Feeling “American”

As many Punjabi Sikh homes across America celebrated Thanksgiving with the traditional Turkey dinner with all the fixins, chollaa puraa with a side of dhaee, or chicken/turkey cooked in good old Masalaa, I wonder about our internal struggle to feel American.

Although much of Jhumpa Lahiris work [previous TLH coverage] focuses on the issues encountered by middle to upper-middle class immigrant Indians and their children (i.e. Bengali) in America, her recent NPR interview on the struggle to feel American can resonate across the immigrant experience. Thus, complicating the notion of what it means to be American in the first place.

As a child of Indian immigrants born in the West, Lahiri says “there is sort of a half-way feeling [of being American] for her.

However, her parents never thought of themselves as American:

they’ve lived here now for more than half of their lives, and they raised a family here and now have grandchildren here. … It has become their home but at the same time, for my parents, I don’t think either of them will ever consciously think, ‘I am an American” [both are American citizens].

This situation is similar for many of us and our immigrant parents. I know for myself, I never really felt 100% American growing up my family ties to Punjab relatives spread out all over the globe the language we spoke at home, the way we acted, and the food we ate never made me feel All American. However, I also knew that I was a vilayati both here (America) and there (Punjab).

Yes, we can say that we need to re-conceptualize what it means to be American. However, I know there is a difference between how I feel American versus my white friend who can barely remember what country her great-great grandparents were from, let alone watching her parents figure out what calling plan is the best for Sweden to reach relatives. She identifies more strongly with the Dust Bowl than with transnationalism. But at the end of the day, when she wants to cross the border to Canada or Mexico, we are both American.

For my parents, being American is complicated in a different way and even more so for my Nanaji and Naniji.

I remember when I asked my Nanaji to vote because it was his right as an American, he told me that he became an American citizen not to be an American but to apply for relatives and gain benefits. Emotionally his links remain in Punjab he worries about his home in the pind, pension in Punjab, and is obsessed with Punjabi news (thank gawd for Alpha Etc Punjabi and Zee TV news).

So, I ask how do you or don’t you feel “American”? How about your parents and grandparents?


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44 Responses to “Feeling “American””

  1. Harinder says:

    I feel Punjabis will alway be Punjabis where ever they may go ( Mars ,galaxies etc etc )

    I do not know why it is so?

    It could be the :-

    1) History ,

    2) Language ,

    3) Culture ,Music

    4) Geography ,

    5) Religion /Divine or

    6) to put it more earthly "THE MITTI OF PUNJAB"

    Which cause u all NRI Punjabis attribute it to?

  2. Harinder says:

    I feel Punjabis will alway be Punjabis where ever they may go ( Mars ,galaxies etc etc )
    I do not know why it is so?
    It could be the :-

    1) History ,
    2) Language ,
    3) Culture ,Music
    4) Geography ,
    5) Religion /Divine or
    6) to put it more earthly “THE MITTI OF PUNJAB”
    Which cause u all NRI Punjabis attribute it to?

  3. Suki says:

    I remember when I asked my Nanaji to vote because it was his right as an American, he told me that he became an American citizen not to be an “American” but to apply for relatives and gain benefits. Emotionally his links remain in Punjab … he worries about his home in the pind, pension in Punjab, and is obsessed with Punjabi news (dear gawd for Alpha Etc Punjabi and Zee TV news).

    This is the same thing that I have heard a millions times over and over the last 6 years from many in the last 6 years since I lived in Vancouver and for some reason it drives me crazy. I also find it weird that they have no problems make sterotypes about whites, blacks and other races about how they have no culture or morals. Yet some one give them a wrong look and they are quick to play the race card.

  4. Suki says:

    I remember when I asked my Nanaji to vote because it was his right as an American, he told me that he became an American citizen not to be an American but to apply for relatives and gain benefits. Emotionally his links remain in Punjab he worries about his home in the pind, pension in Punjab, and is obsessed with Punjabi news (dear gawd for Alpha Etc Punjabi and Zee TV news).

    This is the same thing that I have heard a millions times over and over the last 6 years from many in the last 6 years since I lived in Vancouver and for some reason it drives me crazy. I also find it weird that they have no problems make sterotypes about whites, blacks and other races about how they have no culture or morals. Yet some one give them a wrong look and they are quick to play the race card.

  5. Suki says:

    So, I ask how do you or don’t you feel “American”? How about your parents and grandparents?

    I think alot of this may depend on where you grow up and also the English level of you parents and if they can communicate with there neighbors. If you grow up in an area with less punjabi/Indian population there a more of chance where you feel American 1st. Where if you grow up with alot of punjabi in the area, you are less likely to feel American.

