When I was in 7th grade, I traveled back to India for the first time since I was adopted. The first thought I had when I stepped off the airplane into the Delhi Airport was “wow it smells like exhaust. Like A LOT of exhaust”.
The second thought I had, after seeing the massive crowd of brown moving busily and yelling in a language I definitely didn’t understand despite a few conversational Hindi lessons, was “…I am so not Indian.”
I went to India expecting to feel like I had come home. Like I belonged. Now I look back on that and laugh. I am so American it’s not even funny. Bring on the Twinkies! Everywhere I went, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb; I dressed American, I walked American. Heck, I even talked with my hands like an American! Let’s not even talk about the salesmen singling me out like cream in an Oreo. I felt out of place and like my entire identity was being stuffed into a blender and set on high.
However, on the flipside, when I returned to the United States I began to see how ignorant my community was about the world’s problems and how very Indian I seemed to the rest of my school. After all, I was constantly spilling out stories from my trip. I even taught a full day of classes purely based on what I had learned during my visit. Everyone was convinced that I was Desi #1 and the authentic interpretation of Indian-ness.
So now we observe the entirety of WCIC, or White Cinnamon Identity Crisis, a term I coined in Hi, My Parents are White. It’s a balance between expressing pride in being an Indian and reminding everyone that despite my skin color, I primarily identify with being American. So many times I have had jokes made about being illegal or being a terrorist, despite the fact that I am clearly American in nearly everything I do (even though I do have a mild obsession with Spanish rice and re-fried beans). It’s a fine line of reminding my friends that I do have Indian pride and that I won’t forsake my heritage.
One of my all time favorite ways to bridge the gap in my life is to dress half and half. I pair jeans and cute boots with a pashmina and kurta top and a very “All American Girl” high pony tail. One of the things I learned is that too much Desi pride can actually scare off people. For instance, in middle school, a group of my current friends were too afraid to talk to me because they thought that all I talked about was India. So they stayed away. Crazy huh?
On the flip side, I ended up scaring quite a few Desis when I’d meet them and have absolutely NO idea what a garba was. I also can’t empathize very well with some very common Desi issues. I’ve read so many books on Indian culture, taught a dance class, and taught a workshop, but nothing takes the place of being a 100% Desi steeped in culture from day one. If I had to guess what their exact thought process was I’d guess it goes like this:
Hey! A Desi! Hi Desi Girl! Wait a second…huh? She looks like us…doesn’t talk like us. Doesn’t walk like us…what the heck is she?!?
But I could be wrong.
Each day is a new chance to perfect balancing WCIC. I have to make sure I’m a magnet that attracts both poles without repelling one or the other. Finding the balance is hard, but in the end, when you manage to mesh both worlds for even a second, it’s all worth it.
And yes, The force is strong with this one.
Read Antara’s previous adoptee posts here