Contributed by Avinash Ramchandani
I was looking at the gloomy morning clouds as I wandered aimlessly down the street. I decided to take a left in the complex of Sadhu Vaswani High School. This is where a few of my aunts went to school. It used to be one of the best schools in the area, but now it is a school for lower-class people. A boy looked strangely at me as I stared at the old, worn down building. I looked away from it. Suddenly, I was shocked by an old man who was urinating by the stone wall that faced the school. Quickly, I pulled my eyes away from that sickening sight and back to the run down school. Originally painted yellow, it had turned to black as piles of dirt collected on the rain gutters. It seemed like it hadn't been painted since my aunts first went to this school. In front of the rain gutters a barely distinguishable brown sign bore the school's name.
I looked back to the wall and noticed that the man wasn't there any more. Relieved, I directed my eyes to the little gate in the wall, and dove under it. On the left side of a black pathway I saw a dog that was fishing for some food among the plethora of flies and the pile of trash and sewage. I continued down the half-paved street and turned left where it ended. A new and more overpowering odor of sewage overcame the original odor that I first smelled at the beginning of the half-poured concrete and tar street. A hen pecked at another pile of garbage. Two young men, who were about my age, wore dirty shirts and cheap-looking baggy black pants and slowly walked in opposite directions. Seeing their condition and the conditions of the surroundings, I felt lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area with the conveniences and luxuries of the American civilization.
Even though I felt and still feel lucky to be brought up in such a clean and prosperous environment, somehow I have an attachment to India and its homeliness. In India I feel like a part of everyday life; in America I feel almost like an outsider at times. At times, people discriminate against me because I am Indian, while in India I am one of the majority. In India I am one of the rich; in America I am just average, middle-class. When I visited India, people noticed me. One time while walking through the vegetable market, a man shouted, "Aay, hero, vegetable market mein kya kar raha hai?" (Hey hero, what are you doing in the vegetable market?) Normally people go in dirty clothes to the filthy vegetable market. Even if I wore my dirtiest T-shirt, it would still be considered dressed in above average clothes. I would be ashamed to wear the same shirt here in America.
Imagine the scene with the urinating man. If I saw that scene here, in the Bay Area, I would be startled. In India, it was just one of those things that people accept in society. Although it was rather disgusting, people were just walking by as if they didn't see the man. Just the same, people in America don't really care if two people are kissing in public. In India, if anyone saw that, they would pull the couple apart and look down upon them. You could compare that to me. I would be a "sight" in India, while here I am just an Indian middle-class teenager. But in India the discrimination increases my self-esteem, while in the United States it hurts it. These experiences brought me to the question, "Why can't I be accepted as both, a normal middle class-teenager in the United States and a rich teenager in India?" The answer came from within me: Because I am an Indian-American, half-Indian and half-American.
India has its homeliness, but America is still my home. My dreams lie in America. My visions for the future lie in America. One day I would like to make this world a better place to live in than it is now. I would like to find the cure to a deadly disease like AIDS or cancer. If I was in India, this dream would not exist. With the disadvantages of not having extremely advanced technologies and enough money to fund them, India does not have the same capabilities to extensively research such diseases. The United States does.
"You live in the land of opportunity, take advantage of it!" This is a statement many Indian people of all castes and all social ranks have made to me. Even if they tried, most Indian people could not immigrate to America, so they want me to take their place and take advantage of what I have and they don't. Sometimes, I contemplate going to India to study in college, but then questions always come to my mind. One of the questions is, "Should I go to India and become a normal Indian and destroy my dreams, or should I stay in America and do what my fellow Indians and I want me to do, but endure racial discrimination in the process?" The choice is always simple for me: the United States offers too many benefits to me that people in India don't have, even if encountering difficulties in the process. I must dedicate myself to take advantage of my opportunities in America and become the person I think I am and want to be. The person that I want to be has the right amount of Indian culture and the right amount of American culture in him.
Just like me, many Indian American's feel they are half-Indian and half-American. Most of my culture comes from India, yet most of my intelligence comes from America. My friend once said that it was like chocolate milk. You buy the milk and the chocolate mix separately, but you mix them together to get a better taste. The milk represents one side of my culture and the chocolate the other side, you mix the two, and you get an even better combination.
Even though I live in America, India is still a big part of my life. India dominates my cultural views, my traditional views, my theories of life, my music, and most of the movies I watch. America has given me my education, my theories of proper society, my experiences with computers, and my experiences with other technology. With this mixture of personalities you get me, an American, yet an Indian also.
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