E’s first birthday is rapidly approaching – only 11 more days left! It’s hard to believe a year has already gone by. I was talking to D today about how we’re raising our son. I’m South Asian and D is… well, he’s a mix of lots of things. It’s easiest just to say he’s American. It’s very important to me that he be exposed to both aspects of his heritage.
Growing up with tan skin and black hair, I longed to be one of my blue eyed classmates. I hated how dark my hair was and wished bright red lipstick would stand out on me as much as it did on my fairer skinned friends (turns out I wanted to wear the wrong shade). I hated when my mom spoke to me in Marathi, an Indian language spoken by my family. I was embarrassed by the strange smells, colors, textures, and tastes of the food cooked at home. I hated (and still hate) being called “exotic”. I would try and deny my culture by shrugging it off as a young teenager. Little did I know how much I would come to love my background.
As a child and teenager, being different wasn’t a good thing. Only lately has it become cool to not be a part of the status quo. I really hope this helps my son want to learn more about his culture and appreciate it earlier in life than his mom did.
We haven’t been able to do much so far, since he is still very young. He has been exposed to Indian food since he was in the womb. Now that he’s out and embracing solids, he loves my grandmother’s chicken curry along with naan and tandoori chicken. He also likes Indian snack foods.
We speak to him in Marathi, the native dialect that is spoken amongst my family. He responds to it and I would love for him to not only speak it fluently, but also be able to read and write it. Unfortunately I don’t speak Hindi (only enough to get me into trouble), but I can understand it. I really want him to be able to speak and write Hindi as well.
D and I received a wonderful gift while expecting E: a copy of The Little Book of Hindu Deities. This book not only goes over a number of deities, but also the mythology of how these deities came to be. I absolutely love it and can’t wait to read it to him as he gets older.
The following quote by Jawaharlal Nehru really resonates with me and how I sometimes feel about my cultural identity as a Indian American.
I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere.