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

   As I stepped off the plane, I wasovercome by humidity. I couldn't believe how hot and sticky the air was,it was unlike anything I had experienced. I felt overwhelmed.

Ientered the airport and was checked rigorously by a customs official.After what felt like an eternity, my family and I entered the lobby,where a milky ocean surrounded me. Everything seemed to blend together.Regaining my composure, I noticed the ocean was really hoards of peopledressed in white. I remembered seeing the same dress in a world culturesbook once.

From their hats, I concluded they were Muslims,returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca. It was strange to see so manypeople at once. I continued across the lobby, but suddenly felt manyeyes scrutinizing me. Hastily, I checked my appearance. Nothing felt outof the ordinary - I had worn this outfit a million times and couldn'tfigure out why everyone was staring. Then I realized my colossalmistake. By wearing above-the-knee denim shorts in a country where girlsdo not dress according to the weather, I had committed a taboo. I hadstumbled upon a rock of etiquette in my native culture, where East andWest are on a collision course.

I was in India, home of myancestors, home of many cultures. I found myself submerged in a culturewhere the modern and ancient coexist, though not in harmony. In mynative land, I felt alienated from both my identities. My passport toldme I was an American, but my skin color told me I was not. My genes toldme I was an Indian, but my language told me I was not. My life was polaropposites, and I hung in the balance somewhere in-between. Or, perhaps Iwas like a swinging pendulum, moving back and forth; always indecisivewhere to rest. Whichever the case, living in two cultures has created anidentity crisis for me.

Where do I belong? Living in bothcultures has proven time and again to be a great asset, but at times Ifeel pushed to the outside of the circle of one culture even as I amexamined under the other's microscope. As an American, I made no mistakeby wearing denim shorts on a humid day but I had forgotten thepracticality of my American culture isn't always acceptable in my Indianculture.

Despite my occasional cultural faux pas, both culturescontribute to who I am, and I am glad to be wedded to both.

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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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