18

New and Fresh as a Desi

*Desi = Colloquial word for someone from the Indian sub-continent.

I was transferring some pictures to my hard drive last night, and I felt like visiting those days back. Oh boy! I could see how my weight and roundness of my face has fluctuated from 2009 to 2018. I saw so many clothes in my pictures that have been donated away, that I loved, that I hated. I wore flared jeans! Of course the xBF featured prominently and so did Abhi, and I felt pangs of intense nostalgia and some pain(of totally different kinds).

There is a certain charm about coming to the US for the first time as a naive student. This extends to going anywhere abroad, but I speak for ‘Murica because, ah well, I came here. The first few days are very interesting when you figure out how everything is exact opposite to India, how quiet the cities and towns are, and how your clothes stand out in a very stripey-collared-shirts way. I remembered how starry eyed I was when I landed in San Diego! It was, just, so different! And eventually I realized that it is way different from any other city in the USA also. Free, liberal, culturally open, and so hippie! It was like breathing in a different, fresher kind of air, but with the same essence that Pune had. Those were exciting times. Trying to learn how to live alone, and navigating through intense emotional drama, and then feeling the first flutters of infatuation post India days.

I made my first non-Indian friend on the very first day of class, who is still one of my closest friends. The group from school(lab and associated friends) has stuck together through Thursday game nights, brewery sessions, camping weekends, dance nights, and now wedding shenanigans. They were my true representation of the whole ‘SDSU being a party school’ thing. I still get asked if I studied anything because of SDSU’s reputation and my answer has 3 points. 1. I was in grad school. 2. My major was Mechanical Engineering. 3. I am a true and highly stereotypical Desi. NOBODY invited us! I totally exaggerate. I had a lot of firsts with these guys that I can never forget, and they make sure that I don’t!

Yet, at every point, I felt that I did not fit. I just didnt mix in, and I still feel the same. With my nutty behavior, an accent where asking for water is a royal pain, my forever confused sense of style, overly frizzy hair, stuff that blurts out from my mouth, I still feel that I stand out as super Desi. But that IS the best part! I get to stand out! I still have a sense of belonging to my country and culture, while learning something new everyday about different countries. I get to retain my Desi-ness while I continue my explorations. How many people from other countries can say that?! And how many people from India can claim to call two countries home? We are the lot that gets the best of both the worlds!┬áIn my best buddy Adam’s exact words, I am weird and basic as hell, but yet they love me!

Cultural assimilation is a beautiful thing, but so is, standing out. Here’s a toast to all the self described nuts who feel like they belong, even when they don’t! Let the paradox live and thrive!