A little bit about me…
Struggling to put “Asian” or “Other” as my nationality is just one of my struggles being Indian. High expectations from parents and being expected to go into one of two pre-chosen professions are just another few struggles faced by South Asians on a day-to-day basis.
Having been born in a rural town in Pennsylvania with Indians being a very small minority in the area, I never really considered myself of a different nationality. My life as a little kid consisted of eating, sleeping and racing my Power Wheels race car around the empty neighborhood streets with my neighbors. I never considered the fact that I was different and I was inheriting a different culture than those around me.
As a toddler, I thought all my neighbors, who had lived in Pennsylvania for generations, went home and were immersed in the same culture as I was. I envisioned them going back home to their parents putting out Indian food, talking about school and grades, anxious to see their little future-doctor-or-engineer blossom and prosper. Maybe I wasn’t so innocent, but the point is I never considered myself any different than the other “non-Indian” people that were around me at the time.
However, things changed when I moved to Massachusetts. I was suddenly immersed in a community that was overflowing with Indians. Going to a school that specialized in advanced math and science did not help either. I was suddenly part of a community that was just like me, who all shared the same culture. Coming from Pennsylvania where I was used to being one of the few Indians and acted very much like the rest of my surroundings, I felt like a marshmallow dropped into hot chocolate, where it was only time till I would melt and become like my surroundings.
Socializing with people who for once were not different than me, I realized that I was drastically different than those with whom I had associated with before. I embraced my culture and the stereotypes that accompanied it and worked hard like the others around me. I connected with my surroundings who lived with the same culture as I did and recognized the stereotypes that I heard while growing up coming true.
I recognized that being Indian; I had to live up to great expectations from my family and had inherited innate scientific and mathematical ability. Although the latter is a myth and is most likely solely due to the work ethic I was disciplined to practice, I grew up to love to be Indian with the differences it carried.
I have grown to embrace the question on whether I speak “Indian”, as it really goes to show the variety of cultures that we live with, and I have grown to love to jokingly correct people by asking if they speak American before explaining that India has a variety of languages, Indian unfortunately not being one.
I have been, I am and always will be grateful for the sacrifices my parents made to come to America. With my dad growing up to never believe that he’ll ever ride on an airplane, I’ve learned to appreciate my background and value the differences that I have inherited. While living in two contrasting worlds, one that understands the stereotypes and expectations accompanied with being an Indian child and the other where I am able to associate and talk to others not directly from the same nationality and who have diverse cultures of their own, I have grown to appreciate the uniqueness of us all and have grown to love the melting pot of cultures that we all reside in.
It is important to recognize and embrace the different cultures and personalities of those around you, and I believe caught in the midst of two is nothing but the best of both worlds.