  6. Suki says:

    So, I ask how do you or dont you feel American? How about your parents and grandparents?

    I think alot of this may depend on where you grow up and also the English level of you parents and if they can communicate with there neighbors. If you grow up in an area with less punjabi/Indian population there a more of chance where you feel American 1st. Where if you grow up with alot of punjabi in the area, you are less likely to feel American.

  7. Dalsher Singh says:

    Suki,

    I don't necessarily feel it's the environment outside of your house which influences you as much as it is inside your household. I live in a town of 5000 people, in central Pennsylvania, where there isn't an Indian person, let alone Punjabi family, for a 50 mile radius. However, I think it's due to the fact that my parents speak very limited English that I have maintained my very strong ties to not only the Punjabi language, but the culture as well. We don't speak english in the house, so I am incredibly comfortable with speaking Punjabi. However, it so greatly disappoints me when I see the children, some who I grew up with, that speak such limited Punjabi – and when I look back at what the reason could be – a common thread among all of those people is that they spoke english freely at home with their parents because their parents were worried that they wouldn't 'fit' in with the general population.

    This goes directly into my main point – I don't want to or don't haveto feel "American." I was born in this country, and ergo I am American. One who strives to be American is doing so at a very costly rate, for that person is loosing who he or she truly is – they are loosing their roots. What I want to be is Punjabi because that's my culture; what I want is for the language of Punjabi to revitalized so that when I have children, the language isn't one of the thousands which have been removed from the face of this planet. Do people know that Punjabi is one of the fastest diminishing languages in this world? Once we loose what little connection we have with Punjab, we will be left stranded, and that is not a desired position.

    Gurfateh

  8. Dalsher Singh says:

    Suki,

    I don’t necessarily feel it’s the environment outside of your house which influences you as much as it is inside your household. I live in a town of 5000 people, in central Pennsylvania, where there isn’t an Indian person, let alone Punjabi family, for a 50 mile radius. However, I think it’s due to the fact that my parents speak very limited English that I have maintained my very strong ties to not only the Punjabi language, but the culture as well. We don’t speak english in the house, so I am incredibly comfortable with speaking Punjabi. However, it so greatly disappoints me when I see the children, some who I grew up with, that speak such limited Punjabi – and when I look back at what the reason could be – a common thread among all of those people is that they spoke english freely at home with their parents because their parents were worried that they wouldn’t ‘fit’ in with the general population.
    This goes directly into my main point – I don’t want to or don’t haveto feel “American.” I was born in this country, and ergo I am American. One who strives to be American is doing so at a very costly rate, for that person is loosing who he or she truly is – they are loosing their roots. What I want to be is Punjabi because that’s my culture; what I want is for the language of Punjabi to revitalized so that when I have children, the language isn’t one of the thousands which have been removed from the face of this planet. Do people know that Punjabi is one of the fastest diminishing languages in this world? Once we loose what little connection we have with Punjab, we will be left stranded, and that is not a desired position.

    Gurfateh

  9. Suki says:

    I live in a town of 5000 people, in central Pennsylvania, where there isn’t an Indian person, let alone Punjabi family, for a 50 mile radius.

    Daleshir, how was this for you parents. Were you parents able to become part of the community and did they socialize with neighbors and other people in the community and make any long term friendships

    I was born and raised in small town Canada in area that was close to 98% white and my parents have lived there for 35 years since they came to Canada. My parents have many friendships with people of other backgrouds that have lasted 2 and 3 decades. Most of the people in my town knew who my parents were, and didn't look as them as that foreign family but instead of the fellow townspeople.

  10. Suki says:

    I live in a town of 5000 people, in central Pennsylvania, where there isnt an Indian person, let alone Punjabi family, for a 50 mile radius.

    Daleshir, how was this for you parents. Were you parents able to become part of the community and did they socialize with neighbors and other people in the community and make any long term friendships

    I was born and raised in small town Canada in area that was close to 98% white and my parents have lived there for 35 years since they came to Canada. My parents have many friendships with people of other backgrouds that have lasted 2 and 3 decades. Most of the people in my town knew who my parents were, and didn’t look as them as that foreign family but instead of the fellow townspeople.

  11. Dalsher Singh says:

    Suki,

    I actually don't understand how it is even remotely possible for you to misspell my name when it is clearly written right above you. Was there an underlying intention in doing so?

