I come from a background of ancestors that ensures culture and religion are additions that aren't a burden but, rather, valuable blessings. I grew up learning two languages, eating food from my native country, and embracing every aspect of my identity as much as I could. But, growing up in this community, I started feeling being Indian gave me shame rather than pride. I began to understand that the culture I grew up in did not fit in with the culture I was born into.
Mixing these two identities became an issue I didn't know how to solve, and I started to ignore my cultural identity entirely. The pressure that I was too "Indian" began to sit on me, and the insecurities of who I truly was culturally began to change my views of the ethnicity I once loved. What was so wrong with expressing the traditions I encompassed, and if I did, why was I so heavily judged for doing it? The truth is, we succumb to the words of the individuals who think they can define us rather than being strong enough to understand who we truly are. With that being said, growing up as a hyphenated American, no matter how close we are to forgetting our roots, we realize that our roots are the strongest things we have.
My parents did not come to America to solely become Americans or leave India because they wanted to give up their culture; they came here for a new life, not a new identity. Coming to a new country is hard enough, but getting judged from the country you are coming from is even more trying. As we continue to grow older as hyphenated Americans, we begin to understand the struggles, no matter how minor or major, our ancestors went through because of who they were ethnically. They came to this country to fight for their place in this community and struggled to make a name for themselves, even with the backlash they received because of their culture. Our ancestor's cultural past should not be an embarrassment but rather should be used as a source of power that we use to push forward to help correct a society that base their views on us by the ethnicity we encompass.
These roots are not an extra load we carry on our backs, but a gift that we should continue to explore and understand further. No one should be too prideful to neglect their identity, and no one should be hesitant of stating who they are and where they come from. Yes, I was born in America, but I will always uphold the bravery my ancestors went through and continue to practice the traditions they fought to instill in this country.
So no, I am not "American," but will always be an Indian-American.