It has always been a balancing act of sorts. I was born in America, but I was raised in an Indian household. As one may imagine, there are certain facets of both cultures that conflict from time to time.
India, reminiscent of other cultures in Asia, is what is known as a collectivist culture. A collectivist culture, essentially, places the needs of the community or society above the individual. As opposed to celebrating the individual, in this specific culture, one is obligated to place the needs of the community first.
American culture tends to fall in line with individualistic cultures. The primary focus in this culture is the individual. Furthermore, self-reliance is celebrated in this culture as opposed to the tenets of the aforementioned one. Personal identity and carving out one’s own niche are focal points in individualistic cultures.
This clash of cultures is no more evident than in my own story. My parents and relatives had aspirations of me going to medical school one day. For a while, I chased that dream as a means of pleasing those closest to me. However, over time, I realized it was never my dream and that I was chasing it to make others happy.
I decided to enlist in the Army, and ultimately, joined the Infantry. This was a personal decision for me and one I made right before I graduated college. However, it was met with many reservations and some of my family members did not understand the rationale behind it.
My sister and I have always struggled with the inkling to follow our own desires and dreams. Family members and family friends always chime in with what they believe we should be doing. I still have family members come up to me to this day and ask if I’m going to medical school.
Often times, chasing one’s own goals is seen as selfish in Indian culture. However, in American culture, I am doing what is necessary and discovering my own identity. It’s equivalent to having two warring factions in one’s mind.
I have always been the writer in my family. A lot of my family members are extremely proficient in science and in math. Therefore, at family get-togethers everyone would take solace whereas I was, in many ways, the black sheep, so to speak.
I am done with my time in the Army, and I want to pursue Journalism. However, many in my family do not understand that as they implore me to pursue Journalism as a hobby. They are more concerned with my income.
It is merely a difference in perspectives. My parents came to America with little to no money and had to make a life for themselves. They did not have the choices or privileges I have grown accustomed to. As a result, they had to sacrifice their personal happiness for the good of their family.
I am proud to be Indian, and I am proud to be an American. Both cultures are forever a part of my overall identity. I truly believe my sister and I retain certain elements from both. I do not always agree with my parents; however, I have more of an understanding of the differences in perspective.