Back in the day...
So in an admittedly lame attempt at capturing these random bursts of nostalgia that I have been subjected to these past few weeks, I dug up this essay that I wrote in college years ago. I was the editor of an Indian literary magazine, and we were desperately scrounging for folks to submit their writing. So I wrote this silly little piece. The thing that strikes me immediately, is how utterly insincere it is while simultaneously being an important truth about my personal sense of identity and belonging. The moment I acknowledge that I am an American at least as much as I am Indian.
There was an ongoing war going on at the time between first generation Indians and Indians who had grown up in America. Quite conveniently (and superficially) the two groups were also divided into graduate students and undergrads. Someday I will blog about the perils and drama of the Indian community in a little midwestern college town. Or not. Whichever comes first.
The buried subtext of the essay below is that I think the Indian Americans at our school were pretty much totally bratty, and that these differences that they saw among themselves and the newly-arrived immigrants were mostly thinly veiled expressions of self-loathing. But I don't say that. Instead, this pretentious, slightly cringe-inducing piece is what I wrote (a piece that I have an odd fondness for nonetheless, hence the post).
If you are a desi, chances are you know who F.O.B.'s and A.B.C.D's are. Fresh Off the Boat. American Born Confused Desis. Perhaps the oddest acronyms known since it has so little to do with Indians or Americans. Certainly Indians in
It was only later on a trip to
You look around and you see white swamis with clear blue eyes in the Ped Mall, asking you about the Bhagvad Gita. And the Vortex is selling "Shiva Loves You" T-shirts for $25 and the Peaceful Fool has cut up my mother's sarees into dipping, hugging dresses that my mom would crack my head open for wearing. An uneasy inclusion that feels even more alien. These days when people ask me, I say, "I came here when I was eleven." And I nod when I hear, "Oh, so you are American."-a word that feels like an ill-fitting shirt. (Does it show?) "You have an accent," some note, puzzled. And I am grateful that I haven't entirely dissolved in some proverbial melting pot. I am an American with strong and proud Indian roots. Not an A.B.C.D. with an accent.