Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Being an Indian - American, has been tough for me, in the least. I constantly find myself in a dilemma of what alter ego to be every single day. There’s the white-washed part of me, who has a thick accent and a love for fast fashion with crop tops and miniskirts, with a fondness for burgers, pizza, and fast food. However, there’s the side of me that’s been brought up and groomed to understand my rich heritage and culture, as well as where I come from. To say that I’ve been blessed with both my worlds, is a nice way of saying that I also suffer from a chronic identity crisis.

It's like 2 voices in my head, constantly fighting on who to be, on which day. And as I have grown throughout the years, I have been learning the uncomfortable pattern of who to be, were and when. But ultimately, that leaves me with the question of who I really am.

This has been a struggle all my life. I feel like the version of me is for everyone else but me which is unfair. I see my peers and classmates, easily being themselves or associating things that make them, the people they are. And, sometimes it feels like all I have are these thoughts riddled with anxiety on how to fit into the crowd I am around.

I spent half of my life in the USA and the latter part of it in India, and I am proud of both, don’t get me wrong. But it was always what I never considered would happen, happening. And then the same feelings of vast confusion and not belonging and a constant state of being in my head, rather than the moment.

In the USA, we’d have naptime and snack breaks. The first time I did school here, my classmates had used the teacher’s laptop and put the blame on me. There was accountability and open communication in the USA, and here I was told not to pass any opinion at school, in case it got me into trouble. I remember the first time I saw the homeless people on the roads of Bengaluru and man, was I shocked. Putrid smells from the sewage on the crowded roads mixed with the masala of the local vendors cooking whatever they were, with the frustrating traffic was certainly new to me.

But I also saw another Bengaluru, one where you could talk to people on the streets and ask for directions shamelessly, knowing that there was a comfort in getting an answer. The rich bursts of flavor, while I put pani puri in my mouth. The way it was okay, to share your lunchbox at school and talk about the ongoings of our life back then. Summer meant running outside and playing with everyone in the neighborhood, regardless of whether you knew them yet or not. I still see the other Bengaluru, when I walk down the streets of Indiranagar, with all the great eateries and karaoke bars, and the shops and clubs. I love this Bengaluru. And I will never say I don’t.

I was and am still held back by my thoughts and the happenings around me. For example, I’d always associated kurtis and salwars as, “too Indian” for me and had never worn them before but now I wear it everyday to college. I went to an international school where my feet went into freshly white washed socks and shoes, but also went to temples where the rain and dust would stick to my feet, as I did my “pradakshane”, barefoot. We would go to 5-star restaurants but the next day, we would go to a wedding and eat on a banana leaf, with the rasam almost falling onto the itchy beautiful clothes I was wearing. I would talk to people, who were so open minded about women, food, and the happenings of the world, but then meet my own kin and family, where the close mindedness was evident. I would be encouraged to speak my mind in my wonderful music school and give honest feedback to my friend of a teacher, but nudged by my classmates in college to think before speaking. Like a constant oxymoron of a person, I could give you so many more examples because I have so many.

But it was more my upbringing that confused me, because I was always in the middle. The No Man’s land was me and my life and my thoughts, I could go to neither land without carrying the inhibitions and values of another. I always met people who were geographically similar to me, but not the right amount of American: Indian. The ratio was always unreasonably high or low for me to relate to them and soon I accepted that. Good things happen when you least expect it and I’m really glad I hung on and stuck it out.

You might be thinking, while reading this, that this really is no big deal. But it really is to me, because it’s been my life. I have grown up with two homes and, ironically, no home other than my own headspace. As I am more at peace with my constant confusion as who I am as a person, and what makes me who I should be, I also have embraced that not a lot of folks have it like me and I should be grateful for the plethora of experiences I’ve had. My, “fake it till you make it attitude” really helped me in moving forward in life rather than being excessively stuck in my head and soon I found people who the same amount of white washed (a term we use to describe how influenced we are from our home away from India) I was, who are now my best friends.

If anyone out there is reading this, and you relate to this and me, I want you to know that you’re not alone and that the chaotic waves of self-doubt and loneliness soon become the waves that you surf over easily with deeper and greater understanding of yourself. You will soon learn that the sand you desperately grasp between your toes, for some familiarity from the experiences you have, will not be needed for the next. You don’t need to know where you belong as long as you are able to accept yourself. And you must, because people around you certainly will not!

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