Being Indian


Aaryana Sharma, Staff Writer

Being Indian 


A short article on what it’s like to be Indian and have three generations living under one roof. 


When I was younger, it was always a blessing to have someone at home for me. Whenever I came home from school, my grandparents would be there to give me lunch, the standard rice, rasam – a spicy dish similar to a soup – and yogurt of course. We would wile away time playing “Monopoly” or “Chutes and Ladders” until evening. I would sleep with my grandparents and lean over my ajji’s shoulder to watch Hindi shows, or serials, my eyes running from the subtitles to the video. When I was younger, my grandparents were my best friends, I could tell them anything and everything from what I wanted for my birthday to my craziest stories. 


As I grew older my ajji tried to teach me how to sew. As I failed to put the thread through the eye of the needle, she used to tell me that when she was younger, one of the “tests,” a young woman to be married was to put the thread through the eye of the needle. I tried and tried, never quite being able to impress her or exceed her expectations of me. Another time, she told me that balancing books on my head would improve my balance. She would tell me that models balanced books on their head to get their jobs. I guess I wasn’t going to be a model either. When I wasn’t breaking my back over math, my ajji would make me do handwriting practice, asking me to copy paragraphs from books I liked, just to test if my writing was “up to her standard.” 


Then there was school, which was always a disaster. Whether I was dipping idli ( small white ovals of rice flour)- into chutney or getting stares for eating spoonfuls of white curd rice, I always felt out of place. 


I remember in fifth grade, I decided to wear churidars– cotton shirts with bright colors and intricate designs- to school. I would wear bright yellow, orange, green, and purple churidars over my jeans, in an attempt to fuse the two cultures together wherever I went. It never worked. I realized that I wasn’t displaying fusion at all, but internal confusion. I was torn between two cultures I had grown up with and I attempted to combine them, I just didn’t know how. 


The most memorable incident happened in second grade, when I ordered a cheeseburger and asked my friends what meat I was eating. They shook their heads and told me they didn’t know, they were allowed to eat it-why would they care? I ended up devouring the burger, and was ready for seconds. I went home that evening and told my parents I had a cheeseburger for lunch. They were shocked and said I wasn’t allowed to eat beef. Holy cow. Literally. Following that incident, I don’t remember being able to eat lunch from school for years to come. 


In second grade, I remember participating in a culture share dance with a few of my friends. Week after week we practiced in each other’s houses, made sure we coordinated the steps exactly and were in sync with the music. Finally, the day came. We dressed up in lenghas, bright colored silk dresses, and adorned ourselves with jewelry and small hints of makeup. We were ready to perform. As we finished, applauds echoed in the cafeteria. We stole the stage and dressed it with our Indian identity, and it looked beautiful. As I looked at my teachers and friends cheering for me, I felt something I’d never experienced before. For one of the first times I could remember I was able to embrace my Indian and American culture without fusing anything at all. 


The older I got the more I began to enjoy my trips to India, realizing that not a lot of people got to make such huge trips so often. I started to speak Kannada with more and more people and let that be a part of me which I loved instead of something “I was accustomed to.” I fell in love with the sweet taste of mangoes you couldn’t find anywhere else but India, and the excitement of eating street-side dosas – paper thin pancakes cooked in hot oil – at night. When Holi rolled around, I let the colors of spring tie-dye my clothes (and hair), leaving a mark on my white shirt, and heart. 


I learned to embrace being Indian, creating a concrete, fusion identity for myself which allowed me to allow the two halves of me to come together as a whole. As I indulged myself in Indian culture, books, and movies, while creating Indian-American stories of my own. All while learning to love being a part of three generations in one household.