Bringing East and West Together

Hindu-American teens discuss their dual identity

In a March, the editors of Hinduism Today and Hindu Press International (the magazine's daily e-mail news service) invited Hindu young people of Indian origin who are now living in the U.S. to submit essays discussing the challenges they face as they reconcile Eastern religious culture with Western daily life. The following are excerpts from some of those submissions:

Shurjendu Dutt-Mazumdar, 19, New York

India and America: one is my motherland, the other, my fatherland. To deny one at the expense of the other would be foolhardy. The Gods and Goddesses of India speak in unison to the universal essence of oneness, while the starry blue of America hails the ideals of democracy and freedom. While I have personally witnessed a great deal of ambiguity, mutual exclusivity, and "black and white" understandings expressed by fellow "split nationals, " I have had no problem being a Hindu-Indian-American. I only pray that my own weaknesses and aspirations to worldly success are tempered by the age-old Hindu edicts of love for God, reflection on the Self, and firm adherence to dharma (righteous duty).

The ideals of America and of India are but two manifestations of the One. I feel that both these cultures, when culled of the extraneous and embraced at the core, can work harmoniously to encourage self-growth. It is up to me to respond well to the proffered hand of opportunity.


Shivangi Gandhi, 17, Illinois

I immigrated to America with my parents when I was 10. As a young girl, I stayed as "Indian " as possible, and my parents were proud of me. As the years passed by, however, I became misguided, thinking that in order to become a part of "American life, " I had to let go of the culture of my birth.

In the high school I attended, which was 98 percent Caucasian, I was confronted by Americans--and many Indians as well--who mocked me for my Indian behavior. At that time, I chose to conform to American culture because I was tired of being laughed at and excluded. This concerned my parents. During my first week in college, I met a young man from India. He had all those qualities that any Indian mom and dad would be proud of. Yet he had managed to conform to the American culture. As we became closer friends, I learned from him that being Indian was not something that I should be embarrassed about. Rather, it should be a source of pride. My parents were ecstatic to learn that, in college, I joined an Indian organization that stressed Indian culture, and was invited to join another group that promotes Hinduism.

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