As I have mentioned previously on my blog, I live in the US (in Philadelphia). I immigrated to the US about 8 years ago from New Delhi, India. While I have imbibed American culture to some degree (more so at work), I remain a true blue Indian at heart. These are a few ways in which I keep my desi spirit alive in the midst of acculturation: Floral Indian Flag at the Philadelphia Flower Show 2010
- I usually dress in western outfits, as dictated by work (don’t want to be gawked at by others), but never lose an opportunity to add an Indian element. I have worn my kurtas tucked in to pencil skirts, anarkalis as dresses with tights and boots, dupattas as scarves…you get the picture. I also wear my Indian jewelry with all my outfits (including my gold wedding jewelry). Usually the effect is boho chic and unique, but sometimes it does backfire! When it does, I go back to wearing “proper” western outfits!
- I cannot follow a recipe from another cuisine without adding Indian elements to it. Part of it is that I never plan and buy ingredients. Usually I pick up a recipe from the internet and modify it…So I have made pasta with cumin (jeera) and garam masala, eggplant bharta with basil (inspired by a Thai recipe), bruschetta with crumbled paneer, pizza with Indian-style cooked vegetables as toppings, etc. Again, the experiments are usually refreshing, but they do go awry once in a while!
- Again, I add Indian touches to my home decor. While the background is all western and very modern with clean lines, the accents like cushions and wall art are mostly Indian…not a surprise since India has such a variety to offer in terms of arts and crafts.
- I keep mentioning my love for books on this blog. Well, I devour every book penned by an author with an Indian name (never mind that they have never been to India, their books are always rooted in India)..So I have read every book by Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Rai Divakaruni, Bharti Kirschner, and so on.
These are some of the ways in which I try to solve the conundrum of blending in versus retaining my Indian fervour. The former is important because in general, an immigrant still wants to be perceived as well-adjusted in his/her adopted community (not to mention the not-so-subtle disapprovals of Indian practices and traditions). The latter, I think, is important for the sanity of the first-generation immigrant, who can never fully assimilate in another culture. Settling in the US has made me realize what a stereotypical Indian I am…Before coming here, I had assumed I was quite “westernized” (read liberal) in my thinking, but actually staying here changed my opinion.
My last paragraph sounds somewhat pessimistic, but overall I must say that it has been a rewarding experience to settle in this country. I’ll never lose my sense of identity as an Indian, though.
This reminds me of a feature from the magazine “India Today” many years ago about what it mean to be Indian. The one comment that I remember was that while most people across the world consider their natural citizenship a mere accident of birth, for most Indians, their motherland has a deeper meaning, one that transcends subsequent mobility…once an Indian, always an Indian at heart!
Phir milenge! Alvida!
P.S. Check out how I find Indian elements in the US…(click on the photographs to see a slide show)