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.

 

Relationships: Be Lame or Have Fun

Relationships are hard. Even the best relationships take some work. But, it’s possible to make a relationship easier if you just know how.

The hardest part about any relationship between 2 people is that you are going to have 2 sets of personalities and opinions. And if you’re lucky, those personalities and opinions really make the relationship a lot of fun and exciting.

But occasionally, there will be clashes. Here’s the bottom line: you can either let those differences hurt your relationship or you can help make it stronger.

When I was younger and in a relationship, I held onto things every time there was a fight. I would stew in my anger about things not going my way or if it seemed like my wants and needs were being ignored. I grew up with that image in my head that my significant other was supposed to create my every happiness (I’m sure every Bollywood movie I saw and every fairy tale I read helped grow this expectation). How surprised was I to realize that that expectation didn’t translate into real life.

Somewhere, between all of my relationships, I learned how to be responsible for my own happiness. I learned that if my significant other was happy, I was happy. I learned that sometimes, in a relationship, you’ve got to swallow your pride so that you and your significant other can move forward together.

Now, I’m in a relationship where we encourage each other to do things that make us happy and give each other the space to do so. When we fight, we take some time out and then address the issue and move on. We realize it doesn’t help either of us to be mad over something just to keep our pride and, in that, lose time enjoying each other.

My husband told me one thing while we were dating that has stuck with me throughout our relationship: “You can either be lame or you can have fun.”

I choose to have fun every time.