Being Indian, and being American

Author: wpengine

Categories: Event

By Ayushi Chotai

 

“Where are you from?”

“No, where are you really from?”

I have been asked this question several times, not only here in the US, but also in India. My first answer is, quite logically, where I am living. Unsatisfied with my answer, they ask the latter. In the US, my answer is that I am Indian, if you’re asking about my ethnicity. In India, my answer is my nationality, I am American. This is a dilemma that a lot of the young South Asian Americans face. Not feeling American enough in America and not feeling Indian enough in India.

At age 9, I moved to Houston; all my expectations came from Disney channel movies. I thought the kids would bully me, judge me for being too Indian. But I got lucky and wasn’t judged for anything. The quiet and shy me started to socialize and talk to others.  I acquired an American accent and moved towards assimilating into the culture.

At age 12, my family moved back to Mumbai. I had practically lived there my whole life, so there was no need to be worried. I thought that my old classmates would welcome me back, and life would be wonderful. However, I was surprised when they treated me like a total stranger. What was even more shocking was that they judged me for not talking like them. Some of them did not understand what I said, some tried to talk like me, and some mocked me. I did not meet their expectations of being an American in India. But I was trying to figure out my own identity while fulfilling others’ expectations.

These two environments made me feel like I was not American enough for one and not Indian enough for the other. I was asked the questions in both places but in different tones, which was extremely confusing to me. Looking back now, I understand that one was general curiosity, and the other was a form of stereotyping. After graduating high school, I am back in the US for college and happy to not move around.

At times, I still face the same problem. I am too Indian for the Indian Americans and too American for the international Indian students. But I have realized that I have a unique identity, which I need to embrace.  I am Indian enough to understand the Indian students and have the experiences of a young Indian American growing up in the US. Even now, I struggle to fit in, but slowly, I am finding my group of friends who don’t exclude anybody for being different; instead, we celebrate it.

2 Responses to "Being Indian, and being American"

  1. Paul Huckfeldt Posted on July 25, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    It is, unfortunately, a never ending story but you are the best part of the story because you are not running into a corner for any partial embrace of a part of you. You are a whole person living in a whole world that we all share so keep being real and finding friends who are cool with that. You are the future.

  2. Gita Muni Posted on July 25, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Last time I visited India, my friend said,
    You talk like Bostonian, I was thrilled.
    After living in this country for fifty years now I have Boston accents.
    I visited my grand kids and they said “ Grandma speak slowly, you have Indian accents, we have hard time to understand, what are saying?
    Who am I?

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