Archive for February, 2006

February 4, 2006

February 1, 2006

We watched Rang de Basanti yesterday. It was an excellent movie and I think everyone should see it, but when the movie was over and the lights turned on I left with a strange feeling of misplaced patriotism. I was born, raised, and educated in this country yet I still feel such a strong sense of patriotism towards India. Sure we go visit every couple years- we do our shopping, visit some relatives, and then leave. What ties do I have to India outside of the fact that my parents were born there (well really, just my mom). Why do I feel such allegiance towards a country I have never stayed in for more than 2 months? I don’t think you can be born into religion- it’s something you are taught. Is it the same with culture? What if my parents rejected everything Indian when they moved here and brought me up as a true “American” (whatever that may be). We certainly are products of our upbringing. Or maybe, just maybe it’s in our blood, literally and figuratively. Indian culture is so fascinating to the rest of the world. We have a lot to be proud of but growing up as Indian-Americans we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We owe something to the country we have lived in for most, if not all, of our lives and we owe something to the country of our origin. Actually, I don’t think “owe” is the right word to use here. It’s more of a duty than an obligation. But what do we have to give back?

Being an NRI ( Non-Resident Indian) can have so many different meanings and it’s really matter of defining yourself. When you go to India, people can tell I am an NRI before I even open my mouth. I told people this on SAS and they were shocked because to most people, Indian is Indian. Something I always think about is no matter how hard you try to understand someone else’s culture it is impossible to completely immerse yourself in it because there are always certain ingrained concepts that are impossible to learn but are more of a way of life. There are so many nuances and so many stereotypes within cultures that it is daunting to even try and understand. Gujus are known to be cheap, South Indians are known to be dark (but most South Indian people I know aren’t…lol), Punjabi people are crazy- haha just kidding. Like the other Aparna said, each state in India could be it’s own country. They each have their own language, customs, traditions, features, etc. It’s like visiting Iowa and saying that you’ve seen the US. Anyways, back to being an NRI. It’s not even just shopkeepers that have this innate sense of who is an Indian national and who is from abroad, it’s other people too. I think it’s just the way we carry ourselves, our body language, and our general demeanor. For example, I’m so used to looking up while I’m walking and smiling at anyone who walks by. I guess walking with your head up can be seen as arrogant. Being an NRI in the US means that you have to divide yourself between two different cultures. You are expected to know about Shah Rukh Khan and Tom Cruise, Sonu Nigam and Billy Joel, Bollywood movies and Hollywood movies, etc. Ok those were bad examples, but you get my point. It’s all question of what you identify most with. You should see my Winamp playlist-it’s a mix of music from all over the world but what’s my music of choice? Honestly, it’s Indian music. It’s weird because I don’t understand Hindi that well so I can’t even relate with it but just something about the tune, the singers, the context makes it more appealing to me. I keep up more with Indian music and movies more than I do Hollywood and popular music. Well right now I really don’t keep up with anything, but that’s another story altogether. lol

Shawn said something to be last year that really made me re-evaluate my thoughts. He said that he doesn’t see anything wrong with having mostly Indian friends because it’s so important to keep our culture alive. It still hasn’t hit me that when our generation has kids we probably won’t be able to teach them our regional languages. Think about it, what language are you most comfortable speaking in? Would you and your wife/husband really speak Gujerati, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, etc. in the house ALL the time? Now think about how you learned your language. I’m sure none of us actually took lessons, maybe for reading and writing but we learned how to speak by picking it up from our parents which is an absolutely amazing occurrence. On a side note, I don’t believe that this ability and intelligence are mutually exclusive. Acquiring language proficiency at a young age makes your mind more flexible…ok I have nothing to back that up it’s just an opinion. But I really want to send my kids to an immersion school. Wow I keep getting really off-track but whatever. This journal isn’t really supposed to have a track. Oh yeah, having mostly Indian friends…I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing now. Granted, I didn’t really have that many Indian friends in high school so coming to college and seeing so many Indian people was quite a shock. Going on Semester at Sea was also quite a shock to me because after being in college for 2 years I was NOT at all used to being surrounded by a majority white crowd. There really weren’t a lot of minorities on our voyage and I hope that changes as SAS expands but it was definitely one of the things I had to get used to. Maybe it’s because College Park is such a liberal and cosmopolitan campus but it was certainly quite a change for me.

You know what I am slowly realizing….I have this urge to get to know everyone. It’s a bad thing because I can’t devote myself completely to relationships. I went to the Tunnel of Oppression retreat today and the whole day I was thinking, Wow. There are so many amazing people here and there are so many amazing people in the world and each of them has a different story. Everyone has such unique backgrounds, experiences, and philosophies. I really just wanted to talk to everyone and find out what they were about. Not because they were a mystery to me but because I love hearing what people think, where they have been, what they’ve been doing with their life, what they want to do in the future. For some reason it just fascinates me. I think that’s why I loved Semester at Sea so much, just the uniting aspect of it. It brought together people from all walks of life and allowed us to get to know each other quite intimately. It went past sharing our political views, we really learned about ourselves and each other in all aspects. I just remember one of the last days on the ship when I walked by Sony’s little videographer’s cove and Melissa, Angie and some other people were standing there and they were stopping everyoneand saying ” You can’t pass until you’ve told us something interesting about yourself that we don’t t know yet.” At first it was hard because I can be a very private person at times so I didn’t really want to share anything intimate but after I heard other people saying things I was more at ease. Wow, what a surprise, I did it again. I’m back to writing about Semester at Sea…I guess that’s my cue to end this and go study.

Oh yeah, if ANYONE is interested in helping out with the Tunnel of Oppression please please please let me know because we really need more volunteers. Basically, it is a student-led initiative to raise awareness about oppression in today’s society. It is conceptualized, created, and built completely by students, both undergraduate and graduate. The tunnel is not exactly a tunnel but more like interconnected rooms. (The four rooms last year were Women’s Issues, Racism, LGBT, and Tools of Oppression- if you want to read my entry about last year- click here and scroll almost to the bottom of the page). This year we are trying to expand and we have the Grand Ballroom instead of the Colony Ballroom so if we get more volunteers we can cover more issues. At the retreat today we had some really interesting discussions and now I’m inspired to help out more with this innovative effort. At first I just wanted to volunteer on the day of like last year but I think now I want to commit more time to it. This really is that I love doing. Activism. In my idealist mind I really do believe that we can spark change. If we don’t do it, who will? How much longer can we say “We won’t let this happen again.” We’d like to think that the world has learned from it’s mistakes, but we haven’t. We saw genocides in WWII, Rwanda, Armenia, Cambodia, and we lamented. Now the exact same thing is happening in Darfur, Sudan. Do we have to wait for a movie about it to come out in 10 years and then wonder why we didn’t take action?

So if you want to help out this year let me know or send an email to