Second-Generation South Asian Indian American Identity

Something I constantly think about is how to pass down our traditions and culture to our children. I want my kids to know who they are and where they come from but it’s an interesting dilemma considering that my generation was raised differently than past generations. We were some of the first Asian Indian Americans growing up in the United States.

Being in America changed the way we would have traditionally grown up. I know a lot of people who grew up as close to the Indian culture as possible but even then, there were plenty of other influences affecting their childhood.

For me, growing up as a first-generation Asian Indian American in the United States allowed me and my siblings to define our own path. We chose whether or not to follow Hinduism. We chose which aspects of it we liked and didn’t like. Maybe it would have been the same in India. My mother’s side is pretty much a straight line of atheists. My dad’s side is religious but my dad never pressed us into following anything. He left everything open for our interpretations and let us make our own decisions on what we wanted to do.

Religion aside, being here in this “melting pot” gave us exposure to so many other cultures and religions. My family celebrates Holi which is traditionally a Hindu festival, Navratri which is traditionally a Gujarati festival, and spend Diwali at the Gurudwara since half of my family is Sikh although Diwali is also celebrated by Hindus and Jains. I am pretty sure that none of these are exclusive to their religions of origin. I know that garba during Navratri is well attended by people of all nationalities and religions.

Where does religion end and culture start? We are lucky to be in this area where everything isn’t so heavily based on religion but on our culture. I’ve never been really religious and if all of my family’s traditions were based on religion, I don’t know if I would feel as comfortable passing it down to my children. But since they have become much more based on Indian culture, we introduce our children to everything we possibly can so they are aware of our Indian traditions.

I feel lucky that Indian culture and religion can be separated as easily as it has. If our entire culture was rooted in religion, it would have been that much harder for me to accept this new identity that I have formed. It’s different now for my kids because they are learning second hand about our traditions. Whatever we have cultivated is what is being handed down. I have to accept they might never know our languages as well or the cultural norms that we grew up with.

How much can we expect our children to absorb? Is it possible that they will be as involved in the Indian culture as much as we were growing up. It honestly didn’t occur to me until my 30s that what we were doing was unprecedented. That means what our children are doing is unprecedented as well. I would like my children to take pride in the cultural traditions that we are able to pass down.

It will be interesting to see what our kids accept as and what they separate out from their cultural identity.

 

Real World Stuff

I had to stop going on Twitter and reading the news. Even then, yesterday, I saw a random headline pop out at me on my phone and it completely stressed me out.

What is the world coming to? The funny thing is that I’m completely aware that all of these problems existed before but a combination of I was too young to understand and no internet helped me to live in my bubble.

Now, the bubble has popped. No matter where we are, we are bombarded with information. And honestly, something bad is always happening. It doesn’t help that we are in a time when we have a leader that doesn’t know how to lead.

How does this affect us in our daily lives? For me, it sometimes makes me feel stagnant. I move because I have to but I’d like to crawl up in a ball and just hide until things get better. I have to also keep hope that they will get better but right now, that is definitely hard to see. So I freeze. I don’t know how to feel okay with the way the world is right now but I don’t know how to change it.

Social media also doesn’t help. It seems as though there are people who are still living in their bubble. I know it’s probably not true and they are probably just as worried about the state of things as I am but I wish I could at least feel that carefree sometimes.

I think having kids affects how I feel a lot. I worry about the future of the planet and the future of this county and how they will do within it. There are some days I wish they were still babies so I could keep them home and keep them safe.

Will it be possible to feel okay again? Is this temporary or is this the way we will be living now? Will these worries ever go away? Can we please get some good news for once?

Feeling Validated

A month ago, I looked at myself in the mirror and felt great about myself. Today, I look in the mirror and am having trouble processing the same image that I was looking at before.

What changed? I’m wearing the same clothes, doing the same things, and basically haven’t really changed.

I see myself differently. Nothing has changed except I may be more tired now that school has started. Our schedule is in transition which doesn’t allow for consistency yet. Our schedule is about to change again next week so I can imagine that things are going to feel out of whack for at least another few weeks to a month.

