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Always an NRI

Serena Vora is a 25-year-old Indian-American is confused in terms of her true identity. She believes that the mystery of her, being a citizen of which country (India or America) will continue...

entertainment Updated: Jul 14, 2010 17:53 IST
Serena Vora

I couldn't turn a blind eye to the constant references to India being packed with endless opportunities made by my professors at business school in the USA.

So, unable to contain my curiosity, I decided to move to India and experience working here. Unlike the current scenario, where it is common for Indian-Americans to come to India, I came three and a half years ago, when leaving the comforts of America to rough it out here was considered extremely bizarre!

I zeroed in on Mumbai since I was familiar with the city, knew Hindi and had my family here. It seemed like a great idea to finally live in a country where I was no longer a minority!

I would be a part of the largest democracy in the world. It was a huge relief that I would no longer have to explain my actions- why I was taking Diwali off, what that strange food I was eating was, why Bollywood movies have so many song-dance sequences, or why Hindus consider cows holy.

Secure with the knowledge that I was one of 'them', I went out into the world that was India. But, somewhere along the way, I forgot I was an NRI. Actually, even worse, an American Born Confused Desi (ABCD).

The rude reminder that I was 'different' from Indian Indians began with my accent. Whether I spoke English, Hindi or Gujarati, my 'twang' instantly elicited giggles.

The same accent that, on my previous trips, was considered 'oh-so-cute', now became a topic of conversation. Nonetheless, after a couple of months I realised that if the Simpsons continued making fun of the Indian accent, then it was ok if I got flak for mine.

Socially, I was introduced as 'the girl from Los Angeles, California', the token NRI the host could introduce to score points with her friends. It didn't matter to anyone that I was from San Diego.

I soon realised that all the party invitations had nothing to do with my social skills, but were courtesy my American passport. I just couldn't escape the label no matter where I went. Even while out street shopping today, if by chance I extend a polite comment to the hawker first, he will enthusiastically quote the foreigner price as compared to the one quoted to locals!

I still wonder, am I American because I was born in the US and hold an American passport? Or am I Indian because my parents are from India? I guess this is where the term ABCD comes into play!

We truly are a confused lot in terms of knowing our true identity. I guess this mystery will never be solved. I have, however, decided that I am (like my passport states) a citizen of two countries.

Serena Vora is a 25-year-old Indian-American who arrived in Mumbai in July 2006.