I Believe in Diversity

Priya - Woodstock, Georgia
Entered on March 18, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
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This I Believe

I believe in experiences in diverse cultures. I grew up with parents of different ethnicities, which allowed me to have many opportunities that I would not normally have been offered. I traveled around the world and I met a variety of people, which made me feel included in two cultures. Children of a fusion of two different cultures can participate in both cultures, yet sometimes feel like an outsider. As a child of a Caucasian mother and an Indian father, I feel both connected and unrelated to these two societies. The first eight years of my life were spent in Canton, Michigan, where my family was very involved in the Indian community. My closest friend was Aditi; I met her the first day of preschool and our families become close. Although I do not vividly remember these years of my life, I know I became involved in an Indian dance team. This relationship led to inclusion in Indian events, such as weddings and dinner events.

Then we moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where everything changed. My family did not make the close connections as we had in Michigan. I gained more exposure to the American community than I did to the Indian one; then in eleventh grade, I wanted to experience more of the Indian culture. Ami, a girl who is now one of my best friends, helped me become a part of the Indian community in Atlanta. I went to Navarati Garba for the first time with her and she let me borrow one of her Indian outfits, which was a beautiful, ornately crafted garment. My first sign of inexperience was seen when I did not know how to put it on properly. Garba is a Hindu religious event, and it made me realize how much I had been missing out on. There were slang Hindi terms I did not know, types of dance I had never heard of, and, although I had always eaten Indian food, names of dishes I could not even pronounce. I did not know the steps to the dances being performed or what the elaborate outfits were called. It made me want to learn Hindi and know more about the other half of my culture, so much so that this summer I plan to learn the language, either through my dad or through books and software.

Religion becomes a controversial topic between my parents. My mom practiced Christianity, while my father practiced Hinduism. I think the most troubling aspect of growing up in such a diverse setting were the religious conflicts. Their beliefs were so engrained in each parent and related to his and her upbringing that they could never agree on what to teach me. They eventually decided to instill Christian values in the household. Spiritual and religious beliefs played a key role in the comfort of my childhood setting.

Exposure to different lifestyles made me want to find my own way of expressing myself. My dad was born and raised in India and school was the most important thing. He was never allowed the opportunity for creativity while growing up. His parents were only able to provide the bare necessities and wanted their son to have a better life for his children. All my dad knew growing up was academics and school work. After he came to America for college and finished getting his education, he realized what he liked to do as a form of expression, other than learning. He wanted to make sure that I realized early what I wanted to do to express myself.

People can express themselves in many ways. One of my best friends is a phenomenal writer; I envy the way she puts words and phrases together. Many of my close friends are dancers and both danced since they were very young. My roommate played sports for much of her adolescence and was in the marching band; she got involved in athletics and music. I found my form of expression in music. I have learned many things from singing, such as the control of actions, the fact that thinking about singing too much can mess me up, and I learned that screaming as loud as possible at a football game is not the best thing for my voice when I have an audition the next morning.

I think that growing up in a diverse environment has molded me into an accepting, independent person. I do not jump to conclusions and I make a point to not judge people. Because my mom and dad grew up in families with differing values, they often disagreed on what level of discipline to use with me. My dad’s family was very family- and school-oriented, which made him very strict on me. He preferred me to spend time with family and school work over time with my friends, while my mom wanted me to have a social life as well as a successful academic life. The way they raised me was suffocating: it made me want to be my own, individual person and make my own decisions. I do not like to be held back by stereotypes or expectations; I think people should do what they want.

I believe that diversity is beneficial to everyone.