Deciphering ABCD

Today morning, I read really good article about American Desi. I liked it very much because It is true and very worth to share with my friends.

Tulsi Shah gives a first person account of what it means to be an American Born Confused Desi

Deciphering ABCD

Deciphering ABCD

It is 10 am and I am 10 minutes late for my chemistry class at University in California . I barely make the bus. As I walk to find a seat, I see Pooja, my friends boyfriends sisters roommate. We glance at each other for a second, neither of us give a friendly gesture . I pass the seat next to her because I dont want her to know I recognized her.

At the next stop, an east Asian girl gets on the bus. Pooja greets her with a smile, the girl sits next to Pooja. As I eavesdrop on them, I find out that they met at a party last year. As we continue to talk to our acquaintances I think of how we both recognized each other but ignored this recognition. Would I have acted the same way if Pooja were Chinese Why dont we feel comfortable greeting each other?

This hesitance of approaching others of Indian decent is sometimes a result of intimidation in the form of appearances, school work, sports and more. Being a second generation Indian American in itself bears a pressure to outshining others. By and large, Indian parents insist their children be the best and many times even good enough is not acceptable.

In a culture where competition and success is prearranged , it is necessary to scratch your own back. We feel if we share our weaknesses , other south Asians will think lesser of us and even share the personal details with mutual friends.

Intimidation is not the only rationale behind this hesitation. A friend shared her discomfort at chatting with other Indians. My people (Indian Americans), love to gossip. If I were to tell an Indian acquaintances about a date, the next thing you know people are already talking about me getting engaged , she said. This may be an exaggeration but is sadly not completely false. Indian Americans are a very closely knit group and word spreads rapidly.

Interestingly, a couple of my fellow students admitted to spreading rumours. One girl confessed she spread rumours and enjoyed her title as a girl who knew everybody and everything about them . She told me that being on top of the rumour network made her feel important. Many Indians superficially worked to be on her good side, either to stay updated on gossip or because they feared to be the next topic.

This notion of spreading malicious rumours reveals the narrow box Indian Americans are often forced to fit into. There is a constant pressure to hold onto your Indian-ness but like every other normal American college student, you want to explore and try new things.

Second generation Indian American youths struggle to identify themselves ethnically and culturally. The sensation of being the in-betweens is particularly accentuated. At home and within the local community, they are governed by Indian lifestyle developed by their parents, while outside their community they strive to fit with mainstream American youth culture.
Conflicts typically arise from the cultural clash of American Individualism vs Indian communitarianism. For example, many second generation Indian American students that desire to pursue an undergraduate degree in the fine arts will not be supported by their family.

Many Indian Americans struggle with their stand on sexual relationships. Whether you are a citizen, non-resident Indian, or American Born Confused Desi, conversations about sex and intimacy are never brought to the dinner table in an average Indian family.

One acquaintance confided that she hid her romantic relationships from others, and especially Indians. For her, it was a constant struggle between who I was and who I should be.

We Indian Americans are competitive and have our own stereotypes. We throw around labels like ABCD or fresh off the boat . An ABCD thinks of all FOBS as gossipers while a FOB thinks of ABCDs as too distant from their roots . But on a deeper level, all this reveals an identity conflict. This struggle to form a self identity is complex and difficult but instead of helping each other we create hurdles.

In our social networking profiles we write how we are excited to meet new people, but when it comes to real life situation, we are scared to be what we claim or strive to be.

Tulsi Shah

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