The idea being an Indian-American can be confusing is quite the understatement. It’s a complex juxtaposition in which I feel certain aspects of my being do not comply to the mold of the what an American girl should be like. On the flip side, the western norms that have shaped who I am seem to make me an outsider in comparison to my relatives back in India. This is perhaps why I feel alone most of my short-lived life…
Saying the thought aloud may sound rather pessimistic as how can anyone really feel alone right? You have your parents, siblings, relatives, friends, etc. so why feel this way?
It comes down to communication amongst those you grew up with. Being brought up in traditional Indian household – it was something which I could hardly recall as communication was quite minimal. I felt as if I didn’t belong anywhere. All we have is this very collection of individuals, every other Indian-American seeking a place where their entity as a whole, rather than only half, can fit.
Do not get me wrong here, I spoke with people about various things throughout my life, but I never fully opened up to a person. I never was able to talk to anyone about the pressures I felt, the confusions of college, romance, my extracurricular activities. Ultimately, these thoughts which I wanted to express just became ruminations inside myself.
Growing up and trying to find the people whom I belong to gave me a place to call home while simultaneously reshaping my thoughts on having a dual identity. I was always cautiously proud of it, knowing that while it was a beautiful mix of traditions and holidays and people, I was still split between the two. I could not give my all to one aspect. However, as I grew up, I began to learn what a blessing it is to have the knowledge and customs of two different cultures ingrained in you.
But I felt as if I had to live a hybrid life. When at home, I was to be the traditional, studious, Indian girl with no other regards to life other than my studies. Yes, I was blessed to have parents to encourage me in my passion for the arts, but I was constantly reminded that it was just a passion and nothing more. It could never be something which could make income and be something which I could survive off of. Oh, and romance was out of the question; the thought of a boy would bring shame and utter embarrassment so I suppressed such thoughts from my family.
Outside the home, I was the typical ‘ABCD,’ I just couldn’t figure out which group of people I could really befriend and hang out with. I had not the slightest clue as to what was ‘trending’ or what was going on in the social/entertainment world that too the petty local gossip that was going around. I was clueless.
All these confusions, all these questions I had about the basics in life, to blend in with society never will be answered by anyone but myself. It was a hard realization, but that’s life- it never was meant to be easy for anyone, but I can’t help but think that had I had someone to talk to, or at least some level of comfort with those close to me, things could have been easier…
I personally feel that the true reason as to why the connotation ‘ABCD’ was formed was because of the underlying reason of lack of communication and comfort. If you are raising your children only to be successful in studies and worry about getting a job, then how else are they to feel comfortable talking to you about anything else? Encourage your children, those around you, even yourselves to start breaking this idea that something has to be a certain way. Stop trying to control the lives of those closest to you and instead, raise them to be individuals that are brave, willing to step outside the barriers of society that could possibly make a change.
I know parts of our Indian community will find this a tough concept to grasp and for us second generation, it is even harder because of the gap, but that is exactly why topics like need to be spoken about. If we ever want to move away from the ‘confused’ insinuation, then start talking and listening with an open mind. All of us should be able to talk about the various instances we face in life with someone so rather than instill a sense that they will be ridiculed when they open up to you, create a lifestyle so that the person will feel safe and at ease.
I’ll be honest. I still manage to feel as if my everyday life cannot relate to my peers in America while simultaneously feeling as if I have inherited too many American ideals to fit in with my family in India. It makes me feel like an alien, divided into two parts that create the person that I am. However, finding the people who are just like me has made me realize that this fusion of cultures has given me perspectives on life that you cannot learn. I have the knowledge and the thoughts in me that can only be inherited if you lead a dual life. Being an Indian-American has given me the chance to be the person I am today and that is something you could never change.