Where am I from? Trying to establish a national identity

1. Where were you born?
2. What nationality do you consider yourself?

These were the questions we had to answer in Spanish class the other day. The first was very simple, to my relief. There was a clear answer, factually verifiable on my birth certificate. The next one threw me off a little. I was over thinking it, much like the many other things in my life.

Okay so I was born in India, I thought. But I moved here when I was three. And then I moved back there. But then I moved back here. I speak Hindi but I also watch baseball games. I enjoy Indian food, but I pay more attention to the 4th of July than the 15th of August. Does that make me American? Does that make me Indian? Long story short, I was trapped in the frantic void between two cultures…again.

It’s been a struggle since I was born; it is for any foreign-born child in America. Not that it’s been a tough life — I am blessed to have grown up amongst two amazing cultures, but the basic question of who I am is a downside that constantly gnaws at me.

If my nationality is aligned with my birthplace, then it would be easy to say I’m Indian.

But if we look at the mathematical calculation, America would be the answer in my search for national identity because I’ve lived relatively longer here.

But I also feel like simply living here longer isn’t enough to justify my identity. What about my parents and all the Indian values they have instilled in me over the years? I can’t just disregard those by saying I’m only American. Also, if I move to China tomorrow, that won’t make me Chinese. So I don’t think it really matters where I live…

There are some kids that I notice flat out say they’re not American; they credit their nationality to their original birthplace. They speak in their native language 24/7 and refuse to stand up for the the Pledge of Allegiance in school. On the other hand, there are also kids who say they are American simply because they were born here. “Oh no, I’m completely American, my parents are Indian/Mexican/Chinese.”

In my opinion, the first scenario is frankly a refusal to adaption and the second is an embarrassment of their original culture. I choose to be in neither of these extremes, so I just seem to be floating in an unknown abyss.

Why can’t I be both, Indian-American, you ask? I guess I can, but that emphasizes the fact that I’m unsure, which only frustrates me further.

But looking back, the question asked what nationality do you consider yourself? I don’t have to worry about the feelings of my parents, relatives, friends, neighbors or what other people say…I can be anything I want.

Where do you consider yourself from?

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2 thoughts on “Where am I from? Trying to establish a national identity

  1. Hey Rashi,

    Interesting article, I can definitely relate. Being born and brought up in Australia but still considering myself Indian can be a struggle. I find people here have the same kind of thinking, either they say they’re Indian/Chinese/African whatever it is proudly, or alternatively, they are outraged when someone asks them their ‘true’ nationality instead of accepting ‘Australian’ as an answer.

    I think in this day and age it’s a blessing to be able to tie yourself to multiple nationalities and identities. Especially with the advent of multiculturalism and the new wide-spread generation of ‘halfie-babies’ or those with mixed origins.

    Personally, I love being able to identity with both cultures, and alternatively also choose when and where I get to be a part of both. For example, I’d always support India in a cricket match over Aus, but there’s also no stopping me from screaming out “Aussie aussie aussie, Oi oi oi” when Aus achieves something great.

    I love being able to explain Indian weddings, traditions or festivals to my Caucasian friends who just revel in wonder at the richness of a culture they wish they could be a part of, or alternatively explaining to my cousins in India the way I live and societal norms here, which is just as interesting to them.

    Every culture has their strengths and weaknesses, and we’re so lucky to not only be able to experience and understand both, but to call each our own :)

    1. Hi Shikha,

      Thanks for your input. Very-well said. :)

      I definitely agree. It can be tough at times to deal with the uncertainty as I talked about earlier, but at the end of the day it’s worth it! You’re right, we are very lucky. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without both the cultures I’ve grown up in — it gives me so much insight and understanding of the world. Without our multicultural family, I think we would trapped in a “bubble.” It is very cool to be able to experience the best of both worlds, can’t imagine living in just one of them!

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