A Balancing Act of Indentity

As my Bangalore internship draws to a close I find myself being able to reflect on my identity as an Indian-American, and how this experience has allowed me to see it in a different light. I have always felt that I was doing this odd balancing act between being an Indian and being an American. I was born in the US, I have a US passport, but I was always still in touch with my Indian roots. I visited Bangalore every other summer, was in touch with my family, and ate Indian food at home.

However at the same time, I didn’t watch Indian movies or listen to Indian music, didn’t really own Indian clothes, and didn’t speak any Hindi or Kannada. And whenever we did visit India I always felt out of place and never confident enough to venture out alone. A part of me felt like a fraud identifying as Indian. With this not quite here of there identity, it was always difficult to know whether I thought of myself as more Indian, more American, both? I just wasn’t sure. I knew though that I didn’t like this uncomfortable middle ground, and being called “whitewashed” or being told I wasn’t “Indian enough” by my friends (especially my Indian friends) would get under my skin immensely.

This experience though, has completely reshaped that. I had to take a great deal of independence upon myself, despite having family close by, which was a definite plus. If I wanted to be able to follow through with my goals of being more independent, taking risks, and forming relationships, I couldn’t let myself completely rely on my parents or family members. I was able to venture out alone, take cabs by myself, deal with a lost driver, or a driver who doesn’t speak English. I realize now I’ve learned the ins and outs of the city pretty well, and I’ve accumulated a geographical wealth of knowledge of Bangalore without even really realizing it.

Getting around the city alone, trying to track down my Uber in a sea of Maruti Suzukis that all look exactly the same, being stuck in traffic, meeting new friends at restaurants, all of these experiences have made me feel actually at home in Bangalore, and have consequently allowed me to really settle into the Indian part of who I am. This newfound confidence in living and working in India also brought me closer to my family here, which is something I am extremely grateful for.

With all my past trips to India, I’ve been a spectator to the culture rather than an active participant, and this internship allowed me to finally change that to some extent. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to turn away from American culture, and forget about it, completely embracing Indian culture, but I don’t think I’d want to either, that’s not what this piece is about. I am American, the US is my home. I was born in the United States, I am a citizen of America, and that isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. What has changed though is my need to “choose” one or the other. I am an American, and now I also feel comfortable saying that I am Indian. This country and everything with it is very much also a part of who I am, and always will be, and I really feel that I owe it to this internship experience that I’ve been able to gain that insight. Who knows, maybe one day when I’m working it will be Bangalore that I’m calling home, but for now what I do know is that when I return to my home in the states in 2 weeks, I am definitely going to miss India.

Rhea K

Interning in the summer of 2017 with Mahindra First Choice in Bangalore, India.

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