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?

Health Insurance Is Not A Guarantee Of No Stress

I am epileptic. I have given birth twice. I am a normal person.

Yet, one of the things that causes me the most stress in this life is my health insurance.

Unfortunately, I have a chronic condition. It’s not an option. I’m lucky enough that I can afford insurance. I’m lucky enough to be able to control my condition. I’m lucky enough to have a simple enough solution to handle it.

Dealing with insurance, however, makes the condition feel worse than it is. There are constant problems with meeting all the requirements to get the medicine I need to control the condition. The insurance doesn’t talk to the pharmacy, the pharmacy doesn’t talk to the doctor, the doctor can’t talk to the insurance. It’s like I need to conference call all of them constantly to make everything function smoothly.

In the past 4 months, I have had to deal with it all at least 3 times. For a month, I was constantly calling the insurance company, the pharmacy, and my doctor to get all the paperwork in order so I could continue to get the medication that I’ve been on for 13 years.

Why is it so hard? Why can’t something that should be so basic be easier? I’ve definitely read that it’s easier in other countries. I do realize that the insurance industry is a for-profit business and this is a way to make money. Why is that the case though? Shouldn’t our healthcare be a necessity, not a luxury? Shouldn’t we be able to get what we need without stress? Isn’t getting sick stressful enough?

I hope I get to see things get easier in the insurance world in my lifetime. I don’t know how this country can untangle the mess that it is. I don’t even know if the people in charge want to.

All I know is that it’s frustrating that in addition to whatever our bodies and minds are going through on a regular basis, we have to add a good dose of stress to it.

Watch Something Progressive

Have you watched a kids’ show lately? Maybe if you don’t have children, you haven’t seen one since you were a kid.

My kids watch Sesame Street on a daily basis. I remember watching it when I was growing up and liking it. Now? I seriously love it.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m an adult and more aware or that our country suddenly has a serious number of issues that have been brought to light. I’m finding that kids’ shows are more progressive that our actual world seems to be.

Before everything got kind of crappy, I would have been proud that Sesame Street showed episodes about the Indian culture. Now I’m relieved. They also have episodes about other cultures (such as Chinese New Year and a South African exchange student), bullying, autism, and just liking yourself as you are. It’s amazing. They are teaching my kids (and myself) so many positive things that sometimes, I wonder if we are actually in this time frame where people are acting as regressive as they are.

The other 2 shows that my kids have been watching lately are Doc McStuffins and PJ Masks. While it hasn’t come up in the few episodes I’ve watched, both shows star children of different backgrounds doing awesome things. I especially love that my little girl is watching Doc McStuffins because I love the idea that she has a role model that plays doctor and isn’t just into a bunch of princesses.

I feel like there are plenty of adults that need a good dose of some of these children’s shows. They have fantastic messages and teach you a lot about the world. You can stream Sesame Street on HBO, Doc Mcstuffins on Hulu, and PJ Masks on Netflix. Take some time out of your day and learn something new.

Second Class Citizen

Yesterday, while I was on the treadmill at the gym, some older white guy got on the treadmill next to me. When he turned on his tv, it was on Fox News. As long as I was there (for another 5-10 minutes), he hadn’t changed it. I don’t know if it happened to just be on and he wasn’t paying attention or if this is the channel he meant to watch. He had also socialized with a few other people around us. One of the men he spoke to was watching CNN. The other man that said hi to him then proceeded to go hug an older African American woman. So I’m really not sure what the guy next to me believed.

I’ll tell you what I do know though. I felt awkward. I felt like if this guy actually watches Fox News (while it was talking about the Muslim Travel Ban), he had no reason to actually want me around. It made me feel severely conscious of my skin color.

I was born here and have lived here my whole life. I’ve barely even moved out of the city I’ve lived in, let alone the state. I’ve always been proud of my dual heritage of being South Asian Indian and American. I’ve always thought it was so much cooler to live in American with its progression while also having a cool background where I get to wear gorgeous clothes, have a huge movie and music industry, and still participate in my cultural traditions.

Right now, with the way this America is, I don’t feel that. I feel like I’ve been downgraded. I feel like I have to second guess who I am. I feel like I am going to have to protect my family from all the problems that have still yet to come. I have thought of where we would go if it got that bad where we couldn’t live the life we were used to living. Would we go back to India? Another westernized country? Do you know how hard it is to even think of leaving our home?

I’ve always been more on the optimistic side of how these things resolve. Right now, it is extremely difficult to be optimistic. I can’t imagine how people can’t care for other people. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be threatened by people of another skin color or religion. Maybe it’s because being Indian means a whole variety of skin colors and religions already. To me, growing up in American already meant a blend. I don’t know it any other way. I’ve never understood it any other way.

Now, based on the fact that I’m more tan than that guy next to me on the treadmill, I get to feel like less of a person.

I really hate that.

All Our Indian Aunties Were Also Stay-At-Home Moms

I always imagined that I would be a working mom when I grew up. My mom was a working mom. I knew that a lot of the stay-at-home moms I knew weren’t necessarily college educated. I assumed that all of these aunties were stay-at-home moms by default. I thought that they had no choice and this is what they did. I thought it was definitely an easier life than to work and raise a child.

I don’t know if staying at home was a choice or a default lifestyle but that didn’t make it any easier to be a stay-at-home in the previous generation. I think about the things I face now on a daily basis with my children. I think about how many times I burn out and need time to myself before I send myself into a nervous breakdown. I have a supportive husband with the flexibility to allow me to take time for myself.

But what about those aunties I grew up with? Were they able to get time to themselves? In the Indian culture, there is definitely a “put everyone else first” attitude for the women. Your husband and your kids come first. If you have in-laws or your parents, they also come first. You are definitely last in line when it comes to being taken care of. So is that what happened to the women I saw raising my friends?

Our culture here in America has evolved enough to recognize that everyone needs some time for themselves. It’s encouraged and recommended. I’m not sure if the Indian culture has evolved as much yet but I can see the trend leaning towards it. I know if I ask my husband for some time to myself, he will do his best to give it to me.

I really wonder what the generation before went through when they were raising kids. Was it easier or harder? Did they expect anything more of themselves than being a parent or was that enough for them? How did they deal with the day in, day out of being a stay-at-home mom? Were they happy? Did they care if they were happy? Or was it enough if everyone else in their household was happy?

Someday, maybe I’ll try to have this conversation with some of the aunties I know.

 

How Do You Talk To An Indian Auntie?

I can’t relate to Indian aunties. If I run into them at different events, it’s literally a “Hi, how are you?” situation and then I’m on my way. I’ve tried the small talk thing but honestly, it’s usually a fail.

I always thought that it was the fact that I was younger and it was something I’d outgrow but after going to recent family events, I’m now accepting that maybe it’s just me. Even now that I have kids and we have more in common than before, I still don’t know what to say to them.

It seems to be mutual. They are nice enough to exchange the social norms with me but that’s as far as it goes.

And I’m not really sure why this is. I can connect to some people but maybe I just don’t have much in common with the aunties. I have some friends who seem to be able to talk to everyone. They are able to be friends and make people laugh and it’s no problem at all. I just don’t seem to have the ability. Maybe it’s also partly that I never developed a relationship with some of them past being their friend’s daughter.

I also started thinking that maybe I’m not an easy person for aunties to relate to. I don’t know how to be myself and connect to them. Maybe it’s a generational gap, maybe it’s being raised in India versus being raised in America, or maybe it’s just a personality thing.

Who knows? I wish I could figure out what makes it easy for us to talk to some people and really difficult to talk to others.

Until then, we just hang out with those who make it easier for us to be ourselves.