Second-Generation Identity Crisis

This week is a celebration for many Indians around the world: the celebration of the festival known as Ganesh Chaturthi (Birthday of Ganesha). While Diwali is probably one of the most well-known Indian celebrations, I didn’t realize how many additional holidays there were until I became older. Since I wasn’t raised in a Hindu household (or any traditional religion for that matter), I didn’t truly understand their respective cultural significance. This led to one of the most difficult things I struggled with growing up — being genetically Indian, but culturally American.

Having a hyphen in both my first name (Jay-Ram) and my culture (Indian-American), my identity was rejected by most orthodox Indian people and families as being uncultured – they would scoff at me for knowing very little of my heritage. On the other hand, I didn’t know enough about American culture to understand certain social norms to fit in. I was too uncultured for one group, yet too foreign for another. In school, whenever a friend or teacher would ask me a question about Indian culture, it saddened me that I couldn’t offer them any information of value; I would often know as little as they did about the culture.

Little did I know then, there was an entire generation of second-generation immigrants struggling to find their own identities. This would prove to be an impossible task because there wasn’t an identity existed for us then– we had to create and synthesize our own culture from our own experiences. Additionally, if they weren’t second-generation immigrants themselves, many of our friends and teachers were a part of this cultural shift and new paradigm. Today, we are the majority. Our culture today is big on acceptance, because we know how it feels not to belong. We have gone through the struggle of being rejected and laughed at, while trying to create an identity for ourselves – we try to accept the people around us because some of us are still trying to accept ourselves.

It’s such an interesting feeling when two separate cultures feel foreign yet familiar at the same time. I can eat rice and lentils with my hands in the morning, and animal-style fries from In & Out with a fork in the evening — and I wouldn’t miss a beat travelling between these cultural dimensions. This practice of crossing cultures has become second nature to many of us because we through the struggle of adjusting and synthesizing a new culture. Holidays like today help give me context as to the person I’ve become and why it’s important to accept our past to create the path forward. Ganesha is known as the destroyers of obstacles and bringer of prosperity, and these are both things I wish for you on your journey of self-creation.

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“Loaves” of Bombs

A few days ago, the Syrian government sanctioned a bombing which destroyed a densely crowded bakery. These people weren’t just waiting to purchase dessert either, they were getting food for their families during a military supply cut-off. I find it interesting that the countries geographically closest to the birthplace of Jesus are suffering the most this Christmas holiday. Heck, even Americans become irate when Starbucks runs out of their favorite coffee, let alone being closed down due to a bomb. Perhaps other Starbucks locations would honor their fallen baristas by giving out free lattes.

I couldn’t help but ponder the very essential question: why would anyone bomb a bakery?! Especially when people are trying to feed their families. Some experts believe the bombers simply missed, and that they should be more accurate in acquiring targets. I have some non-expert advice: why not just keep the bombs back at base, and not destroy anything? I can think of a few other places their government can stick their phallic-shaped explosives.

There are many things going on in Syria far beyond my comprehension. Mostly politics. The only thing more bullshit than political agendas are expert opinions about these events. Experts also say that the war will continue until they find a political solution. Well, there’s an oxymoron: political solution. Does such thing as a political solution exist? Especially when their politics are causing the problems? Solving a problem by ignoring the larger one is like wearing a bulletproof vest to prevent getting shot in the open field. If you don’t want to get shot, don’t run into the field. Another expert specifically condemned bombing of bakeries. Well done, college graduate. Most of us regular people condemn the bombing of anything. It might not make us “experts” but it does make us… “logical.”