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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Both Sides of the Story

I was born in the United States.

I am an American.

My parents and siblings were born in India.

I am Indian.

It seems like a dichotomy sometimes, one that is raw and one that I don't always know quite know how to wear.

Sometimes it feels like both identities are extremely complementary to each other.

At other times, both parts of my identity feel like they are at complete odds with each other, ready to knock the presence of the other out.

I have struggled throughout my life on where my identity lies.

Because you see? I AM an American. I was born and bred in New Jersey. I grew up on Mac and Cheese and Tuna Fish sandwiches. I can tell you things about MTV you don't even know you remember - you know - when they actually played music. I went to the University of Virginia and I breathed in the essence of its founder, one of the original Renaissance Men of this country, Thomas Jefferson, and felt my heart swell with pride.

I like cheeseburgers. I support the great state of Texas by eating lots of steak.

The rarer, the better.

But I also AM Indian. I grew up in a house where I danced to Indian songs and could recite the most popular Bollywood hits while flipping back on my remote to Twisted Sister on MTV, all without missing a beat. While I grew up on Pizza and Mac & Cheese and Tuna Fish Sandwiches, what I didn't tell you was that we usually added a lot of chilli pepper to all of it and then made sure to chase it all with some spicy "daal."

When my parents came down to visit me at Thomas Jefferson's UVA, they would bring me lots of homemade chicken curry, my mother's homemade dumplings in Karhi sauce and samosas.

(I'm sure my sorority sisters at Chi Omega appreciated that).

But whose life isn't a dichotomy?

Maybe my situation seems extreme. Maybe it doesn't. Because you have your own "sides" of you that probably are at war with each other on some days, in love on others. Perhaps you have struggled with issues of racial, religious, and sexual identity throughout your life.

The thing is that, at some point, I realized that it was not about choosing.

There is no choice.

One does not override the other.

I am Indian.
I am American.
(hint: glasses, in the back row)

I am a sister.

But I am a girl who has not been "sisterly" at times in my life.

I am a daughter. I love my parents a lot.

But . . . sometimes I cringe at how I have expressed it.

I am a mother.

But, I don't know if I'm a very good one some days. Sometimes I feel like I am on autopilot and my kids are steering me, more than the other way around.

I try to be a good wife.

Key word being "try."

I am an angel.

Well . . just don't cross me. Because, then I'm not.

But I won't ever, EVER be boring.

I don't think you will either.



Candace said...

beautiful post. so true. we all have things in us that seem to wrestle with each other. but they're ALL a part of us that we need to learn to embrace. (i'm working on some of those things myself.) beautiful photos!

Crazed Mama said...

So true! I think this struggles with our identity feel more pronounced when we have our own children and feel the pull our parents must have felt trying to balance what America has to offer but also keeping us in touch with whatever our "cultural" identity is.

Crazed Mama

Candice said...

I loved this post. Some of the points that you made definitely ring true with me. Well, other than the fact that I'm not Indian and all.

But I'm sure you could tell that from my picture.

I could probably kick your butt in a chicken curry eating contest though! ;)

Loved all of the pics. You're beautiful!

Anonymous said...

this is awesome. Kiran, you always make me tar up!! LoL.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Yours is a rich and interesting life. Those are the best kind.

Sadia said...


I used to really embrace all my identities. I enjoyed making people question their assumptions by introducing myself as British (which I am, despite my brown skin and American accent). Recently, though, I've been content to just play American, which I'm not. My husband's Hispanic, my last name's Hispanic, and I just let people assume. I don't feel like I have the energy to claim my identity any more. Maybe that's a matter of having young children and not wanting to impose my self of identity on them. May it's a matter of having young children and being too tired to fight for my self-identity.

Part of it is that I never felt Bangladeshi. I felt like an outsider the entire decade I lived in Bangladesh. I have so little in common with people from home that it feels illegitimate to claim to be one of them. The irony is that I'd probably be content to be Bangladeshi-British if I'd never left the UK, but now I really see myself as a Brit who once lived in B'desh.

The Only Girl said...

I think you forgot "I am beautiful". Because you are. Inside AND out.

Sara said...

I don't know what else to say other than how much I liked reading this.

I feel like you have a really good self-concept, and I like how you view yourself and your family.

MiMi said...

I'm with Sara...
And you have a very interesting life. Way more than me.
So, if you don't mind me being NOSY, why did your family come to the US?

Allyson said...

You know what, girl?? I am actually a little jealous of your dichotomy-at-war. Not because I want to live all conflicted like, but because you have multiple perspective on the same situation and I think that makes you a much more complex person. And you have more than one culture to draw from...which makes you infinitely more interesting. You can weed out the hillbillies because they only want to focus on how you're different (and that will make that conflict inside you even worse)...but the intelligent and insightful people you surround yourself with will look at you as someone who is an older soul because if your background. And they will appreciate it. I wish I had that to draw from. But then, we all want what we can't have, don't we? ;)

~*Jess*~ said...

This was a great post. I think all of us that are blessed with a cultural heritage that allows us to have the best of both worlds (I'm Hispanic and grew up on the border with Mexico) often take that for granted. It's important to step back and see that it's ok to be both and sometimes we're put in situations where it feels like it's not.

Anyway, you're awesome! And GO CHI O!! (XO-Rho Delta)

Anna See said...

loved this kiran! i like to consider the different sides of you...and me! said...

I think that ALL facets of your beautiful personality come shining through.
How lucky for you to have two distinct cultures to call your own, and pass this on to your babies.
P.S. I'm on autopilot a LOT of days--I think that's a universal mother thing. We live for the days when we get it "right", and those are the days we'll remember most when we have an empty nest. So don't sweat those other days--there are SO many more to consider. :)

Losing in the City said...

i admire your honesty and can completely relate to this post. I am American born and raised. I have lived in New York City all my life. My parents are Haitian. Growing up in NYC my household was filled with haitian music and food. I speak the language (creole and some french) very well and as i got older i learned to appreciate both sides of my world as they made me who I am today.. i absolutely loved your post cuz i know the feeling..

Ams said...

I love this post.. mostly because you're just you. You don't pretend to be what everyone wants you to be:)

You're gorgeous lady!

Lemon Gloria said...

You are so right. It's not about choosing; there is no choice. You're both, you're all of it, and you're perfect, just as you are!

MommyLovesStilettos said...

Beautiful post! And so true!

foxy said...

Wow! So well written. Isn't it the truth that we all likely have some sort of dichotomy? Makes you think...

meredith said...

i loved this post. (i'm irritated i can't see the photos for some reason, so i'll have to check back when i get home.) you're so right on - none of us are ever just ONE thing - we are many things and still fully all of those things. you are not part indian, part american, part mother, part daughter, part wife - you are fully indian, fully american, fully mother, fully daughter, and fully wife. you are able to articulate what so many are not.

webb said...

As America becomes less "white bread" every day, I hope we will cherish all the special things that our brothers and sisters bring to the mix. We're so much more interesting as a people than we used to be. It's a wonderful thing that we Americans are so multi. Lovely post. oh, and you are I are sisters, too. Watch out!

alessandra said...

Yes, it's all in the way you see it, you can see it as a fight of one part over the other, or as a richness.
I personally, prefer abundance of choice instead of monotony ;)

French Family said...

Great posting. Nearest I can related is now matter what I am doing, I feel guilty about whatever I am not doing. Staying late at work? Should be spending time with the family. Leaving early to see kids soccer game? I am not supporting my team at work. For some reason, it always seems everyone else can balance it all. Thanks for sharing.


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