This I Believe

Divya - Albany, Georgia
Entered on February 7, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I was driving home from school today, my mother yelling at me in our native Indian language for having braked so suddenly at the red light, when I heard two loud honks from the car beside me. It was one of my classmates, Patrick, who rolled down the window and jovially yelled with his south Georgian drawl, “You better vote for a Republican!” I agreed to his request somewhat sarcastically, though behind his goofy smile I don’t think he picked up on my insincerity.

My political standpoint is not the only thing that sets me apart from Patrick. Unlike him, I am a first-generation American. Patrick is like most of my peers at my school: a part of the small, mostly white town from the day of their birth. Many of my friends’ parents and grandparents have known each other for years, members of the same country club and junior league. I, on the other hand, found that I had to find my own place in my town; I had to establish a balance among Hindi movies and football games, samosas and hamburgers, Bollywood soundtracks and Carrie Underwood’s hits. While I was able to find a happy balance between two completely different worlds of culture, I begin to question my own world.

But I was able to meet different kinds of people from my mostly white friends at summer programs with academic cores. I was interested in the lives of these urban spectacles. It astonished me that high school students could attend a Sunday school at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, while the only Sunday school I had ever been to was at a small local Methodist Church. We spoke the same language, attended the same weddings, and ate the same food; but they attended traditional Indian dance classes and laughed at how white-washed I was when I revealed my passion for ballet. It was hard for me to understand; we had the same roots but such different cultures. With my Indian friends I was white, and with my white friends I was Indian. At home we did not keep traditional Indian customs, but the family values that have affected me for were undoubtedly different from those of the general Albany community.

So for a long time I struggled to figure out where in the social world I belonged. Attempts to become a part of any sort of cultural majority failed. But after sixteen years I have found that I am not necessarily obliged to identify myself with any group of people. An Indian girl raised in Albany, Georgia, I am no conformist to any prime social standard. I am not a devout Hindu and I have not been drawn to the predominance of Christianity; rather, I have explored different philosophies and worldviews in attempts to establish my own individual faith. I have developed an affinity for anthropological studies and academia; my perception of the world differs from those of others who have immediately accepted the world around them. I have my own thoughts, my own food preferences, my own taste and style, and my own opinions. I have my own identity, and this I believe in.