Assumptions, Assumptions….

Another thing I encountered when I was in India was the idea that various people hold there about those who are living or raised in America aren’t as good as those in India. Before I go more into this, I just want to reiterate that these aren’t the thoughts of every single person. It is just a thought of several people I came across on this particular trip. I am fully aware that not everyone thinks like this.

My family visited this couple while we were there. In this visit, the husband proceeded to mention how things in America aren’t as good and this was better in India and that was better in India. The wife went ahead and mentioned that we were all forced to work in America and no one could just work because they enjoyed their job. Now while their statements may have some truth to them (but certainly not entirely true), I wondered why the comparisons had to even come up.

We compare things when we need to feel like we’re doing the better thing. It’s to assure us that we aren’t missing out on anything or the worse of the two things we are comparing.

It really felt like this couple was making comparisons about their lives in India with ours in America because there was some envy about the fact that we did come from America. The only way to feel better about the fact that they weren’t in America was to put it down. Nothing was as good for us as it was for them. It made me also wonder what they thought of me. Here they were making these comparisons while I, a product of America, was sitting right there. And as I had mentioned in a previous post, just because I don’t speak Hindi or Punjabi fluently doesn’t mean I don’t understand about 80% or more of what’s being said. And I really wasn’t thrilled hearing a few people who decided to put my hometown down because they either didn’t want to or couldn’t live there.

I am aware that things are different between living in America and living in India. I was born and raised here so to live in India just doesn’t seem like something I personally could ever do. But I have met people who have been able to move there and really love it as well as those having been born there and never wanting to move away. India is also still growing as an independent nation (with only 60 years or so of being an independent country under its belt) so comparing everything to America (with over 200 years of independence) is also not the wisest thing to do. It’ll take time for both countries to be comparable. I am hoping that, one day, they will be.

I believe I had mentioned before the Bollywood movie Pardes. They keep mentioning in it how all of the bad habits the bad guy in the movie had picked up was because he was living in America. It generalized and stereotyped those of us who were raised here and really showed us in an inaccurate and horrible light. Pardes is 17 years old. So you can imagine my surprise that there are still people who share the same ideas now.

I’m hoping there will be a time where we are not judged by where we were raised. I’m hoping we can get to a point where we try to understand that a person’s background is just a part of them but we don’t define them by that background only. I’m hoping that eventually people will stop judging me based on the fact that my parents left India for better opportunities for themselves and their children.

Yes, I am American. Stop forgetting that I am also Indian. I will never stop being Indian. Understand that.

Where Do I Belong?

My family and I just got back from a 2 week trip to India. As you can imagine, I noticed so many things that I do want to talk about. Let’s start with this.

I was born and raised in America. My parents moved here before I was born but have done a great job teaching my about my heritage. I have a strong sense of cultural identity and am trying my best to make sure my kid learns as much as she can about her heritage as well.

On my trip, I did notice something interesting. Interesting might be the wrong word but it’s what I will use at the moment. I noticed that I’m not Indian in India. I’m American. The Indian people in India don’t consider me as one of them. (This is clearly a generalization. I’m sure there are people that consider me Indian.)

I can’t tell you how many times I heard people telling someone else that I am from America and I don’t understand or speak anything but English. The funny part was that I perfectly understood what that person was saying in whichever Indian language (Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi) was being used. Yes, my spoken Indian language might not be perfect but I can understand most everything being said in whichever language you choose.

Why is that assumption being made? I feel as though some of the people who made these assumptions know that I can understand most of these languages so why do they need to feel like they have to mention that I’m from America? Is it an insecurity issue? Am I a worse person because my first language is English?

I met up with a friend who moved from California to Delhi. She was telling me that when she has something to say, no one really listens because she’s the American girl. How does where we are from even relate to the knowledge we have?

It’s also funny because growing up here as a first generation South Asian Indian American meant I stood out. I was Indian, not American. I didn’t assimilate into the typical American ideal at all. Luckily, I grew up in Southern California which meant I wasn’t alone and there were ways for me to fit in with others who were in the same boat I was.

So now, if I’m Indian in America and American in India, I’m not quite sure where that leaves me. The only place I really fit into is this westernized Indian culture that has been created here in America. I get to be as Indian as I want to be without having to be any less American than anyone else.

I hope one day that the people in India who think I’m too American realize that I can understand every word they are saying about me.