Asking an Indian American what it’s like to be an Indian American, is like asking a fish what its like to be wet. I don’t know. How do you define yourself?
Is it the clothes with the matching bindis and bracelets?
The speaking of tongues … many, many tongues?
Maybe making that dish without ever calling your mother once for help – where you toss the mustard seeds in the pan and listen to them pop before you add any of the curry, tumeric, and garlic and then stir to make a paste?
Or knowing all the words to Kabhi Kabhie?
(Oh, check out Nelly Furtado’s version.)
I was reading the first post by imagine079. It was a beautiful post about her life as an Indoricuan (I love this word!) and that she “was at once Indian and Puerto Rican, Indian by ancestry and Puerto Rican by birth.” As for me, I am Indian by ancestry and American by birth.
I felt disconnected with my Indian side.
I did not know how to cook a chicken curry or even boil water to make rice. I have to watch a YouTube video in order to put on a sari. I am not versed in my parent’s language. I could not have a conversation with my grandmother before she passed away. And that troubles me the most.
Does that make me a bad Indian American!?! Because I am more American than Indian?
So I compensated.
I started book groups that read contemporary Indian writers like Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, or Bharati Mukherjee.
I collected Indian books, calendars, greeting cards, and spices. I even went to an Indian cooking class. But all that wasn’t enough.
So I thought riding in an auto rickshaw that consistently broke down from Chennai to Mumbai was the way to go.
I thought what a way to get back to my roots and, at the same time, give back to the local communities by raising funds for schools enroute. Every breakdown was a new challenge in communication and patience.
It’s funny. The journey made me realize that I am more an outsider to Indians. I definitely did not speak Tamil or Marathi, or Kannada. I definitely was not from around these parts.
So where am I now? Emotional Breakdown?
Perhaps writing in this blog may help me confront issues of my feeling like an outsider growing up in the ’80s in a predominantly white town, to my thoughts now as an adult, still feeling like an outsider, but to my own cultural group!
Ah, a new challenge in communication using the blogosphere. I think I require more patience.
So I want to hear from you: How do you define yourself as an Indian American? Is that too big of a question?
Oh. and if you know how to say, “I think my transmission fell off on the other side of the mountain,” in Tamil, Kannada, and Marathi … please let me know.