Chaniya Cholis and Coconuts This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 29, 2011
I was in third grade when I first began to notice. It was like a breeze at first- subtle and quickly gone- but as time went on and my perceptions changed, I began to realize it. I was different. There was something about the way every girl in my class would draw themselves in a pink and black skirt-and-shirt ensemble in their “First Day of School” drawings, while I would draw myself in an Indian chaniya choli, simply because I thought it was beautiful.

Dunes and time smooth rocks to sand, and I found myself coloring my skin with an ivory crayon instead of a more-fitting brown one. Quite simply, I didn’t believe in who I was. I would cringe at every mention of Indian elephants, and I remember pretending that I didn’t listen to Bollywood music. I vehemently opposed even the idea of associating myself with my culture. Obviously, there was an inherent and familial influence, which, much to my dismay, forced me to come to terms with my heritage; I knew my mother tongue fairly well and I even secretly nursed a love of Indian food. At school, however, I’d act like a whitewashed coconut. I was too afraid that my peers would identify me as Indian before identifying me with my personality.

As a child, I struggled with cultural assimilation. I was a first generation American, with parents who were raised in a traditional Indian lifestyle. Confusion was normality to me; I was constantly lost between two worlds, blindly groping the darkness to try to fit in somewhere. Not until my teenage years did I begin to realize that my cultural identity shaped, not dictated, my personality.

I wasn’t alone in my struggle; in fact, an entire generation of first-born American citizens has been unceremoniously pushed into a predominantly precultured society throughout the latter end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century due to the inherent effects of globalization. This push has unknowingly spawned a creation of the culture of a new “hybrid” generation of individuals that assimilate to both their parent’s native culture and the one they are surrounded by.

America has been time and time again regarded as a melting pot; a concoction of various backgrounds that have formed a country with various influences and a diverse culture. Similar to historically relevant exchanges, the continuation of cultural synthesis allows a further diversification of ideas and a duality of tradition that will likely continue even through the 21st century. As first-generation Americans carve their culture from the two worlds that are presented to them, a duality of progression and enrichment allow society to paint, with the palette of various cultures, the perpetually blossoming story of humanity.





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