ABCD – American Born Confused? Clear! Desi


Happy Diwali everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve penned my thoughts, so thought I’d key them in as soon as a few passed through my brain.

Been a month since we’ve moved to the US. Must say, lovely place, lovely people and lovely weather. This evening, on the auspicious occasion of Narakchaturdashi, we visited the local Hindu temple.

The Indian Cultural Association of Birmingham hosted a Diwali evening there, with a fee, of course. (There are no free meals in the world, blah, blah, blah) and frankly, I agree. You don’t value something until you don’t pay for it.

Anyway, back to the point, I felt as if I’d stepped out of Birmingham, Alabama, into the auditorium of Ram Ganesh Gadkari Rangayatan, Thane.

The scene that I stepped into was that of colourful sarees, kurtas, chaniya-cholis, lehengas. This view was accompanied by jingling bangles and twinkling zumkas. The bindis on the foreheads of several ladies would’ve given even jewellery designers a run for their money, so beautiful and artistic were they!

Two high school girls stepped up behind the dias, and began announcing the program of the event. And my flight flew full-throttle, non-stop back from India to USA.

Wait, what? These desi-looking girls were mouthing English in a completely American accent. But of course, that was natural! They are American Born Confused Desis, or are they? Let’s see.

These beautiful English-speaking people, have lived all their lives in the US, probably visiting their mother country only for a month or two during their vacations. To them, back home, means the US.

And then, the curtains were drawn back and these very same American accent trotting people, suddenly flew me back to India. Now I was totally confused. Where really was I?

The music system was switched on and select desi numbers began playing in a fixed sequence. And the ABCDs began to perform to those numbers.

What a bewitching sight! From the very desi thumkas to the very classy latkas, the ABCDs did it all, in the most perfect, ethnic, Indian, sanskaari way. And they performed them even better than some of our very desi Bollywood artistes.

And the best part is, these ABCDs managed to find time to set these performances and practice to them in between managing their own American schedules and practice.

They have mastered the art of balancing basketball and yogasanas. They rock to Rihanna’s hip-hop beats, while learning bharatnatyam or kathak. They mouth Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ and hum the ‘atharvashirsha’ with equal finesse.

They hit the guitar and strum the sitar with equal dedication. And the biggest one, they do not have vacations for Diwali; they juggle their time and prove their performance in a dual identity; and they triumph in both.

They enjoy a good steak with their pals, as much as they relish the simple roti-sabzee.  They may speak broken hindi, if at all, and their accent when they speak their native tongue may sound funny to our ears, but how many of us have ever bothered to try and do what they do?

We have our struggles in our lives in India. They have their own share of struggles in their lives here. They must balance two identities in place of one. I, for one, would be confused if I had to do so!

I met a girl at the desi party. After enthralling the audience with a scintillating performance to ‘India waale‘, she rushed out. I was fortunate enough to meet her on her way out and cheekily asked her, ‘not waiting for dinner?’ and her reply was, ‘I’d love to, but I am on my way to a friend’s place for a Halloween party’.

Now I am the one who’s confused. And I am not American-born. In India, we all feel a little envious of our NRI counterparts. But I can bet my last dollar on this, we have a long way to go before we can live this ‘double life’ (pun unintended) with such panache and expertise as these ABCDs do.

And yeah, am now signing off the way one of the ABCDs at the event wished me today, “Shubha Deepavali!” 

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