By Arvind Srinivasan
Superman has Kryptonite, Batman has the Joker, Rama had Ravana, and President Bush has “nucular,” but none of these heroes, if we use a broad sense of the term, have antagonists that hold a candle to what I have had to deal with my entire life. The knife to my heart is not simply a fear of heights, snakes, tests, or a breakup with my invisible girlfriend, but much more profound. My complexity complex is…the idli.
Seen as an intrinsic part of South Indian expression of thought, the question has been posed: Does the idli make the South Indian, or does the South Indian make the idli? If only the answer were as simple.
We, as a South Asian society have merged with a different American society, and though we pride ourselves upon reinventing the concept of Indian itself, from old into new, we fall back onto the tired customs that we say “makes” us Indian. From healthy habits like a strong emphasis on studies to horribly backward practices of solely Indian-Indian marriages and an overly exclusive sub culture, there must be moderation.
America is America because of the “melting pot” of immigrants that wanted to cook their own idea of who they were as a group. America is Irish, America is British, America is Texan, and America can be Asian too. After all, isn’t Asian just Caucasian without the first four letters? We must seek to contribute to what America is, and furthermore, what we want Indian to be.
Stereotypical or Atypical
At Bellarmine College Prep, my high school, 75% of the population is Catholic while 80% is white and 5% is Indian. However, each individual fits into one, if not many stereotypes. There is “white,” “Indian,” “black,” and,”Mexican,” but also “nerd,” “jock,” and even “ditz." I have learned that whether I diverge from the stereotypes that bind me or not, I am still who I am, as you can run from stereotypes, but you can't hide.
The Indian American stereotype that I have experienced first hand, especially in Silicon Valley, is that of a very strong math/science background, with first generation engineer parents, anti-athleticism, and a tendency to have no "life." For some, this could be no further from the truth.
When I surveyed many of the Indians in my school as to what their career choice would be, I got several answers that portrayed the divergence from this stereotype quite well.
The astounding majority of those questioned that knew the answer said law, a liberal arts career that has not been as widespread for Indians, and only two said they would go in to an engineering career. However, as my school is reputed to be a heavy liberal arts school, the answers are skewed, but still represent one thing: we, as the younger generation, are still Indian.
So where do I fit into the picture? I was born in Scotland, raised in America, and am ethnically Indian. I have learned that no matter what I do in life, I can still associate myself with each culture. No, I do not look upon haggis as a delicacy, think well of the good ol' American rodeo, and hope not to have an inability to park, but the key is that I don't want to choose to be Indian over American, American over Scottish, or Scottish over Indian. I associate myself with many different people, and enjoy traveling to experience many different cultures.
So, Who Cares
The question you must all ask yourselves is, why should I care? There are certain norms and associations that people make with other people, and when people see similarities and connections to other people, it is easier to relate to others. However, the answer has not ever been to stop relating to other Indians. To Marvin the Martian, we are all earthlings anyway, so shouldn’t we be able to relate to everyone and reduce misunderstanding?
The differences we see in other people have led to Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, Islamist hatred towards the US, giving Shilpa Shetty yet more attention, and…Jesus creating Christianity. The situation only worsens when we complain and protest, inherently segregating when we say that one group is persecuting another, and thus increasing the divide. We must accept that everyone is unique, and therefore if we must segregate, it can only be towards ourselves.
I do not expect to wake up tomorrow and only see the gray, and do not expect any of you to either. However, it is the small steps that count towards the greater goal, and would it be too much to ask to have pasta for dinner tonight?
Arvind Srinivasan is a self-professed nerd, a sophomore at Bellarmine College Prep. in San Jose, and likes to refer to himself in the third person.