I never understood why my parents decided to move to America. I was 7, yet my world was changing forever. I left my home, friends and most importantly my grandparents. It was everything I knew. The move was not something I was prepared for. Life was good for us in India. But my parent’s explanation was that we would have a better life. It was the BEST in India, so I didn’t need anything better. Even now, looking back, I feel in my grandparents’ house there is a part of me still there.
Initially, we struggled when we arrived to America. My parents worked hard and long hours. I didn’t like the food, it didn’t have my grandmother’s love. Adjusting to the new environment took me a long time. I was the only Indian in my school. No one knew how to pronounce my name. It was always Kristy or Christina, even though there is no “t” in my name. After a while, I was just happy if I was noticed or called upon. I didn’t have any friends, since I was not allowed to have non-Indian friends. Did I mention I was the only Indian?
I vividly remember this day at school where I was being pinched by my classmates. It happened over and over, my arm turned blue. With tears running down, I finally had the courage to tell the teacher. She said I was supposed to wear green today. It was St. Patrick’s Day. I am a vegetarian, which Texans can’t even fathom. Kids were fascinated how I remained alive without meat. Eventually we acclimated and we lost our accents and the nostalgic feeling.
Balancing my eastern heritage and my western pull was always a struggle for me. Sometimes I felt split right in the middle, half of me wanted to be pious while the other half wanted to party. Today, I still struggle with this identity balance. My parents did a fantastic job preserving our culture at home. However, outside of the home, where did I fall – on the east or the west?
I moved when I was 7, when my roots were just spreading and getting a grip on the land. Unfortunately, they were uprooted quickly before they got a chance to establish. I have friends who moved to the United States as teenagers. They had time to establish those roots in India; which meant they have a very strong cultural identity and I have just faint memories. Over the years I extracted what I like from both cultures and made them part of my identity. I enjoy Bollywood and Hollywood. I love my American and Indian clothes. I cook Indian and Tex-Mex.
With growth and maturity I realized why my parents made that life-altering decision. I appreciate all their sacrifices and humiliation they experienced as immigrants. I would never have the courage to pack up and leave this home. Today I make sure my kids wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.