Namaste! So, as I mentioned earlier, I believe we are ambassadors of our culture and home country. Yes I’m American, but I’m still Indian, and there is nothing wrong with that. I, as a second generation represent sacrifices that were made by my previous generation, leaving everything they knew to come to a foreign land to start a new life for a better future. Somewhere along the lines we think, to be accepted here, we have to forget what we know and who we are. We have go to from Amruta-Amy. Why? Amruta means Nectar it has a meaning and history behind it, WHY would I change it to anything else because a few people take longer to pronounce it? Or do I not think it’s “ cool” to have a name that’s different than people here? OWN IT! Own your heritage, it IS your pride. It represents so much more than we can imagine. Just our last name, represents a whole linage of people who did some great things in their lifetime, along with a rich culture. I know my previous generation didn’t leave everything they knew, for me to look down upon where they came from.
My belief is, you can be cultured and modern. When in Rome do as romans do, without forgetting your DNA. You can be both Indian and American, just like you need food AND water to live. One thing I realized is, you are appreciated for knowing about your Indian culture; especially in a time where many people want to shortcut everything and are dissolving culture. What I find today, is a lot people look down upon Indian culture as inferior to other cultures, and unfortunately, it’s usually Indians who I have seen do this. I strongly believe that we as Indians first need to value our culture, and as I meet more people in the “west”, I find that they are telling me why they value Indian culture. If everyone else can value our culture why can’t we? Nowhere am I saying let’s start walking around smelling like Garam Masala and wearing saree’s to cocktail hour. However I do believe that we can do little things, like making an effort to teach kids (or we ourselves learn) our mother-tounge, or make an effort to celebrate holidays, and make it a standard and norm to appreciate our culture; only then can anyone else appreciate it.
“Your relationship with yourself set’s the tone for every other relationship you have”-Robert Holden
Fun fact, I didn’t speak English until I was 3! I only spoke my mother tongue( Tanjavur Marathi), and then later on I learned Hindi from movies and then Tamil(Which I’m still working on). Why am I saying this? Because I believe you should teach your kids your native language, it’s amazing for their self esteem when they know a second language and are able to communicate fluently. Especially when you are in elementary school and other kids ask if you can speak your language, and you proudly say YES; it feels pretty awesome. Your kids will learn English in school, I literally learned in pre-school, but interacting with them in your native language reinforces your respect for your language and culture ( in my opinion.)
I get it though, sometimes as kid or young adult, your friends aren’t all celebrating these amazing festivals like Diwali, Navratri, Holi and so many more. You feel like you are the only one. As adults, instead of ignoring it and saying I don’t have time to celebrate it, MAKE TIME! I believe it’s our job as adults to make sure that kids feel it’s OK to be different, and instead of feeling odd, they can feel proud because we are being the example. Change the feeling to change the experience.
One thing I started doing, was taking Indian sweets to work on all these festivals and it became a cultural experience day. What I found is the more I made an effort to learn about these festivals and embrace that aspect of my culture, I gained respect for being someone who owned my heritage and culture; and everyone loved learning about it firsthand! Now your question might be but do you ignore western holidays? DEFINITELY NOT! I celebrate Christmas wholeheartedly, I love July 4th, Thanksgiving, along with memorial day & labor day. I love western foods, and everything else that I have grown up around; it’s an equal part of me. We can have the best of both worlds and I truly believe you can love and respect both equally.
I find it very rewarding to be able to educate others ( to the extent of “gyaan” I have picked up, I’m not expert by any means) on different aspects of our culture. Actually back in college, I got asked so many times why Indians wear a red dot, that I gave a presentation in my communications class on the topic of Bindi’s! Some usual questions that I’m sure every Indian gets asked, that I usually talk about are things like : how there are different cultures in India and how each state is like a different country, or how the food is different in different parts and the restaurants here don’t always do Indian food justice, how “curry” isn’t actually what we eat everyday, how Bollywood movies are three hours long, or explaining why we have so many idols in Hinduism. It’s something I really enjoy doing as it helps people realize that India isn’t just about snake charmers and elephants( I have actually never seen this in India so not sure where this came from) but there is A LOT more substance.
I think that now more than ever, it’s important for us as second generation to consciously embrace our heritage for it to carry on. We have already acquired the title of “American Born Confused Desi” and I think this is now applicable to Indian born as well, but personally whenever anyone says that to me, I always make it point to say I’m not confused anymore. Because I believe when we reflect and understand who we are, we aren’t confused about our heritage if we are Indian or American. We are a fusion of both, proudly living in one of the greatest countries representing a one of the greatest heritages!
“The Indian Girl”
Connect with me on Instagram: Meri Sanskriti,would love to hear from you and your experience!