“Where are you from?”
I actually hate this question. It usually devolves into “Where are your parents? Where are they from? Where do you live? Where is your husband?” Sometimes, I say I’m Mexican to diffuse the conversation. But that seemed irreverent in front of Matt’s mom.
Where am I from?
My mom is from Calcutta. My dad is from Burma. My dad emigrated to the US in 1962 because of anti-Indian sentiment. I was born American and raised in Pennsylvania. I played with Barbies. I learned to change the tires on my car.
But, I was never quite ‘American.’
When I turned 30, I bought a British Airways ticket and visited India. I travelled. To Calcutta, Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bangalore, Chennai, Pondicheri, Coimbatore, Cochin. I wanted to reframe the conversation about what it meant to be Indian. I rejected the version that my parents jammed down my throat. Here I was, discovering the beautiful and the unfinished.
To Indians in India, I wasn’t quite Indian.
I went to college in Pennsylvania. I went to graduate school in Boston. I did a stint in Wyoming.
Today, I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. My boyfriend lives on the lower East side. Given the trappings of the modern New York romance, I split my time between the two neighborhoods. And here I was at a gas station in Allenton, Wisconsin, Hershey’s in hand, staring at the eager stout Indian gas station owner, who was secretly hoping I would affirm his hunch, that I was, in fact, Indian too.
“I’m from New York,” I replied flatly and without emotion. “I’m from New York.”