The Indian American: Neither Here, Nor There; Neither Indian and Nor American

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Sudhir Ranjan

By Sudhir Ranjan

LEXINGTON, MA–Trishanku was a king in an era unknown, lost in the myths of time. He firmly believed that fervent worship of fire, a yagna, would grant him a seat in heaven. His imagination knew no bounds. His absolute fantasy lay in the physical ascend into heaven. His preparations were immaculate, and his journey seemed seamless.

However, little did he know the struggles of acceptance in the new land. The destiny that would leave him hanging by a thread of hope, gnaw at his sense of belonging, his identity, and doubt his very existence either on earth or in heaven.

Is his existence not personified in many of us in the United States of America today?

There is a quote by Confucius – “wherever you go, go with all your heart.” The yearning for higher education inspired us to travel across the globe, and finally, we settled in the United States of America. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were the new mantra.

Trishanku is now finally a proud citizen of the United States of America, acculturated. He relentlessly reminds us of the sacrifices we have to make as we accept and enjoy the freedom in our adopted country and preserve our ‘Indianness’.

However, Trishanku cannot help still yearn for the life he left behind. Will this yearning be a life-long struggle amidst the new joys of the wonderland? He ponders whether one can be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Can Trishanku have it all? But alas! he thinks, what did he do to deserve this?

Neither here, Nor there. Neither Indian nor American. He feels stuck somewhere in between. While his heart is here, his soul seems to be tethered to memories from the land faraway. He calls himself an Indian American, but he cannot forget India or completely adapt to his new life, assimilated as such.

He loves Hindi or his native Indian language so much that he cannot hold English for long. And he feels that other people might be enduring arduous confusion with his desi accent!!

Where cuisines and festivities change by acculturation, neither he could learn to cook a turkey, nor he could make gravy, but he continues celebrating Thanksgiving in the name of Lord Rama. Neither he could plant a Christmas tree set in mind, nor could he explain the meaning of Santa to their children. But, on the day of Diwali, he always becomes a Santa and keeps sharing gifts.

Seized in the idealization of oriental supremacy and the respect that goes with Indian ways only, he fails to jiggle with the next generation. Neither he could eat a donut for breakfast nor Spaghetti for dinner, but sometimes enjoys western delicacy by sprinkling chili on the pizza.

Traveling to his motherland, while carrying a bottle of water in hand, neither he could drink Lassi, nor could he eat Bhelpuri. He contemplates the wonderful time of hot summer he had in India, and the juicy mangoes and the coconuts. He never likes snow and the hot cider here though looking at the sun from the window and keeps exaggerating what a ‘Beautiful Day’!

Trishanku is leading a new, successful life, but keeps negotiating with his identities and clashing with him repeatedly responding to the tricolor wrapped in his mind. His heart keeps decorating the ‘daydream’ and vows to do something for his motherland!

Neither his heart, soul, and mind are here nor there, just stuck in the middle. Is this not a reflection of us?

(Sudhir Ranjan, Ph.D., lives in Lexington, MA with his family. He has been also active in the local community and the town of Lexington.)

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