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  • Writer's pictureSharika

Confused Cultural Identity

To be honest, I don’t think it’s just a brown/desi (whichever label you prefer) thing; but figuring out who you are and what you want to do is a lot harder than many people may perceive it to be. As a desi person living out of where your cultural roots come from is a constant tug of war.

Growing up oftentimes there are certain cultural things that are embedded into you... through daily conversations or just the environment you are in when you go to India for example arranged marriages, everyone trying to be a doctor or an engineer, or simply following the path that meets your parents' expectations.

But the tug of war intensifies when we are surrounded by the culture that we embrace through the communities we grow up in and the pop culture we consume. And sometimes this tug of war is called being whitewashed desi or confused desi... which I personally don’t understand...

Growing up being desi and raising up outside of India really made me question who I am and where I actually call home... to be honest, I still question it all to this day. I grew up here in Tokyo, so technically I would call Tokyo my home and I should mention that in my identity... but if I mention this to anyone who identifies themselves as just Indian despite living out of India for much of their lives, I become white washed.

Which to be honest makes me question things more. Do I have to identify myself with my parents' identity despite the fact that our relationship with the desi culture is completely different? Because there is so much of the desi culture that seems like the norm for my parents but to me it is mind-boggling. Going to high school in India made me more confused with my identity because I was not Indian enough because of my accent and since I’m brown oftentimes in Japanese communities I’m not exactly part of the community despite being here for 2/3 of my life. So if 1/3 of my life I lived in India and for 2/3 of my life I lived in Japan, where exactly should I call home?

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare said what is in a name? If we lived in a homogenous society not much but in a diverse, multicultural society...there is a lot in a name.

For example, my name. Sharika and the way I pronounce it is very different from the way much of my family pronounces. But this is the result of being a third culture kid. And as a result of being a third culture kid I am okay with any pronunciation of my name as long as you say the “sh” and not turn it into Sarika. I am okay with the fact that in different languages and accents there are differences in which syllable is emphasized. I actually find that very interesting.

What I’m not okay with is being made fun of for how I pronounce my own name or people questioning how I pronounce my own name. Back when I lived in India for high school there were times when I was made fun of for this and it still irritates me. Some people would think that because of the way I pronounced my name or my accent didn’t make me Indian enough and that frustrated me.

Because at the end of the end day be it when you’re 15 or when you’re almost 25 all you really want is a sense of belonging to a community wholeheartedly.

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