Indian-American Identity Captured in Poem Form


I come from a nation

In whose dirt my ancestors’

Ashes are blended

And the soil gave me life

Yet it’s the place where

Men are the first priority

Where I would’ve grown up

Learning to be the perfect wife

I come from a country

The birthplace of Jainism

The most peaceful of all religions

Just trying to live and let live

Yet it’s the place where

Miss America or I could never be Miss India

Even if we gave it

Everything we had to give

I come from a land

That has given me dance

Kathak, Bharatanatyam, and Bhangra

I eat, sleep and breathe

Yet it’s the place where

Rape, corruption, and infanticide

Are just commonplace things

Things that make me seethe

I come from a state

Of a thousand tongues but

“Baapajo vaan”

Is what I’ll always speak

Yet it’s the place where

Pollution and poverty abound

A refusal to get married

Would cause my family to freak

I come from a fairyland

Inside is a whirlwind of colors

Putting on salwars, lenghas, and saris

Makes me feel like a Bollywood princess

Yet it’s the place where

Disease runs rampant

Sometimes I’m scared to go there

Fear of malarial infest

I come from a terrain

That gifted me with

The holy days of Paryushan

Festivities of Holi, Navratri, and Diwali

I come from India

It is my first home

Sure it has its many flaws

But I couldn’t be prouder to be a desi.

My motherland gave me

The textures of a Gujarati thaali

The tadka of Punjabi bhindi

The tenderness of Madrasi idli

I will never forget my roots

The teachings of my parents

But it’s the present that has

Molded me and my identity

I live in a nation

With the oldest living constitution

Spurned my interest in

Practicing the law

Yet it’s the place where

Intense stereotyping lingers

I tell people I’m Indian

But my last name isn’t Patel or Shah

I live in a country

Hoping hard work and honesty

Will lead me to the destination

My relatives envisioned for me

Yet it’s the place where

The foundation is religious freedom

But I must worship the elephant god

Due to my ethnicity

I live in a land

Of hip-hop, rap, and pop

Grew up watching

Toy Story and Finding Nemo

Yet it’s the place where

Obesity hits hard

But I’m reminded of perfection

Images of the beautiful size zero

I live in a society

Running on Dunkin’ with me

Hiking on rustic mountain trails

Exchanging desserts with the neighbors

Yet it’s the place where

I’m judged by my peers

If I don’t score an A

The prize for my mental labor

I live in a dreamland

Where Fridays are for pizza

Saturdays spent in shopping

Lazy Sundays watching football

Yet it’s the place where

Maybe I won’t ever belong

Store clerks sometimes ignore me

When I enter the mall

I live in the United States

Painted with blacks, whites, yellows, and browns

A scene that enforces the taught lesson

To love people of all kinds

I have a choice of

Swimming lessons or tabla
Eating roti or burritos

Going to temple to clear my mind

This house which my parents entered

Has now become my home

I know doors will always be open

From sea to shining sea

It’s the place where
I can say I’m Indian or American

But I’m Indian-American

And that’s what makes me, me.

By Tina Lapsia

Tina Lapsia is an attorney working and living in NYC. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law … Read more ›