Places This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I come from two worlds.

One is a land far, far away where barefoot girls with gold studs through their noses carry children barely older than they are on slender hips, coconut oil combed carefully through their plaited hair. Where dirt roads, cheap sandals, and immense crowds reign supreme. I come from a land of rice paddies and lotus flowers, of corrugated tin roofs and occasional air raids. A land of teeth stained red from betel leaves, of gold bangles and bright silk, of vendors and henna tattoos. A land where unaccustomed eyes water from pungent chili peppers, where feet struggle to pass through packed cars and rickshaws.

This is a land where hungry eyes wander the streets, rags tied to thin bodies, begging for a spare anna. This is a land I've seen, felt, dreamt about, and longed for. I've walked the dirt roads of a quiet village; I've seen the taut backs of young men carrying sugar cane. I've sailed along the Padma River in a canoe, and sampled puri from a vendor, his stall lit by a kerosene lamp. This is Dhaka, Bangladesh, the land of my birth.

My other world is equally exotic, equally real. It is a land of SUVs and spray tans, of ranch houses and homogeneity. Here, waves lap endlessly against boats in the bay, and the sun rises on dewy, manicured lawns. Here I travel highways that stretch into the distance. This land is dominated by swimming pools and strip malls; it is run by PTA mothers who operate minivan carpools like KGB missions. Here, Juicy Couture bags and blond highlights are ubiquitous among females. Here a driver's license is more than a rite of passage; it is the entrance into civilized society. The scent of the air is strong, mixed aromas of Victoria's Secret Love Spell and new money. This is Long Island, New York, where I live.

I sit astride a line that divides these two lands. They are separated by 8,000 miles, but I can close this gap with a blink of my eye; I can erase the space with the nudge of my finger. If home is where the heart is, my heart is everywhere. Pieces of me are in the bungalows of Rampura and the quiet, culturally barren streets of suburbia. I try to complete the puzzle, but there is always something missing.

I cannot say that I feel equally comfortable in both homes, but, perhaps paradoxically, I am equally uncomfortable. To my suburban friends, I am an anomaly every time I chatter in a strange tongue to my parents; to my relatives in Dhaka, I am forever whitewashed. I don't know where the Bengali Tausif starts and where the American Tausif ends – all I can say is that I am an alien, foreign to all, but grateful of the fact. I am a first-generation American; I am not suffering an identity crisis. It is difficult to merge the two cultures that compose my life, but I am lucky I am not torn between the two – that would be such a cliché.

If I dig through the file cabinets of my memory, I can distinctly see a young, frail woman dressed in her new green salwar kameez, her hair done in a bun for the first time at a fancy Dhaka salon. She is holding the hand of a small boy dressed in his nicest suit, and her other hand is tightly grasping a British Airways boarding pass. This woman, my mother, manifested her hopes and dreams of a brighter future in this little boy, and boarded a plane to meet her husband in order to realize these dreams.

Thirteen years later, my mother tells me that I am not an American, that I will never be American. Although I don't tell her this, I think she is wrong. I will always be American and I will always be Bangladeshi, but I don't believe in the hyphenated love child of two cultures. They are separate worlds, but I have found a way to coexist in them. I am not confused about who I am or how my race will play in the rest of my life. I am not afraid of losing my identity in either world. I am simply trying to say, this is who I am; this is where I come from.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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ramfthomas4 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 29, 2014 at 9:47 am
I really like this article.  It is descriptive and colorful.  I just want to mention that if you plan to submit this to writing contests or anything like that, there is a typo in the second sentence. You may have already noticed it. It should be "barefoot girls with gold studs through their noses carry children barely younger than they are on slender hips". Other than that, spectacular article, keep up the good work! 
 
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