I know I’m not alone in questioning how I feel about myself. I’m sure that a lot of women are also trying to validate themselves. Self-acceptance isn’t an easy thing. Just when you think you have it down, there is a change and all of a sudden, you are questioning everything about yourself again.

What do we expect to see when we look in the mirror? We are definitely conditioned for perfection. I also thought as I got older, it would get easier to accept myself but it hasn’t. I have high expectations for myself and the older I get, I can’t seem to accept that I won’t always meet those expectations.

It’s funny. You’d think that it’s because after 2 kids, I’ve gained weight or have more gray hair or just look more tired. But if I look at a picture of myself 10 years ago, I wasn’t in as good shape as I am now and I was always tired then as well.

So is it possible that it’s only internal? Is it that our inner self is what needs to be validated? I know I personally have been struggling with the adjustment between being a stay-at-home mom and an ambitious woman.  Maybe it was easier to accept myself because I had other things that made me feel good about myself going on.

It’s an ongoing struggle. I don’t have answers as of now but I hope that someday I do.

 

Light the Night

Do you have childhood best friends? Like the type that you grew up with and is your  family even though you’re not actually related?

I grew up with a whole group of people like this thanks to our parents knowing each other since college and settling down in the same area.

One person, in particular, I had literally known since birth. His dad and my dad actually grew up in the same small town in India together so they had known each other their whole lives as well. He played the role of my brother in my wedding and I MC’d at his wedding. Needless to say, we had been through a lot of our ups and downs together.

One day, we found out he had lymphoma. He was in his 20s, just about to head into dental school. I remember that we had found out that he had felt something off in his lymph nodes and were waiting for the biopsy results. I remember coming out of the gym and getting a voicemail from my sister telling me the results were in. I remember calling her back and her telling me that it wasn’t good. I remember going home, changing, and heading straight to his house.

It was scary. It was something that we never thought about in our 20s.

He started chemo. It definitely took a toll. I wasn’t there for the every day but I do have one particular memory of him, I, and a third friend we had grown up with going to an Angels game together during this time. He was tired and he said he always had a metallic taste in his mouth. It honestly really sucked. But the mentality that we always had is that there was no other option and that he had to beat it.

And one day, he did. After that, he started organizing our family and friends together every year for a Light the Night walk. We are Team Unbreakable.

At Light The Night, it is our aim to bring light to the darkness of cancer through research and cures. Light The Night is a series of fundraising campaigns benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) funding of research to find blood cancer cures. We bring hope instead of despair by working to ensure access to treatments for all blood cancer patients. We bring communities together to celebrate those who are fighting the disease and to honor those we have lost.

This year will be our 11th year walking together. It’s so amazing how something that was so hard has become such an inspiration. We hope this year, you’ll join us and donate to our team as well. We want to do everything we can in order to raise money to defeat cancer.

I hope you can find a way to help us out with our goal.

My Child’s Big Transitions Hit Me Just As Hard

I always imagined myself to be tough. I have dealt with a lot of changes in stride, no matter what the challenge was. I’ve been through depression and loss and moves and employment changes. I’ve fallen and gotten up and fallen and gotten up.

I thought I had finally gotten to a point where a lot of every day stress was behind me since I am a stay-at-home mom now. I’m not technically working so the regular employment stresses are gone. I have a loving relationship and pretty good kids. I have a great family who is always there when I need them.

I thought that a lot of the issues I’d have now would be things like potty training and breaking up fights. I thought I’d be struggling with finding myself again and readjusting to a new normal.

So all of this turned out to be true. The biggest thing that hit me though in the last few weeks is that when my kids go through a big transition, I go through it too.

My children are both entering a new phase in their lives. It’ll be a little scary for them and completely new. I thought that I’d be the rock and help them get through it. I’d planned for it so we wouldn’t be overwhelmed with a lot at once and even spread a few activities out so the kids had time to adjust.

Then the nightmares started. The constant anxiety started. I have been feeling like I’ve been standing on the edge of a breakdown for weeks. The problem was that I couldn’t put my finger on why. There isn’t anything happening that we haven’t been preparing for. There isn’t anything happening that I have not researched and asked fellow parents and other teachers about. I’ve been getting the kids prepared as well so hopefully, there will be less tears all around.

