Ronil B.





I was the first person in my immediate family born in the United States. I went to India once when I was 2, but it was too young for me to remember any of it, and didn’t return until I was 14. My parents spoke only English to me growing up, and while we did eat Indian food at home quite often and watch the occasional Bollywood film, my connection to my culture was rather limited.

Growing up I saw how the people around me thought of and reacted to Indian people – mocking their accents, joking about how they’re terrorists or smell like curry, and just generally otherizing them. As I grew older and became more aware of this, my desire to fit in and be “cool” grew and I found myself increasingly separating myself from my culture. I was grateful to not have any semblance of an accent, and voiced strong opposition any time my dad suggested that I sign up for a Bhangra (a type of Indian dance, specifically Punjabi) class. I sought to separate myself from the “weird” Indian kids, and show my peers that I was like them, effectively whitewashing myself in order to gain acceptance.

It’s taken a long time for me to break free from this mindset of assimilation, and it’s still something I’m working on to this day to be honest. I visited India last year for the first time in 12 years for my older brother’s wedding, where I not only got to participate in a traditional Indian wedding dance but help teach it to the rest of the participants, as my girlfriend was the one who choreographed it. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so much of my family (the vast majority of whom live in India) but it hurt to not be able to communicate with all of them as effectively as I would have liked, due to my inability to speak or understand Hindi. Though it will be very challenging as an adult, I hope to be able to dedicate the time to truly learn to speak one day.

Yet even despite this language barrier, being in my Motherland and taking in all the sights and sounds I felt something deep inside of me connected to this place. The art, the dance, and especially the music made me feel something in my soul that nothing else could, something indescribably beautiful. It was comforting, yet inspiring at the same time.

I was at peace. I was home.