From birth, I’ve had to wrestle growing up with my American and Indian cultures. My entire family is made up of immigrants, but I was born in the United States. I am a citizen and the U.S. is my home. Growing up, I was extremely ashamed of my Indian culture and would refrain from telling any of my school friends that I was a Hindu, practiced Kuchipudi Dance, celebrated ethnic holidays at my temple often and was fluent in Telugu. I tried to distance myself from my culture and desperately wanted to be like the rest of my friends. Normal.
Now, as a teenager who was learned to love and flaunt the culture my parents were so adamant about teaching me, a new fear has taken over. My parents are the source from which I learn about my Indian-ness and I will soon grow apart from them. I can’t keep going to the temple forever. I only speak Telugu in my house and when I get older I’m not going to have to speak it anymore.
As I grow older in the U.S., my Indian culture is going to leave me.
This might not seem like a big deal, but this is a thought that has kept me up at night. Am I willing to keep my culture alive as fiercely as my parents did for me? I’m a brown girl in America. I’m going to get a job, a family, a new life, all outside of my cultural bubble.
My days of being ashamed of my heritage are over. I want to be an Indian. But it’s hard to keep that spirit alive when it’s so much easier to assimilate into mainstream American culture.
Aside from biannual trips to the motherland, America is my home. It’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve had the opportunity to learn my culture from the people who know it best, but it’s still dying. Third and Fourth immigrant generations are never going to have the same experience I did and even my experience with the culture lacked some authenticity.
One of my biggest fears is that future generations will see their Indian culture as something distant, something they aren’t familiar with and don’t want to be familiar with, that they’ll learn about India in school and not feel any significance. I don’t want my culture to die. And I’m not going to let it, at least not without a fight.