I was able to spend a lovely afternoon yesterday with a friend from the Hindu Student's Organization at my graduate school in California. She has moved closer to my area and I'm thrilled to have her here.
We talked about religion and life and lots of things. I told her about this blog and about my continuing journey to mesh my ethnicity with my religion. She didn't think there was any issue with me being culturally Indian and thought it was great that I wear a bindi now.
In some ways, I'm more culturally Indian than a lot of the second generation Indian Americans here. Probably because being cool and fitting in have never been on my list of priorities!
I'm an old-fashioned girl at heart. I like tradition and I'm slow to adapt to change. While some people go through their teenage years and want to fit in and look like everyone else and not be labeled "weird", I am not one of them. I don't really understand the fear of being labeled "weird."
I don't need to have designer jeans or wear the right kind of clothes or have the right kind of hair style. I don't need to rank on the social ladder at all. I don't need to be thought of as "modern." And so I am free to follow my own instincts and wear things that others my age find hopelessly old-fashioned.
I guess it helps that my mother is not an Indian mother, so though I often dress like an Indian woman of her generation instead of my own, I'm never in a position of feeling like I'm too similar to my mother. I don't need to rebel in that way.
Now, I only know that it is rare for young people who grew up in America to wear "ethnic" clothes and be traditional. What is it like in India? For those who live there, do you feel like many young people are trying to be cool and look Western or are many of them wearing suits and bindis? Do young married women still wear kumkum in their part or is that something that only grandmothers do?
I get the impression that I might not be so out of place there with my old fashioned look. I often see recent immigrants from India who are my age and who are dressed very traditionally (though I'm sure for some of them it is because their in-laws prefer it that way).