One day I walked into a store and the first thing that hit me was a sharp smell of ginger, curry leaves, and other Indian spices. It was such a distinct smell that a person can immediately understand that everything kept in there came from India. I looked around and noticed that the room was not properly maintained with bare off-white walls, dirty racks for vegetables, unorganized carts in one corner, and dirty speckled floor. In one of the other parts of the store, movies and music were being sold and in the back there was a rack of dazzling and scintillating saris (Indian dress) with colors bursting right out of the dresses. Gold and silver miniature temples varying in sizes and ranging from 200 dollars to 1500 dollars were sold nearby the dresses.
It was the first time in my life when I witnessed that everybody was speaking Gujarati except for me. The last thing that I wanted to have was a conversation. Then, to my horror, one elderly man gingerly walked up to me and asked me a question. I didn’t understand everything that he said, but I did get the idea of what he was talking about. I wanted to answer in Gujarati, but the only words that I was capable of saying were English ones. At that moment I understood what it was like to feel as if a sword was going through me, as it was exactly the kind of feeling the piercing stare of the cashier, a bagger, and customers were giving me. My mother came to rescue me. When she came up to me, I told her what the man said and she answered his question with grace as the words flowed from her lips. The man told my mother: “Oh, he only speaks English?” I have never before felt so out of place, even though I looked exactly like all the other people in the store.
I was born and raised in Southern New Jersey, but my parents were from India. When they came to America, they brought over their Indian religion, traditions, values and new language. When I was growing up, I always thought of myself as being an Indian. I would eat traditional food, follow Hinduism, and respect traditions of this culture. I could understand the language, but I could not speak or write in it. As I went to school, I started to become Americanized, though I had not completely realized it until I went into that store in North Jersey. After this event I saw that I am not as Indian as I thought I was. I could not speak the language, I was not used to the smells, and I only went to India once in my life.
Then, I thought of all the traditions and cultural background that I did have and followed. For instance, I know that one of the main tenets of Hinduism is not to eat meat, because Hindus believe that every life being is important, especially cows, which are considered sacred. I also knew what happened when there was death in a family, as I remember the time when my grandmother died. My father went to India to perform the rituals with his brothers. Hindus believe in reincarnation and that death does not put the end to a person’s soul. I also learned a lot of information about one of the most important figures in India and the whole world, Mahatma Gandhi.
Yes, I can’t speak Gujarati, but I have acquired the most important values and traditions of the Indian culture. Being born and brought up in America, I enjoyed the opportunities to participate in many different activities. I was in Boy Scouts, community volunteering, sports, orchestra, and school clubs during my public school education, which allowed me to gain a wide variety of knowledge and experiences. I have developed my character with the help of the best features of both cultures. I am now eager to bring this diversity to the Georgetown’s university community. I am more than willing to explain to other people the peculiarities of the blend of Indian and American cultures, especially the way they can complete each another. I also hope to understand the other cultures from the diverse student body at the university, as I see from my own experience what effect can knowledge about other cultures have on a person. I am sure to become a valuable member of the university community and I am eager to prove it.