Proud to be an Indian in America!


Feeling Strong Emotional Ties to India

Consulate of India float at a past India Day Parade in NYC for India @70. Photo: Peter Ferreira

India completed 75 years of independence on August 15th. For those living outside, India has shown great achievements, be it in the technical or technological field, or in medical field and space sciences, or in general progress. For Indian immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more years than they did in India, India remains their love. Being Indian is part of their personalities which reveal in various ways, in their insistence on their children’s education, or in maintaining their value systems, in their ambitions for their careers, or in their Indianizing any cuisine, or in their celebrating festivals traditionally. The second generation of the immigrants has done them proud, rising to great heights in academics, sciences, medicine, politics, arts and literature.

Balancing Act

Migrations, whether forced or voluntary, are known to take an emotional toll. Unlike earlier migrations, the isolation and alienation have vanished in today’s global existence. Yet immigrants live many different roles in their adopted country, ultimately relaxing into a peaceful co-existence with their multi-cultural and multi-ethnic surroundings, ‘blending in’. On occasions, such as their cultural festivals or their country’s independence day, their cultural and national identities and their emotional loyalties to their home country or country of origin, reassert. Most Indians in the U.S. have mastered the balancing act of keeping both identities co-existent. Their children born in the U.S. sometimes do not understand their parents and remain calm or critical observers, most times giving in and participating in these escapades of identities and attachments.

Holding and Letting Go

Bijal Shah, author of the book, For the Love of Laxmi, asserts her Indianness wherever she can. “I am very proud to be an Indian and am so happy that America has begun to see us in new parameters, and not just in the old roles we used to fill,” she told News India Times. “For me, as I said in Laxmi, being an Indian in the U.S. is about holding a bit and letting go a bit – it’s the dichotomy of these two worlds and how they intersect culturally. I love what my culture makes me, and I hold on to that very dearly,” she said.

Shah said she would always feel a connection to India, and being Indian is a huge part of her identity. Shah’s Indianness comes out at festivals like Raksha Bandhan and Diwali, or eating Indian food, or listening to a Bollywood song, or feeling proud about the arts and culture of India making a comeback in fashion, social media or films, she said.

Padma Shri recipient and Chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold, Dr. Sudhir Parikh is an example of a well balanced dual personality of an Indian and an American. Having immigrated to the U.S. in the early 70s, Parikh has remained connected to India while getting more active in his American life. He has struck a great balance of working for and in both the countries simultaneously.

“I am very proud to be an Indian,” Parikh told News India Times. “India has come a long way since the early years of Independence,” he said. “Today, India has made great progress in all the fields and the world has recognized its potential. We have contributed so much to the world. Our doctors and nurses have provided exemplary selfless services during the pandemic. We are hard working and talented. We have so much more to offer,” he said.

A float of India Community Outreach in past India Day Parade in Naperville, Illinois. Photo: India Community Outreach

Parikh has also been among the driving forces that formed the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. He has traveled with Presidents Clinton and Obama to India, influencing U.S.-India relations. He is also a social activist and a philanthropist. For his contributions to improving relations and bringing about social change, he has received India’s highest national award, ‘Padma Shri’, the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Samman’, and many other awards.

Parikh has brought about desirable changes in the healthcare system as a political activist. He has won many prestigious awards for humanitarian work. He has been a keen supporter of the second generation of Indians in the U.S. providing them the much needed platform and opportunities on ITV Gold. He has been a Grand Sponsor of the India Day Parade in New York for 40 years. “Through floats and the parade, we want to make our young people aware of India’s cultural heritage,” he told News India Times. “This is our way of telling our second generation and also Americans, about India and its rich heritage. Otherwise they would never know it,” he said.

New York based filmmaker Tirlok Malik has also achieved a good balance. Proud to be an Indian, he told News India Times, “I love India, and would always want to be an Indian.” His pride and emotional connection to India is reflected in all his films which are about Indians in America. Malik has been a successful filmmaker and entrepreneur in the U.S.. He has helped several people achieve their dreams in filmmaking and acting. For years, he has offered a platform for the local artists of Indian origin to showcase their talent on his, and has been associated with many organizations in the advisory capacity.

Homemaker Usha Kapil of Virginia, is a proud Indian, and carries Indian values at heart. Strongly rooted in Indian culture, she has adopted America as her home since 1961, mingling and making friends, volunteering at hospitals, and raising her four children. She told News India Times she had made friends with people from Philippines, Iran, Korea, and other countries. That is being an Indian in America means for Kapil – to live in the spirit of friendship with all. She loves to wear a saree, and cook Indian food, when she can. Being Indian is being an everyday ambassador for Kapil.

Giving Back to India

Gayatri Mathur, CEO of Soondra Foundation, Chicago, is trying to strike this balance by her work through the foundation. She told News India Times that after years as a practicing physical therapist, she decided that it was time to do something for her home country. “I wanted to contribute, to give back something positive,” she said. Soondra Foundation works with major non-profits in India to award direct cash grants for medical emergencies to the needy in India.

Mathur said she has strong emotional attachment with India. She visits India often and keeps in touch with her extended family, she said. “I am extremely proud to be an Indian. I am also an American. I am proud being both,” she said.

Reshma Shah, a licensed clinical social worker in New York tries to achieve a smooth balance between her dual identities. “I love to be recognized as an Indian. I wear a saree to functions, she said. Still connected to India, Shah visits India regularly with her children, making sure to travel for ‘darshan’ of her ‘kul-devata’ near Mahua in Gujarat, she said. She told News India Times she feels proud of India’s achievements and of being Indian. “I always feel very proud about all the progress India is making, and talk about it to my friends,” she said.

Emotional ties with India are strong for Shivangi Amin, a periodontist and business owner in Virginia. She visits her parents in India often and talks to them regularly. Coming to America to get her degree at New York University was part of being Indian, she told News India Times. “Indian parents always emphasize education. My parents wanted us two sisters to learn and be qualified and live our lives independently,” she said. Being Indian in multicultural America is not different for her from being in the multicultural International Boarding School in Panchgini, India, she said. Amin said she feels very proud of being an Indian. “We have brought so much to this country. We are hardworking and talented, and now we are being recognized,” she said.

Vivek Wadhwa from California is an academic, entrepreneur, and author of five best-selling books. Wadhwa told News India Times through his project in India he is helping set up new cancer centers to transform the cancer-care system. Wadhwa’s innovative project, Karkinos Healthcare, has launched in Kerala in 2020, and will soon expand to other parts in India and abroad, Wadhwa said.  “There are strong emotional bonds and I want to do all I can for the country,” he said.



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