The White Hindu has moved

The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Friday, March 12, 2010


There are other people in America in what I see as a very similar position to mine. They are known as ABCDs, which stands for "American born, confused Desi."

Immigration to the United States from India has been a fairly recent phenomenon, from about the 1970s to the present. That means that there are a huge number of families for whom the kids around my age are the first generation to grow up in this country (I was born in 1982).

Their parents grew up in India and came here for marriage or work as adults. For them, the ritual, culture, language, and religion was all around them in India. Adjusting to raising children in a country where none of those things are the same, where you have to travel to find people with a common culture, has led to a generation straddling traditions.

The book and movie The Namesake do an amazing job of showing how a pair of Bengali parents raise American children without realizing that it's happening. The culture divide between the two generations is very pronounced. The book is written by one of the best new authors in the country, Jhumpa Lahiri and the movie was directed by famed director Mira Nair. A great collaboration. I highly recommend it.

Kids born in America are expected to still know and participate in their Indian heritage, and yet they also go to American schools, have other American friends, and grow up just as American as any of us (my family is also fairly recent to the United States, with my grandmother being an immigrant).

Each American of Indian descent in this country has to decide how much of each part of themselves they will take. Do they want to be purely American and leave behind all ethnic tradition? Do they want to balance the two?

I think very few people are as old fashioned as I am. Many want to rebel against older generations, create the world anew, reject old ideas. Personally, I am very drawn to old ideas. I follow tradition as much as I can. Wearing a bindi is a bit of an old-world thing to do.

We'll see after I get married how many traditions I will follow. For example, wearing red powder in the part of the hair is a very old-world, traditional thing to do! I have a hard time imagining any of the young women in my generation, growing up in America, choosing to do that. But I have never fit in and I have never been "cool." I've been seen as old-fashioned all my life, even by my family. I've also never had a desire to be "cool." I'm fine with being odd!

But anyway, my point is that I have a lot in common with the ABCDs. They also have to find their way in the world of culture and tradition without having been handed it.

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