Not a day goes by that I don’t hear my father reminisce about the beauty of his motherland and his people—and the heavy sigh that unfailingly follows his nostalgia. It’s when I hear those sighs and when I catch him staring blankly into empty space that I see him for who he has become. The human layers of stories and healthy experiences that make one a whole person are stripped off of adult immigrants when they make the transition. Painfully plucked from the soil that they had called their own, immigrants must strive to make a living in a land that is not their own. In a desperate attempt to hold onto what they had once called home, they become vitriolic vials of concentrated ideology. They close their ears, they purse their lips and rock back and forth while chanting prayers for the welfare of their progeny. Forcefully suppressing dreams and reveries that might have been entertained in their native lands, their daily motto is reduced to “I just want to get by.” And so, the faces they put on at home can differ radically from the faces they present to the outside world.
But some—namely the ones who hope to never part with their heritage—find more birds of the same feather and carry on with their traditions in new lands. These are the ones who make the world a more diverse place and are almost always the ones picked by gods of evolution. These are the harbingers of globalization, the parent rock of global citizens. But sometimes their rigid loyalty to their cultures can appear frighteningly alien to latent xenophobes and every once in a while, humanity-defeating events like the recent shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, take place. Why don’t they try to blend in just a bit more? And what of the kids who held their parents’ hand as they stepped onto fresh land? Who are they to become? How are they to define themselves?
I moved to the States as a dual citizen from India a few months before I turned 17. I had already identified myself as an Indian, born and bred in that unforgettable subcontinent that is home to both the Taj Mahal and the largest slums in the world. But lately I’ve found myself madly and irrevocably in love with the USA and its inhabitants. What shall we call me now?
Just like many other immigrants I meet, I often find myself trying to keep from drowning in the familiar ocean of bipolar disorders while trying not to be attracted to the seductive calls of nihilism. For many, globalization—instead of molding the world into a more tolerant place with equal portions for all—has given rise to new “others.” Each one begins to doubt and question their own background and shuns all that appears frighteningly different.