Just Because I’m American Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Indian

You would think the typical problem for someone first generation born in America would be racism against the fact that you are Indian even though you’re as American as the next person. I do know that this is the case for a lot of people throughout the country. It’s a sad fact and hopefully, we are getting to a point where people are enlightened enough that this isn’t an issue anymore.

My problem is a little different from the typical racism. I want to talk about the stereotypes I dealt with growing up. From other Indian people.

There was an Indian movie that came out in the 90s called Pardes. It basically told a story about a girl from India who was marrying a boy who grew up in the US. This boy was a horrible human being. He drank, he smoked, he had girlfriends prior to marriage. All of this was a direct result from the fact that he had grown up in America.

Seriously??

I’m not going to comment on the fact about whether all of these things are right or wrong. Instead I’m going to focus on the fact that all the “bad” stuff happened because a person wasn’t raised in India. And if you think this is just something that was portrayed in a movie, let me tell you that it actually happens.

When I was 19, I brought a guy around to our family parties. This was someone my parents had met and liked and they were fine with him coming with us. All of a sudden, as of that day, I was a bad influence on the other children within our group. Because I had a boyfriend. And this was the type of guy who the same people would have been trying to set me up with maybe 2-3 years down the line. Same nationality, same religion, good family, etc. I couldn’t understand it. I was a super nerd in school. I didn’t drink, I didn’t really have many boyfriends, I had been teaching dance to their children, I had good grades, and was attending college on a scholarship. Yet, all of that history wasn’t enough. I was now this American girl who was going to take everyone else’s children down the wrong path. I was lucky that my parents stood by me and stood up for me. Now, as I watch all of these people’s children get married to people that are not the same heritage as we are, I wonder if they realize how unfairly they judged me back then.

There was a friend I had whose mom did not like me because she felt threatened or something by the relationship I had with “her little boy”. We were just friends but for whatever reason, I wasn’t a good person. One day, she saw me wearing a sari. She asked me who tied the sari for me (it takes a lot of practice). I told her I did it myself and I’ve known how to do it for the last 7 years. My friend later told me that his own sister-in-law from India can’t tie her own sari. Why did this woman assume that I was so American just because I was born here that I didn’t know anything about my own culture?

Most of the people I have been friends with here can speak more languages than just English. Most of them can understand at least 3 languages. I have friends who have been born and raised here in America and friends who have been born in India and came over after spending their childhood there. My own husband came to this country at the age of 11. Yet, there’s not really a significant difference between us. We are both proud of our culture and we share it. We also adopt parts of the American culture that are more progressive and really have been creating a new culture in which future generations will be a part of.

So, Indian people who think that they are better than I am just because I was born here and not there, get over it. We are all the same. The sooner you start thinking that way, the more we will all get along.

3 thoughts on “Just Because I’m American Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Indian

  1. Narendra says:

    Very nice. You are who you are. Talking about culture, religion or language does not make any one an expert in any of those. You are product of your own environment , which is unique to you. Trying to please everyone pleases no one, just please your self.

  2. Jessica Rana says:

    I think you’ve written a great piece on how we are a part of culturally evolving generation. Im a marriage/family counselor who works primarily with the South Asian population. Like you, I have also been born and raised in the US and still face many assumptions about how “cultured” I am. I hope your writing reaches out to many others. It will be very helpful to them.

  3. Sireesha says:

    greatly written. I agree that American born Desi should adopt best of both American and Desi cultures. I live with this principle and proud to speak the language, wear our clutural cloths and follow our traditions. I have seen so many Indians who grew up in India, came to USA for studies or by getting married and prentend that they can’t speak any language other than English or wear our cloths. I wonder about these kind of people why they are this way? Why can’t they be proud of their culture?

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