Hello EOD! My name is Anoushka Yadav and I love writing, reading, listening to music, and hanging out with friends! I was born in India and moved to the US when I was young. I didn’t really fit in with people here, but after some time I learned to embrace my culture. Self acceptance is so important and I really want to share that message with as many people as I can. Enjoy my piece!
Okay, so confession. I’m not actually brown. If you put me next to a bunch of Indian people, I don’t look like them. My skin is conventionally fair. So fair, in fact, that one of my childhood nicknames is literally “flour” and cute Indian grandmas try to set me up with their grandsons because pale skin equals good fortune. If that doesn’t cause enough problems for me, I don’t even live in India. I can’t always enjoy the tangy and spicy pani puri from the street vendors or experience the refreshing and slightly rosy taste of Rooh Afza. That does not stop me from talking to my friends in my Indian accent and watching their smiles appear. It doesn’t stop me from inviting my friends to my house for Indian food or inviting them to my religious festivals. It makes me proud to see them enjoy my culture. But, it hasn’t always been this way.
I moved to Utah on a cold winter day in January of 2006. I was clueless about everything here. I sat in my new home, a small, cozy apartment eating my first ever meal in America, a bag of spicy Cheetos. I started school at a place called Challenger. I didn’t understand a word the teacher said, so I didn’t do any work. She scolded me for not paying attention and I went home crying everyday. As school kept going on, my classmates teased for my “funny” accent, or that the curry I eat smelled strongly of turmeric and cardamom, stuff they weren’t used to. I realised that if I wanted friends, I had to fit in. Slowly, I hid my accent, and begged my mom to not give me Indian food for lunch anymore. I started watching Disney Channel shows like “Shake It Up” and listened to Justin Beiber as well. I stopped listening to my favourite Bollywood music I always listened to before going to bed. I made sure I didn’t smell like cumin all the time. I finally made friends, but at the sacrifice of my identity.
I lived as this “more American” person until junior year, when I took World Religions, a class that really challenged my knowledge of my own religion, Hinduism. Hearing the way my religion is described in Life of Pi, “garlands of flowers..the beating of drums...the fragrance of incense...because of bhajans sweetly sung...because of foreheads carrying...the same word-faith.”
I was blown away. I witnessed the impact Hinduism had on others, and I felt my heart swell with pride. I loved my religion, but I was still missing a part of my identity, loving my background.
I had never read Life of Pi until Senior Socratic. I thought it was just a book about a boy and a tiger, but when I started reading, I realised it was something else. I went with Pi on his journey of loving God, but my journey was different. While he was trying to love God, I was trying to love myself. Seeing Pi break away from his traditional Indian lifestyle hurt me. I remember thinking about how someone could break away from what they were born into, and I realised, that’s what I did.
The moral of the story is that you have to love every part of yourself, even the quirks. Being born in India but living in the US has changed a lot of things about me. If I was still in India, I could comfortably dance with my friends to some bhangra songs, eat cold pistachio kulfi, or fangirl over Shah Rukh Khan. If I did any of that here, I would get weird looks. I got rid of some of my Indian traits to be able to fit in here. Going through the self acceptance journey, I realised that I should not be hiding who I am. No more hiding the accent or worrying about smelling like cardamom. No more self loathing, no overthinking. I’m not afraid to talk about India anymore, and I love inviting my friends to eat Indian food with me. This is what self love looks like. After 6 years of the hardest self transformation i’ve ever done, I can sit happily eating spicy Cheetos, no, Kurkure and watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, knowing that i’m proud to be Indian.