Studying the Self through Studying Abroad

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Where I’m From

I am from chimes, from Cheerios, and chimneys.

 I am from the colonial-style shutters that abut the windows.

(Purple, warm, they smelled like lilac).

I am from the rose bush

the Magnolia Tree

Whose pink petals burst every spring like bouts of inspiration.

I’m from Christmas cards and Dutch uncles,

From Michele and Prashant and Chandra.

I’m from the know-it-alls and the pay-it-forwards,

from never give up! and never give in!

I’m from itni shukti hame dena data

O Lord! Give us the strength to keep our faith firm in you

And other Hindu verses I mumble under my breath.

I’m from a town in Connecticut, and a village in India,

Lobster rolls and warm white rice.

Inside this embellished cupboard

 was a patterned box donned with perennials,

spilling pictures of old faces and special occasions,

 the ones I can by no means physically relive.

Yet, I am from this tree of memories—maturing every moment—

An exquisite Magnolia waiting to blossom…

Where I’m Headed

I watch and I listen respectfully outside in nature’s amphitheater as I read my “where I’m from” poem. Arms of trees dance overhead. Their lush green hands clap the wind. Birds’ chirping and pecking generate a cacophonic concerto all the while the orchids calmly bow over the garden wall. I grab a seat on my deck each morning to witness this celebratory performance marshal forth a new day. With each new day, I position myself to drink in nature’s synesthetic presentation, allowing its warmth to penetrate my steady soul. A certain harmony is harvested each morning as I nestle myself in among and submit myself to nature’s daily chant. I notice how every dancer and singer seems to be in accord with every other performer in order to seamlessly perform an impeccable symphony. It is peaceful and intoxicating.

As I wait for the sounds, sights, smells to satiate my desires for serenity, I hold “where I’m from” close to my chest, look up at the azure sky, and think about where I’m headed. In a month I will be stepping foot onto my other half. I will be traversing longitudinal hemispheres that cleave my biracial Indian-American identity. I will finally be plunging into my Indianness. How will they receive me? How will I receive them? These queries sit quietly in the back of my mind as I recognize that where I’m headed, is the leap into the void. Where I’m headed will meld both the personal and the intellectual. Where I’m headed may be an informative process and a transformative experience. Where I’m headed may indeed disappoint. For the first time, my burgeoning curiosity to study myself, my family, and my culture has become ever more inflated. While the celebratory performance of nature’s symphony dampens in the background, I cannot help but hesitate to think of the discordance, the conflict that arises through coexistence, between my Indian and my American biracial identity. The turbulence and tempestuousness between these two cultures has been unwavering. Yet, it is exactly this conflict that wets my curiosities to study my culture through a liberal arts frame of mind, to better understand my life, particularly the cultural struggles I have endured between myself and my Indian grandparents, through an intellectual and a personal lens. I close my eyes. I let nature’s sensations take over as I yearn to finally feel that harmonious and peaceful symphony of nature’s amphitheater, vibrate the chords of my very Indian soul.

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