I’d love to see a world where a businessperson can be successful while still retaining aspects of their cultural identity.
An amalgam of aromas—incense, curry, and pizza—wafts through my family room. The smells in my home are as commingled as my cultural background.
Born and raised in the United States, I identify myself as an American GenZer; indulging in opportunity, freedom, and TikTok dances. My values and traditions, however, are rooted in India. From learning Sanskrit prayers and performing classical dance to wearing Indian garb and speaking Hindu and Telugu, I remain closely connected to my ethnic identity.
Growing up, my weeks followed a certain pattern. During the weekdays, I attended my public school where all of my friends varied in hair color, ethnicity, and heritage. On the weekends, my mother enlisted me in “Balvihar” classes -- essentially the Hindu equivalent of Sunday school -- at the Temple interacting with “aunties” and “uncles” of my community. This toggling between American and Indian behaviors never bothered me.
I never felt ashamed of my identity or like I should hide parts of myself. I did school projects on Indian Goddesses, brought home cooked food for world culture days, and performed Bollywood dances every year at the talent show. Over time, I became increasingly involved in dance and began performing internationally in several Indian Classical dance forms. Diving deeper into these dance forms taught me a lot about the mythological stories of Hinduism, the history of the Indus river valley people, and the values of respect and Guru-Shishya that permeate many aspects of our relationships.
I don’t think I have ever had a problem with knowing who I am. Over the years, however, I have realized that not everyone else is as comfortable as me. In college and pre-GSB, I found myself unable to find a community of friends that were as “Indian” as I am. My friends did not know their mother tongue, had never visited India, and had no interest in associating with the culture. The most Indian things became were throwing a party for Diwali, because well, why not?
Being unable to find a community to share in these experiences has been difficult to grapple with -- Indian parents and grandparents consider me cultured whereas my peers don’t think I’m American enough. Here at the GSB, this feeling has only been furthered. A suspicion I have is that to be a successful businessperson in America, one has to shun parts of their cultural identity in order to fit the image of what is considered acceptable.
I’d love to see a world where a businessperson can be successful while still retaining aspects of their cultural identity. As time continues on, I’m figuring out how to remain authentic to myself while operating in the real world.