I guess I needed the support too. I didn’t know that. No one talks about how it affects you as a parent when your kids have a big change. No one talks about how debilitating it is when the anxiety hits you. It’s already so much that you’re trying to protect your kids 24 hours a day with the most basic things like stairs and table corners and tree branches and dogs. Now, the worries start on how you will protect them when they aren’t with you.

I thought I had it but I don’t think I do. I think I feel a total loss of control to the point where I’ve imagined telling my husband that I’ll homeschool my kids even though I know that that isn’t a real possibility for me because it’s not the best option for any of us. I’ve always been a control freak so this is really much harder for me than I thought it would be. But I didn’t realize it until today.

It’s crazy how much affects you when it comes to your kids. There is a lot I can handle but anything regarding these children is amplified. I want to make sure that they are safe no matter what.

I think the biggest thing I’m learning from this (besides that I will figure out how to deal with all of it) is that I’m not alone in feeling this. And that validation helps tremendously.

Make It Stop

I feel like I can’t breathe today. My family was away for a great family reunion. It was the type of thing were we leave our phones wherever and really just hang out in a beautiful vacation spot together. We are talking about generations of families coming together. It was wonderful.

We drove home today. I opened Twitter to check out what’s going on and find out there were 2 shootings in a matter of hours. I read and I read and I read. Honestly, the only reason I keep reading is to see someone that says that they can fix this problem.

“They” aren’t kidding when they say that once you have kids, your hearts are literally walking around outside your body. I promise that this is true. I also can promise that in every public situation I am with my kids, I always try to figure out an escape plan if I need to have one.

To be honest, I don’t do it all the time because all this horror hasn’t hit home for me. I live in a great area and most of the people I meet seem like people who like other people, who like to interact, who seem to be kind at their core. But it’s impossible to know what will happen and where. So I visualize. I try to figure out how to protect my kids in the best way possible.

It’s become so real in some sense now that it’s a constant anxiety for me. How do I protect my kids? How do I give them a life that isn’t filled with tragedy? How do I keep everything normal when it’s not?

My childhood was a good one. I didn’t worry about this stuff. I don’t want to ruin my kids’ innocence but I don’t know if that will be possible in the long run. I hate that I have to think like this. I hate that sending my kids to school gives me anxiety. I hate that I worry about every single activity we are involved in and if we will be at risk.

I can’t breathe. Please make all of this stop.

 

A Competitive Community

Indians are competitive. We are competitive in every possible thing that we can be.

As a child, I remember the competition to get the best grades. Later, it was SAT scores and colleges. After that, it was careers. Then came marriage and children.

It was also happening within the community outside of our Indian one but it was definitely amplified within it.

It didn’t matter if we were in the top 10 of our class in our school, we had to also to better than the people we were growing up with (or at least comparable).

I’m positive that there is always some talk about who is married and who has had kids and who is a stay at home mom and who is a working mom. There’s definitely competition in who has the best wedding and the most original wedding and the most expensive wedding.

This competition exists in whatever we do. I’ve experienced it heavily in different dance companies. The crazy thing to me is that I honestly believe we limit our potential as a culture if we compete.

We want to be able to share how wonderful the Indian culture is with the world. But how can we do that when we try to keep each other down? We want to involve and encourage as many people as possible.

So the question becomes why? Why should we encourage others in our community? What if they are our competition for schools and jobs? What if their business competes directly with ours? Won’t it hurt us?

In my opinion, no. I’ve seen the discouragement and disappointment of a competitive community and I’ve seen the amazing community that people can build if they have each other’s support. In the long run, everyone moves forward if we work together and lift each other up. Maybe, just maybe, India with its billion of people can have more of a presence world-wide. We could enter in the Olympics and have more than 4 people. We could be more than a side-note in the entertainment industry (especially since India makes the most movies in the world). We could build a great, progressive country that is respected.

I honestly believe this all starts at home. Build each other up. Encourage each other. Help each other move forward.