined to develop Uma’s palette, too. “It is important that our daughter eats what we eat when she can,” shared Aalok. “We are a team in the kitchen, cooking and being creative. So, we take the time to go out as a couple in search of inspiration.” They couldn’t choose a better city than Buffalo in which to find it. “My wife and I consider ourselves the gourmet, foodie type, and in Buffalo, we always find new places to eat and drink,” said Aalok. “The city has a great restaurant scene. There really is something for everyone, not just pizza and wings.” The Karambelkars didn’t fall in love with Buffalo just for its food, however. “I couldn’t ask for a better place to live,” Aalok enthused. “We live in North Buffalo. It’s a pretty happening neighborhood, and we have put down roots here. Professionally, Buffalo is a very collegial place to practice, and reputation matters. In NYC, it was very impersonal, and no one ever did any favors for each other. Here, we have a tight knit community. People are very kind to each other and look out for each other. Our neighbors are caring, and they even plow each other’s sidewalks. I consider myself a friendly person, as well, so I love it. We couldn't think of living anywhere else."