When I was a child, I remember asking my mother how we knew that what I see as blue and what she sees as blue is the same blue? She looked at me like I was mentally ill, told me I was being ridiculous and made it clear this topic was no longer up for discussion.
Decades later, I realize that what I was doing then was starting to question what it is that defines me (and us and humans and the world, etc.). Unfortunately, what I was met with was discouragement. So it’s interesting to see now that as adults when we try to define who we are to others, we are sometimes met with discouragement. I believe this is especially true for those of us in the Desi community.
How many of you tried to tell your parents that you wanted to be dancers only to be met with a 2-hour lecture on how you were going to become doctors come hell or high water? Or told them about your wonderful, sweet Chinese girlfriend and have them respond with fury that you couldn’t have brought home someone who is Indian?
There are a lot of obstacles that will prevent someone from being an individual in the Desi community. It goes against the tradition of communal decision-making and is as alien to your folks as sushi. Like most people, your parents will fear what they don’t know. They didn’t grow up in an environment where they were given a lot of freedom to make choices for themselves. Their folks probably determined the course their lives would take and so did the generation before them. They didn’t get to experiment with making decisions, taking risks and dealing with consequences. How could you possibly know something they don’t know?! Their discouragement comes from fear.
To you who face an uphill battle expressing who you are to your family, I say this:
- Keep setting your boundaries (which is part of how identities are formed) and tell people when they cross them
- Dust yourself off if you fail to win your family’s approval and try again.
- Don’t ever stop trying.
- Explore the world, experience everything. The more you experience, the more you figure out who you are, what you like, don’t like, what you can’t have in your life and what you can’t live without.
Before you take off for the weekend, I’ll leave you with this: