February 21, 2015
“American Born Confused Desi” and the skewed perceptions that come along with that title have always permeated my life. Recently, I have been thinking about that term, particularly the “confused” part. At this point in my life, there is really nothing confused about me. I know exactly who I am and what I want. I now embrace and enjoy being a cultural hybrid.Hence, I offer a new term: American Born Infused Desi. One who embodies an eclectic amalgamation of aspects of various cultures, recognizing the merits of all and not putting one on a pedestal, including one’s own.
Generally speaking, the biggest difference between Western and Eastern culture could be seen as the central focus. In Western culture, the needs of the individual are at the forefront. In Eastern culture, the needs of society and the family are often paramount. Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t I make sure my cup is full and still sacrifice for the greater good? Or conversely, am I instantly wrong when I don’t engage in blind sacrifice?
Why does society tell us we have to be one or the other? That it’s all or nothing. In so many areas of life, balance is key.Choosing cultural ideology is no different. I have had the privilege of being exposed to more than one culture. I choose the ideals that I feel make me a better human being.
When I feel it is warranted, I spend my time, my energies, and my talents on what I deem worthwhile. The expectation should not be automatic because of some perceived duty. Other times, I choose me and have every right to. The whole matters. I am a part of the whole, so I matter, too.
In how I dress and how I carry myself, I am very Western. Obviously, I was born in a western country. However, I enjoy wearing a kurti, dupatta, and jeans. I can’t get enough of my dresses with Indian accents and embroidery. I still can’t bind a sari to save my life, but I don’t mind getting someone else to do it. I’ll wear Indian jewelry with pretty much anything. My fierce individuality and independence come from my western side. Those two ideals are the cornerstone of my life.
Still, I can be traditionally Eastern in any given situation. I can wear my salwar kameez or sari and be reserved and quiet. At the same time, I never gravitated towards being a submissive, sacrificial archetype. I have seen movies where even kings say they are slaves to their crown or servants to their people. Why can’t you be of service to others and still remember you matter?Being generous to myself and others doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. I can lean towards either end of the spectrum but like to stand in the middle.
In my language, I enjoy mixing English and Punjabi. Effortlessly code switching between two or more languages once embarrassed me because I thought it highlighted my lack of fluency in the eastern languages. Now, I see it as me having facility to recognize which language can convey my thought better. Again, I don’t see the need to choose one or the other.
While I may not be an angel or a paragon of Desi culture, I am still an excellent human being. My bicultural background is not a source of discomfort or confusion. Why should it be? It is a gift. I no longer see myself as an American Born Confused Desi. I now see myself as an American Born Infused Desi.
Until next time… look behind and beyond the veil…
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer