In the winter of 2008, my family embarked on a journey that would change the course of our lives forever. As we left the comforting embrace of our Indian homeland in pursuit of brighter prospects. This audacious decision to uproot our lives and reside in the United States was motivated by a common desire for better opportunities. Our destination was New Jersey, which promised greater career prospects and progress. Contrary to my expectations, the initial transition unfolded with remarkable smoothness. As a seven-year-old boy, I was captivated by the diversity in my new surroundings. In stark contrast to my previous experiences in India, the vastness of my school overwhelmed me with boundless curiosity. The move was nothing short of a dream come true, instilling a profound sense of euphoria in me.
However, the road ahead was not without its difficulties. My father began working as a pharmacy technician with his Bachelor’s degree from India—a job that provided little financial stability. Supporting a family of four and saving for our education posed a formidable challenge. When we decided to move to Maryland, our family’s narrative changed tremendously. Recognizing the need for change, my father mustered his resolve to open his own pharmacy—a risky venture, to say the least. However, the gamble paid off handsomely, and by 2013, our lives had taken a remarkable turn for the better, thanks to the thriving business.
As I navigated my childhood, many obstacles began to surface, many of which could be attributed notably to the extreme language barrier. My early years in American schools were filled with moments of frustration as I endeavored to comprehend my teachers. Nonetheless, I persevered and emerged from the challenge victorious as a fluent English speaker. My cultural identity underwent a transformation as a result of these changes. New Jersey had offered us a lively Indian community, but Maryland exposed me to a broader, more diversified environment. I began to explore the many cuisines and traditions that this new community had to offer, though, I occasionally found myself neglecting my cultural heritage in the process. This could be attributed to the fact that my school consisted of those of White and East Asian descent.
As I found myself recognizing the need to reconnect with my Indian ancestry, I sought out Indian friends in my new environment. These connections enabled me to rekindle my cultural heritage and share key experiences with friends who could truly relate to and understand my background. Though despite cultural upheavals, my attachment to my native language remained unwavering, providing itself a steady anchor. In recent months, I have been on a journey to learn and acquire the skills of reading and writing in my mother tongue—a testament to my unwavering commitment to preserving the connection to my heritage.
However, being an immigrant entails its fair share of challenges. Discrimination has become more pronounced in recent years and while I was quite fortunate to grow up in a somewhat accepting environment, racist remarks from strangers were not far in between. Just the other week I was called a “monkey” in passing. Nonetheless, I choose to focus on the positive that comes with the support of a nurturing community. My family is Hindu, thus religion was an integral part of my upbringing. While I did not always fervently embrace religious activities, I found solace in the bonds fostered. It was in these moments that I discovered a profound sense of community and belonging.
As I look ahead to the future, I believe that I will continue to embrace the strong connection between my heritage and my identity as an immigrant. I have to remind myself to be acutely aware of my parent's unwavering dedication and the rich cultural tapestry that they have brought to America. As I continue to chart my course in America, I am determined to pass down my language, culture, and traditions to future generations. I believe that family is at the heart of the South Asian experience, and I am determined to keep this flame alive in my own family that I will create. My resolve is to nurture the roots that bind me to my culture while seizing the many bountiful opportunities my new life presents.