Is the Indian diaspora really confused about their identity? We often used ABCD (American born confused desi) for an Indian who grew up in America—and I challenge that. I really don’t think they are confused. The really confused person is an NRI, someone like me— who grew up in India and then moved to live in America.
The more I got used to life in America, the more my ways and thoughts became American. I planned vacations specifically on long weekends, I said thank you or sorry to everyone in my way, and I was holding doors for people behind me. One of the biggest fears that followed me around was: what if I get stuck between two worlds—not fully American and not fully Indian either. As much American I was at work or otherwise, I still wanted daal for dinner, and I still pronounced schedule as schedule instead of skedule.
When I moved back to India, after 13 years in the U.S., I felt that I couldn’t fit in with the people around me. Everyone seemed to have moved on from when I left india. My sister coolly spent money in a way that I couldn’t fathom. Rs 600 for a couple of icecreams, Rs 8000 for a dinner were amounts I was not used to spending in rupees. I was eating dosa with my hands and others were using forks. I was confused—where do I stand? Am I Indian, or American, or an Indian-American-Return, or what?
The more I thought about my identity, the more I was confused about who I was and who I was becoming. As time passed, and as I met and spoke to more Indians and more NRIs, I realized that I understood both worlds very well by now. I not only knew life in America, but I also sort-of understood the type of lives Indians in Europe or Australia might be living— having travelled to many countries. I understood urban Indians and a bit of rural Indians as well, having travelled deep into India’s villages. It soon dawned on me that I am creating a new identity for myself—that of a global Indian citizen.
It’s been incredibly helpful. I love my country for its abundance and I also love America for its opportunities. I am grateful for all my experiences. I can walk into any room and mingle with any kind of Indian. I can drink bitter black coffee in the morning, American style, and dip a Parle-G biscuit into my evening chai—and be comfortable with both.
Nupur Dave is an ex-Googler, NRI consultant, and author. She was with Google for more than 10 years, and worked at the Prime Minister’s Office, and was awarded the All-India LinkedIn Spotlight award. She’s authored two books, one of which is Back Home—an emotional guide for NRI’s on the fence about moving to India. She is an NRI consultant and helps NRIs live a better life in America—helping them with the difficult decision of staying abroad or moving back. She can be found at www.nupurdave.in