My India

My India

August 20, 2015 | Author: Shruti Kuppa is a Research and Communications Analyst at Nexight Group where she works on critical infrastructure, resilience, and energy projects. She is a recent graduate from Carnegie Mellon University and has experience in behavioral research, community organizing, and risk assessment in decision analysis.

Travels to India:

My family tries to visit India every two to three years. Like most NRI families, we use the month long trips to see cousins and travel to some of the hundreds of thousands of temples in the country. Our Indian culture has increasingly become trendier to Americans, from an interest in the practice of Yoga to the popularity of bangles in western fashion. However, it can be hard for cross-culture children, like myself, to feel like we belong in India too. I was recently talking to one of my fellow Immigrant American friends and we discussed how it can be difficult to recommend places for people to travel as tourists in our home countries, since we tend to stay with family and mainly participate in family only travels. As I grew older, my American friends consider my travels to India as hip. I am proud to be an Indian- American and can now express what I love about India in part because of my frequent visits.

An abiding love for India:

Over the years, I got closer to my Indian extended family largely because I have dropped my biases towards life in India. As a pre-teen, “coolness” was an arbitrary quality that was very important to me. Going to India as a child often felt like a familial burden rather than an adventure. A month long visit meant I had to skip swim team or summer camp. Although rationally that seems to pale in comparison to visiting family in India, my bad attitude affected my overall experience. As I got more mature, this outlook has changed and I have grown to love India not only for my family there, but for the rich culture as well as how different it is to my life in the United States.

Who am I?

My Indian heritage is closely tied to who I am. As a child, being different is not a desirable trait. A lot of my growing up had to do with being confident and happy with who I am- and embracing “Indian-ness” was a large part of that. Thankfully I had opportunities to connect with other children who were going through similar challenges. I have been learning Bharatanatyam since I was 4 years old. For a long time it was a weekly ritual I treated as just part of my routine. Upon reflection, being able to connect with my cultural identity through my teacher and friends at my dance class, helped bridge the gap between my Indian roots and American upbringing. I owe a lot to those informal culture classes for teaching me to love my dual cultural identity.

In India, swapping music and makeup made me feel closer to my relatives and in the US I was considered trendy when I brought back Indian culture to my friends at home. Being able to buy products meant for my specific skin and hair color made me feel special. Learning about Indian culture through the things I was already interested in made the country as a whole more relatable. When I shared these new styles and products with my American friends my love for India was solidified by their interest in my travels.

Woman power:

On a less frivolous note, I have been blown away by the progressiveness among Indians especially in the area of woman empowerment. Women in India are educated, opinionated, and persuasive, breaking misconceptions we harbor in the west. While there is room for improvement in both cultures to achieve true equality, Indian women and their achievement in advocating for their rights is much farther along than the average westerner’s impression.

Proud to be an Indian-American:

On the whole, I attribute a lot of the biases second generation Indians have towards India, to the mindset of our immigrant parents who are still rooted in an India of their youth. For example, my parents, aunts, and uncles who live here, hold the same values concerning India they had when they first arrived. This leads to comments like “I can’t believe there are so many overpasses” when we visit Hyderabad, while my relatives who still live there roll their eyes. Progress is inevitable and natural. At home, my mom will still discourage my brother and me from watching modern Bollywood movies. They are too westernized in her opinion. But, westernization is an integral part of Indian life today and needs to be appreciated as part of the complete Indian experience. I have found that repeated visits are the way I am able to keep my connection to India current and accurate. As our cultures continue to grow and change, spending time in India makes my Indian-American identity that much stronger.