Monday, May 25, 2009

Us- the 'psuedo-whites'

“How are you coping?” June asked, breaking my mini reverie. “It is a hard location, but my Indian friends seem to have more trouble settling in here than us.”

Us? As in “us” whites as opposed to the “us” browns?  What about “us” the pseudo-whites with our non-desi pretensions, I’m-from-aboard airs, our posh foreign degrees and work experience, despite that overdose of melanin which pigments our skin? Where did we fit in?

It seemed easier in the US to manage this. To fit in! To be American on weekdays and Indian on weekends; to be American in attitude and Indian in sensibility; to be American with friends and yet be very desi when parents visited; to go for a Muddy Waters concert on Friday and then for a Sundar Kand Puja on Saturday; to wear a short, short skirt one day and a long golden lehanga the next day; to swear by sushi for lunch and yet know how to make chapattis at home; to drool over Hugh Jackman and Brad Pitt, and go equally gaga over Shahrukh’s and Abhishek’s melting baby-browns; to take pride in American degrees and American accents, and yet feel connected enough to India by that weekly half hour global phone call.

But here, it melded into a seamless divide, neither here nor there, just a confused blur of identities - those that we grew up with and those that we have evolved into.  Evolved very differently too, from those who stayed back in India, and from those who had no Indian connections. It was maddening- this lack of separation, being all things at once and at every moment, till I didn’t know who to be!

If I was an NRI in the US, holding onto a tiny fraction of India, tinier than the generations of immigrants before me, then in Mumbai I became someone else. I evolved into an NRA, a Non-Resident American, or possibly a DCBA, Desi Clueless Back from America, desperately clutching the ark of newly-adopted Americanism, lest it became lost. If my second-generation Indian American friends mulled over identity issues in America, then here I was too, facing identity issues in the country of my birth, wondering where I truly belonged?

But then again, there were so many of “us” on this divide, it was actually quite rocking. So why worry?

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