I’ve always felt uncomfortable within the Indian community. As a child, I assimilated pretty quickly because I went to a private school which was predominantly white. I was raised Christian and never found people who looked like me at my church. I didn't have a strong Indian community where I lived, so most of my friends were white. In fact, I was bullied for being Indian in kindergarten and I never really saw any Indian kids in school until I got to middle school.
There I saw this whole squad of Indian children who had known each other since they were three. It was so intimidating because I couldn’t join a group that had already been established, but I joined anyway. I immediately felt a sort of discomfort because a lot of them either spoke Telugu or Hindi and I speak Tamil. This discomfort I felt escalated in high school, where there was a bigger Indian community.
A lot of children in the Indian community are cookie-cutter copies of each other---they all have similar backgrounds, they all go to the temple once a month, see all their friends there and go to Indian events together. I didn't have a strong Tamil community to not only support me but also to find friends of the same age. In my opinion, the Indian community is very judgmental. Other Indian kids always felt as if I wasn’t Indian because my parents weren’t as strict as theirs, and it felt like they were trying to parent me. I didn't know where I fit in because there aren't a lot of Indian kids like me.
Coming into college, I expected myself to find a group of people that I fit in with and it was nice to meet all these Indian people but I still felt like I wasn't culturally Indian enough. I think that if the Indian community is more accepting of diverse backgrounds within India, we would be so much more effective in coming together and building a stronger bond. I wish people didn’t say things like “You’re not Indian enough” or “You’re a fake Indian”.
You can't tell someone they're not Indian because they don't have the same cultural knowledge that you do. I feel proud to be Indian, I feel proud to be from Tamil Nadu but if you don’t see anyone else like you, then it’s like am I even Indian?