Immigrant Experience Essay Example: Losing My Way
Thesis: I am both Indian and American. I am also neither Indian nor American. I enjoy both cultures yet simply in different ways.
Every year, the arctic tern flies more distance than any other migratory bird, traveling over 49,700 miles to take advantage of the growing natural resources. Birds often tend to migrate north to leverage the sprouting plants and the plethora of nesting locations. They leave behind their nests and voyage countless days in anticipation of more resources. After landing in the north, their journey to a safe environment is far from over. They are threatened by natural predators, unrestrained cats, vehicles, and turbines.
Sprawled out on the brown lavish couch in my living room, I study the birds that nibble on the food from the rusty red feeder, suspended off a tree in my wooded backyard. I am reminded of my journey of over 8,500 miles from my home in India to my modest apartment in Eagan.
My mom fries onions for our traditional Indian dinner in the kitchen and the aroma wafts through the house. The smell was bothersome when I was younger. The rich flavors of authentic Indian food would carry on my backpack, my lunch bag, and the strong smell of roasted spices would float through the halls. The odor would not only linger on my clothes but would trail into the room as soon, as I opened the maroon Tupperware lunch box. The smell that once delighted me in Pune turned to a stench that caused embarrassment. Most people just stared at me, others got curious as I would break apart my naan in a practiced way with my bare hands,
“Ew, what is that?”
“So you just eat that with your hands?”
Their words didn't cut, so much as they made me nauseous. Growing up as part of two cultures I was often conflicted as to which one I identified with more. A cloud of discomfort surrounded me and there I sat like a deer in the headlights, stunned at the comments of my peers. There I sat, peerless and awkward. After a few days, I did not enjoy my food as much as I used to. I realized it would be less humiliating to throw my naan into the trash cans instead of feeling the weight of my peers' eyes.
I am a horrible person.
There are people in the world that are starving. Yet, the damage was done. I no longer had the stomach for Indian food.
An estimated 214 million birds are killed each year by vehicles. The driver is often unaware of their reckless action which results in the death of a bird. That's the funny thing about words, they kill in an instant. The words of my peers not only led me to feel embarrassed but also invoked a sense of destitution that led me to believe it would be better not to open my lunch at all.
I used to enjoy dipping my fresh naan into aromatic paneer masala but I no longer could without the stares of my classmates. Suppressing my love for Indian food was one of the first steps that I took to assimilate. Twig by twig, I was building a new nest in an unfamiliar place. My distinguishable Indian accent changed into a more sophisticated Minnesotan one. My connections with my friends from India followed soon after. I was grappling between trying to fit in and remembering my identity, I was ashamed of my culture.
Biennially, I visit my hometown of Bangalore. I stepped out of the Bangalore airport and as soon as I left the AC building, the sweltering heat encompassed my body. Instantly, I felt isolated in a crowd of my people. Naturally, I should feel at home, but I do not. I have assimilated. I am an outcast.
I am no longer part of the civilization that I was born into, but I am not part of another. The looks from passersby are subtle, but I see them. My accent is thick but not the same as it used to be. The Indian slang I once understood now sounds alien. I am no longer a person that watches cricket every Sunday. However, I am also not the person that watches the football game between the Packers and Vikings. I do not conform to the social norms of Indian culture yet I do not satisfy the conditions to be a true American.
A part of me has changed. A feeling of ego and arrogance floods me as I am made aware of the privileged life I have led in America. Having an American accent warrants a sense of pride. In an attempt to fit in I act entitled. In a powerful voice, I speak in English to my mother, almost as a child boasting about a new toy. I make my presence known. In India, everyone envies those who live in America. The paradoxical thing is that I am just at Indian as I am American.
The night before my cousin’s, Diya’s, birthday party our distant and close families gather at their home in Bangalore. A group of distant relatives all visit with their sons and daughters. They sit around the spacious living room and the adults make conversation. Bollywood pop songs blast through the TV as the group rejoices about her recent academic feats. The teens tease her and the adults laugh along. Their faces gleam with a sense of contentment, there is nowhere they would rather be in this very moment. They radiate optimism and positivity yet their laughter turns to a crackle in my head. The warm air surrounds me yet a sense of solitude settled in. It is almost ironic how well everyone knew each other. The moment is fleeting and I would rather be anywhere other than here at this moment. Perhaps, I don't want to fit in. Perhaps, I do not know how to. They fit together in perfect harmony, a box of puzzle pieces.
I sit in the corner and watch from afar. Their jokes fly over my head. Their language, one that I am fluent in, seems foreign. I am no longer part of this puzzle. I am an outsider.
The arctic tern migrates from the Arctic to the Antarctic every year. Yet, it holds the name ‘Arctic’ Tern. By that logic, the bird should be named Antarctic Arctic Tern.
My name is Prapthi. I hold a name that is Indian, yet I have spent over fourteen years of my life in countries where the national language is English. I have heard a variation of pronunciations of my name, Prap-uh-they, Prop-thai, and Prop-tee. Despite the embarrassment it caused growing up I have found a certain sense of appreciation for my name. After all, I have never met another Prapthi yet!
I am an outsider to both worlds. I am a part of both, and I am a part of neither. I am both the missing puzzle piece and the outcast.