Shedding and Retaining the East in You

by Prachi Jain

When I crossed the oceans to be in the United States, I did not just bring back memories, I brought my own East with me. My perception of the cultural and social mores and the belief system that defined me—all came with me.

A big proponent of acculturation and assimilation, I am sari-clad on Diwali; colored with gulal on Holi, and a vegetarian throughout the year.  I have retained my traditions and values and I have also educated friends from other cultures about why Durga Puja is celebrated or why Lord Ganesh is immersed in water.  But the acculturation process also helped me to take an objective look at the South Asian culture that I grew up with. I have realized that like other cultures, it does have some undesirable aspects.

What still defines me?

The craze for Bollywood music and movies, the penchant for late night parties and preserving special taste buds for spicy street food are just some of the ways my East is still with me. I still get excited to meet my aunt’s cousin sister’s friend or can accompany a visiting distant relative for a day-long shopping spree. Of course being a brown girl, my love for the brown nectar called chai, stays.  The other things I have chosen to retain are the enthusiasm for festivals and the need to have families and friends around all the time.

What’s gone?

Being a South Asian, our composition is malleable. We are too adjusting and tolerant.  But after coming here, I have learned to adapt to zero tolerance policy and also to admire it.  I have developed a general intolerance towards tardiness, hypocrisy and ambivalence.

I have also shed the wrong perception that a couple could mean a few and not two;  a “no” could mean “maybe” or even a reluctant “yes” and I definitely do not believe now that “everything is negotiable.” 

The most important thing that I have learned to eject out of my system is the East’s love for contrast in attitude and love for hierarchy.  I don’t think there are different ways to talk to a rich person and to a poor person or that a person’s social status could determine how you should deal with him or her.

prachi jain

Prachi works as a freelance copywriter. She likes to write short stories. With two kids, a part-time job, and an immense love for reading, writing and jogging, she is hard pressed for time – all the time. Her work has been published in Foliate Oak, Vending Machine Press, and Ascent Aspirations to name a few.


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