The 10 of us are all South Asian. But at the same time, our variance in identities and intersection of different cultures and religions leads us to have different experiences. These separate experiences have converged to our time here at The Ohio State University.
Here are our 10 stories, which may prove to us that indeed, we are more alike than we are different.
Deepti Hossain: “It was always a struggle to have a balance between Bengali and American culture. Some days I wanted to be white and hang out with white friends and deny the other part of me. Then sometimes I only did Bengali things with my parents. That didn’t satisfy me either. When I was 17 I read “The Namesake” and learned that I did not want to end up like the story’s main character, so I learned to balance and come to terms with being Bengali and American.I remember walking into a classroom full of Sarah’s and Abby’s and it was always awkward pronouncing my name in class. It’s unsettling. I’ve become used to walking into a classroom being the minority as a Journalism and Communications major.” Ravleen Kaur: “I was bullied until the age of 13, when I finally gave up and cut my hair, for the first time in my life. It was up to my knees and then up to my shoulders. My mom cried. I never had hair that short before. After that, everyone was suddenly okay being my friend and associating themselves with me. That still sticks with me today.Because I was bullied so much, it made me believe I wasn’t worthy of having friends, and that not having friends was a normal thing. I applied to a boarding school just to escape the bullying. It was really hard to assimilate to American culture because I am so culturally rooted in Punjabi culture. That’s actually why I applied to OSU, because of the diversity. I’m on the Bhangra Team and I found my niche more easily.”
Avi Singh: “It was a challenge assimilating into modern American society, but at the same time it was a gift to stand out and offer the community diversity. Stereotypes I’ve dealt with are: Indians smell, my parents own 7/11, I’m a terrorist, and that we excessively eat curry.”
Vinaya Krishnaswamy: “My ethnicity affects my daily choices a lot. It’s the little things you don’t think about, like joining a dance team. I like being a minority, but it also means that you’re different and other people have more privilege than you.”
Shweta Ambwani: “In college, people don’t care [about ethnicity] as much, but I know in high school I went to a predominantly white school, and it was definitely weird at times. I just felt a lot of white privilege. People don’t even think I’m Indian because of my skin. They think I’m Hispanic, and say, I didn’t even know you were Indian until I saw your name. People assume that to be Indian, you have to have a certain type of brown skin.”
Pratik Shah: “I had a terrible, terrible childhood. I had open heart surgery right before I left India. My only friend in 4th grade, she died of cancer. [My ethnicity] ruined my childhood. I was kicked out of the school the first day. I switched to an ESL school and was pushed back a grade too. I lacked a support system… all of my childhood, I never had friends. I used to be bullied on the bus. People called me sandboy, Kumar, forced cigarettes and drugs into me, pushed me into lockers. Because of my ethnicity.”
Yamini Panagari: “At times, I think it’s hard to connect with people sometimes, because of my ethnic background. But it also gives me something to have as my own, in a society where there’s a lot of diversity. It gives me something to always come back back to no matter what happens in my life.”
Noopur Parekh: “My ethnicity impacted me positively because it gave me roots and a background to base my morals and beliefs on. It has helped me understand others in a world where we are not the most populous. People assume you have to be a doctor or engineer. Your parents own gas stations. You don’t believe in Jesus. No one understands Hinduism so they made fun of our gods and thought it was comical.”
Johnson Thomas: “I have faced stereotypes of being a terrorist or associated with an Islamic extremist. At the same time, I have faced racial profiling and racism for the color of my skin and my religion [because] I am Catholic. I was bullied a lot throughout middle school as well as, on one instance where individuals continued to call me Osama bin Laden, and asked me if I was going to bomb their house. It has positively impacted my life by adding culture and a distinct sense of community. Being indian has allowed me to extend my family past those connected to me by blood and given me a strong sense of national pride. ”
Siddhartha Revur: “My ethnicity has impacted me positively because I feel I’m different. I like going to temple for the positive vibes. When I’m stressed I go to the temple to calm down and feel peaceful.”