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.

 

What Is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me, No More.

What do you think marriage should look like?

I’m going to try my best to explain what I think it should look like. I believe that it should be a best friendship where there is love, respect, and trust with a lot of attraction mixed in. There should be understanding on an emotional level. There should be laughter and fun. There should be a belief that no matter what, you both are a team together.

So then why are there so many people out there making fun of their significant others? Why is joking about our marriage something that serves as way to bond with other people? Why is your spouse not held in the highest regard?

I understand that marriage isn’t always heaven. We show our worst to that person. Everything bad that happens in our lives will fall on the other person. They are our rock and our punching bag.

But isn’t degrading them in front of others disrespectful? Or is that just another way that people show their love towards their significant other? Maybe that is the bond between a couple, the ability to tease and make fun without resenting them. Maybe there are stronger people than I who can deal with this type of relationship.

For me, though, I can’t do it. I know that my husband and I will have to fight about things. I know that when the kids are exhausting, it takes a toll on us as a couple. As long as we can create some space to enjoy each other and continue to respect each other, I think we will be fine. But I don’t think I could survive being with someone who thinks putting me down is an acceptable form of affection. I might be too sensitive or I might just need something different.

I know we have all seen it throughout the generations and throughout different cultures. We have “husband” jokes and “wife” jokes. We hear this in wedding speeches all the time. There are stereotypes like the uptight wife or the messy husband that get reinforced over and over again. Can this change if we don’t agree with it? Why must this be the way to connect with others? Why can’t we use something positive instead?

I’d like to know what your thoughts are. I know that all marriages are different and have different bonds. I’d like to hear about what keeps your marriage strong. I’d like to also hear about what things you’ve heard between a couple that really irks you.