Categorized | Culture

“Being Different”

Posted on 28 July 2010 by .

For many, life can appear meaningless unless it is imbibed with a purpose. Finding your identity can often go hand in hand with discovering this purpose. Identity is the core from which we pursue our passions and goals, but can also rope us in to a confining belief of who we are.

For a great deal of South Asian citizens in Canada, this identity is derived from culture, religion and traditions. While this elevates us into a sphere of exoticism and purpose, it can also restrict us from a level of personal discovery. What I have always wondered though, is if this pursuit of identity is a one-track process that we pursue throughout life? Another possibility is that we rediscover this identity through each stage of life, from childhood to elderhood. Rather than identity becoming more solidified as we move forwards, it may just redefine itself during each stage. My interest is in discovering how this identity varies from the point we are in our life.

In North America, South Asian identity for a child will be rather different from that of an elder. A common belief is that once you reach the stage of elderhood, you will understand and accept what it means to be a South Asian in North America. However this may not be the case, and there may be new complexities that are added into the equation. Can we ever truly be comfortable in a transplanted culture?

Children have a wonderfully perceptive ability. Their young minds are not as littered with politics and other complications, and they are often known to speak of some uncomfortable truths. So what does a South Asian child in North America feel about his or her identity in relation to their peers?

This can vary based on a number of factors. For example, we may consider what area of Canada they live in, because surely someone growing up in Mississauga or Brampton will have a very different experience. For example, I grew up in a place called Port Elgin which had a population of 6000 people and a negative percentage of South Asian individuals.  My experience growing up was very focused on trying to integrate as much as possible, since I embodied the term “different.” As a kid, being different doesn’t seem to have much intrinsic value, nor does it provide us excitement for “going against the stream.” A child is simple, and wishes for their life to be as such. This simplicity is, truthfully, harder to find when you are trying to explain why your mom packed you a roti in your lunch and why you cannot go out because you have to pray instead.

For children who grow up in a populated South Asian region, their experience will reflect a child who is surrounded by similar environments from home to school. They don’t have to learn to adapt as much, and they may not even consciously think about the fact that they are “different.”

Who figures out their identity better in this scenario? It depends on your notion of identity. In some cases, South Asian kids residing in predominantly Caucasian communities may have a greater drive to discover who they are and how they fit into the world around them. South Asian children that live in areas more “brown oriented” may feel too comfortable in their environment, and never think to question or analyze their identity.  Similarly, however, these same kids may find the high population of South Asians as a motivation to push past their cultural label, and to discover something beyond it.

While Childhood as a stage does not offer the peak of self-discovery in one’s life, it does allow for a South Asian child to begin thinking more generally about how they fit into the world around them.

Author: Myuri S. Komaragiri

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