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.

 

Boys’ Night Out

When I was growing up, we would get together at one of our family friends’ house almost every week. Then, the men and women would split up into their respective genders and socialize until it was time to go home. That was what I grew up seeing. Men in the living room, women in the kitchen.

But when us children hung out, it wasn’t split up. Even though we all went through the “boys/girls have cooties” stage and the “you’re a girl, you can’t play basketball” stage (and let me tell you, I was a great basketball player, especially in fancy Indian clothes), we still played together most of our lives.

And now, when we all get together with our spouses, it is still more of a mix. Almost all of the women in our group work full-time which might be the great equalizer. Or maybe it’s the fact that we don’t see such a big difference whether we speak to one of our male friends or female friends. We consider our spouses our best friends and not someone we have to take a break from. Yes, we recognize that there is a difference and there are things you can talk to your own gender about (like giving birth) but overall, we all get together and just hang out.

So I thought that this was the way most people in our generation would turn out as well. And most of the time, this is what I do see.

And then I run across people here and there that will usually always want to be with his or her own gender. I’m not saying a girls’ or boys’ night out is a bad thing. It is definitely needed once in a while. But I was in a relationship for a very long time where I was excluded constantly because my significant other always (and I mean, always) needed a boys’ night out. I didn’t understand it. I thought I was with someone who considered me his best friend and yet, I was treated like I wasn’t a friend, but a hindrance to his social life.

Needless to say, that relationship did not last. I was glad to finally be out of it and to find someone who likes having me around. My whole social world shifted when I realized that there aren’t too many people who still have to be separated from their female counterpart in order to have fun. In fact, most of the people I know have more fun with their significant others present.

But it is interesting when you do run into those types of people again. I see it all from a different perspective now since I am not the one who gets pushed to the side because my significant other needs boys’ night all the time. I’m not the one who gets left at home because the boys are more important. I’m lucky enough to be someone’s first priority and not in a line after every friend he has ever had.

It does make me wonder how that relationship functions now though. When I see these girls and guys segregate, how does it make the girl feel? Does she know she is with someone who will always put her needs second? Or is it by choice and she would rather be with her girlfriends than her significant other as well? Would she rather sit next to her husband/boyfriend or with the girls?

I know that different perspectives exist and I’m honestly curious because it’s not something I’ve ever understood. So if you have an opinion or can explain it to me, please comment below. I’d love to discuss why this whole thing is what it is.

What’s Your First Reaction? Good Or Bad?

Yesterday, I bought something that I thought a few other people I know might enjoy. When I asked them about it, the first response I received was the fact that what I had bought wasn’t the best and it could have been better.

It was discouraging. When I┬ádiscussed the reaction with a friend, he mentioned that it wasn’t the first time he had heard a negative reaction coming from an Indian person.

The reaction brought up the question of why so many Indian people do have an automatic negative reaction when you tell them something.

Obviously, not everyone is like this. I know a few people that are amazingly positive. However, I am aware that even I do this to. When someone tells me about something good, my first thought is┬áliterally a “But…” statement. Why do I even respond this way? If someone tells me something good, shouldn’t my first reaction be a positive one?

Is it an Indian thing? Are we built to always be bringing others down a notch? Why? Is it insecurity? Do we feel insecure that something good happened to someone else? Do we feel as thought we aren’t up to some standard that we have set for ourselves? Are we comparing ourselves against the person who told us the good news? Is everything a competition?

It really sucks when someone has a negative reaction to you when you achieve something good or thought of something nice to do for someone else. It makes us feel as though it’s not worth doing or not worth sharing. As a community, shouldn’t we be supporting each other? Won’t we achieve more together than separate?

It takes a lot of self-awareness to recognize that you do this. But I think if you do see this pattern in your thoughts and reactions, there is a chance that we can correct this aspect of ourselves.

I am going to try to be more positive towards others. Why not? I have nothing to lose other than my negativity.

When We Change, Do Our Friendships Change?

Facebook keeps us connected with a lot of people we have met in our lives. I still have friends on Facebook from high school and college. And, honestly, it’s interesting to see where we end up.

Somehow, over the last few years, I’ve become completely separated from most of my friends from college. I had already separated from the friends I made at the first college I attended but now I’m not really in touch with the friends I had made at my second college as well.

When I look over the last 10 years and see the amount of friendships that have just faded, I wonder if it’s me. Is it that I’ve changed or that I haven’t kept in touch? Or is it that these friendships were never really solid in the first place and were more a matter of circumstance? Have I stayed in touch more with those people who I share a mutual interest with or was there something different that kept us connected?

We want to keep those around us that helps us be better people. And when we don’t feel good about ourselves around some, we choose to give ourselves some space. But when we look at the past, it is sad to realize that there are so many people we have walked away from or that have walked away from us.

Could we have done something differently? Could I have done something differently? Would I have wanted to do something differently? Would it have to take a sacrifice of self in order to maintain these friendships? Or just working through difficult times with certain people?

How much of ourselves do we have to give in order to stay friends with people who we have outgrown or who have outgrown us? Is it worth it? When I see so many people I know still socializing and celebrating each other’s life events (thanks completely to Facebook), I definitely do wonder if I missed out.

I know I need to focus on the people who are currently in my life and continue to work on those relationships. I don’t want to take them for granted and there is a reason that they are in my life now. I don’t want to dwell on what could have, should have, would have been.

But every now and then, I do wonder.