Throughout my upbringing I was in constant conflict with my identity. I didn’t quite understand how I could go about balancing two worlds where one was seemingly more dominant and accepted, and the other being perceived as weird, unnatural, and at times, even a threat to mainstream society. Myself, alongside many other South Asians I am sure, have tried to conform to the American lifestyle in as many ways possible. Changing the pronunciation of our names, and sharing very little of our culture/religion to avoid exclusion are merely a few examples I thought would help me become more appealing in gaining potential friendships and camaraderie. I was wrong. In doing this, I lost sight of who I was. Quite frankly I am ashamed of having made those mistakes.
I could write a list endlessly explaining the ridicule and sheer ignorance my family and I have been met with, and I have no doubt in my mind that my story is any more different than anyone else's. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve realized the importance of self discovery and being proud of who I am, even if there are a small number of individuals who stand in opposition. If we don’t appreciate ourselves and learn from the stories of our families, then what is the purpose? In their adversities they found meaning behind their desire to come here, and I aspire to find the connections, meaning, and community that I have deprived myself of for so long. America is a culmination of millions of people stemming from vast backgrounds. I find it truly beautiful when people unapologetically live their truths by being comfortable in their own skin. I enjoy learning not only aspects of my own culture, but the culture of others. I am no longer in hiding, and I am on a journey to continue learning even as a young adult today. Here is my poem:
She is different because of her scent
of the spices from her family kitchen,
her mother preparing seasoned meals,
with the masalas that breed life into every taste.
She is different because of her brown skin and dark hair,
she oils it to preserve its thickness,
letting its gloss and shine sway smoothly whenever she walks.
She is different because of her clothing,
designed and embroidered with vibrant colors,
intricately woven with the beads
representing the motherland from where she is rooted.
She is different in how she speaks,
fluently in languages less known,
the intonations of her voice changing,
as she expresses her sadness and joys.
She is different in her prayers,
bowing her head on the prayer mat,
sitting on her knees conversing with the almighty.
She is different but like you, is human.
Her differences are merely similarities,
encompassed by people
who are seemingly all different, too.