Maa Tujhe Salaam | What does it mean to be Indian?

Yesterday was India’s 69th Independence Day.  There were speeches, parades, stories shared and twitter exploding. And then, WordPress asks me if I am patriotic.

This is probably the first Daily Post Prompt that left me confused. I stared at the page wondering what I am supposed to answer to such a question. I started with:

What was the “expected” answer?
Am I patriotic?
What is patriotism?
Where does pride associated to a country stem from?
What do I feel about living in USA right now?

So, what does it mean to be an Indian?

Is it a place of stay or birth, or the odd arrangement of letters on your passport, spelled out beneath a seemingly three-headed lion emblem?

Is it the way my twitter feed is set to India trends? Is it because of the languages I know? Or the food I love or the songs I catch myself sing-yelling or wearing certain clothes? I finished an engineering degree, so that must be it, right? Or is it because I’m a filter coffee snob? Or is it my reaction to cultural appropriations? Or that I can sit through 3 hour long dramatic movies?

I was born in India, so I must be Indian, right? I also happen to live in Philadelphia now, so that puts me in a different bracket, I suppose? Yesterday (15 August), I listened to “Maa Tujhe Salaam” on Youtube. Is that why?

Or is it because I don’t do yoga? Or that I have never used “namaste” to greet someone? Or that I haven’t had the opportunity to cast my vote in the Indian elections thus far?

I sat with these ideas swirling around in my head for a long while, just trying to figure out where I stand on this. At the end of today, I am not sure of a lot of things, but I am Indian, because I think I am.

I think I can definitely say that what I don’t feel is a sense of pride. Yes, I strongly identify with being Indian as an identity. If I get my DNA tested for the different haplogroups, I will possible get a genalogical tree showing ancestral links to people from southern India. I do love a lot of the uniquely Indian experiences that come along with growing up in India – a lot of which can probably summed up by stereotypical memes which hint at a truth. Yes, I love playing around with different masalas, curry leaves and coriander to make my food as much as just making a simple thaalichified curd rice. Yes, I love being able to seamlessly blend languages while talking and thinking. I like the pluralism associated with being Indian. Yes, I keep up with the news about the happenings in India. Yes, I have experienced the sexual harassment that is oft termed as “eve-teasing” in India and I don’t like it. It’s laughing at our weirdness together. It’s armchair critiquing of our politics, economy, and taboos. Maybe it’s the collective nod as I read through those “Only in India” posts nodding at the familiar tales. This is but a small sampling of what I think had to do with my growing up in India.

Like we always say in science, correlation doesn’t imply causation.

But my identity extends much beyond all that can be collected under the umbrella term “Indian”. I am me. Just another person who has had her share of experiences and opinions and about to begin another new set of experiences tomorrow.

Indian TriColour

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