    On to your point – my parents have been in this country for almost twenty years now, but we have been in this remote town for about five years. My parents are very diligent workers who still have that immigrant worker mentality (note: I am in NO WAY saying that mentality is negative, but rather praise it, for it makes for work ethic) and as a result, are working close to 15 hours a days, not because they need to, but just because it's a routine they have. So because of that, they don't really interact with the community at all. We don't really interact with the Sikh community either because the gurdwara is about two hours away. So in essence, they don't really interact with the local 'American' community, but at the same time, it's not like they're oblivious to their surroundings. My parents love our town, and don't even have the remotest idea of leaving – for them, it's their pind – and it has become the same for my brother and I. However, my main point from the previous post was that it shouldn't be our goal as Sikhs or Punjabis to conform to an American Standard because then we are no longer anything.

    Gurfateh

  12. Dalsher Singh says:

    Suki,

    I actually don’t understand how it is even remotely possible for you to misspell my name when it is clearly written right above you. Was there an underlying intention in doing so?

    On to your point – my parents have been in this country for almost twenty years now, but we have been in this remote town for about five years. My parents are very diligent workers who still have that immigrant worker mentality (note: I am in NO WAY saying that mentality is negative, but rather praise it, for it makes for work ethic) and as a result, are working close to 15 hours a days, not because they need to, but just because it’s a routine they have. So because of that, they don’t really interact with the community at all. We don’t really interact with the Sikh community either because the gurdwara is about two hours away. So in essence, they don’t really interact with the local ‘American’ community, but at the same time, it’s not like they’re oblivious to their surroundings. My parents love our town, and don’t even have the remotest idea of leaving – for them, it’s their pind – and it has become the same for my brother and I. However, my main point from the previous post was that it shouldn’t be our goal as Sikhs or Punjabis to conform to an American Standard because then we are no longer anything.

    Gurfateh

  13. sizzle says:

    Dalsher writes:

    However, it so greatly disappoints me when I see the children, some who I grew up with, that speak such limited Punjabi – and when I look back at what the reason could be – a common thread among all of those people is that they spoke english freely at home with their parents because their parents were worried that they wouldn’t ‘fit’ in with the general population.

    I quibble with your point – but, I don’t want to take this on a tangent. I just don’t think that “parents worrying about their kids fitting in” can conclusively summarize why some people speak limited Punjabi.

    The real point that I want to make is – what is it to be American? I can speak for myself. I don’t really have a Punjabi identity at all. I am Sikh. I grew up listening to Kirtan, not Bhangra. I didn’t even know what Bhangra was until college. If I were to rank my identities, I’d rank myself Sikh first, American second, Punjabi a distant third. And that said, I seize the identity of calling myself an American with zeal. What is it to be American? I have studied in depth the American constitution, law, and history. I take great pride in the progressive history, the ideals that were instituted 250 years ago and how, while there were great, great shortcomings, have evolved via a system that was instituted. I get VH-1 shows, Family Guy, and anything else that are essentially a string of pop-culture references aimed at our generation. I will dominate you at Trivial Pursuit. I have an extensive classic rock and rock collection…and growing hip-hop collection. I follow sports rabidly, except baseball, which may be the quintessential American past time, but it is pretty boring (and there are plenty of 7th generation “Americans” who agree with me). I go to Thanksgiving dinners at white peoples’ homes when I am not able to make it home. I go to white weddings. I socialize plenty with white people. When I am called out by some fool who thinks I am an Arab, I almost DARE anyone to point out one tangible reason why I am different than any other American. Inevitably, the only difference is the color of my skin, the sound of my name, and my Sikh appearance. If that’s their only reason, they’re full of sh*t and don’t really understand what it is to be an American, so it’s kind of a moot point. For me – I am a Sikh who has retained Sikh ideals and culture, but was raised in America and can identify with “American” culture. Thus, I am as American as a Jewish American, Christian American, African American, Muslim American, etc. etc.. That said, if America didn’t permit me to be a Sikh, then I wouldn’t so proudly identify as an American, if at all. So, if there is someone who places American above any other identity (religious, regional, etc.), well, then they may be more American than me. Oh noes.

    So, what of someone who wasn’t born and raised here, and may have tangible differences from the prototypical American other than color, name, Sikh appearance? How do they define American? It’s up to them to seize? I’ve spoken to my dad about this – a proud American who immigrated when he was 30. To him, simply, America gave him immense opportunity and is filled with people with whom he can identify. Despite living and working here for 31 years, despite battling discrimination that almost destroyed him, not having a clue about American noise [music], never having read an American novel, doesn’t really watch movies, has no idea of any pop-culture reference, couldn’t tell you what a touchdown is, despite all of that, he still identifies on a human level with his clients. He enjoys them, they enjoy him, and he does very well. To him, the human relations despite such different upbringings and culture, the opportunity to make a living as a visible immigrant, to work hard and succeed, to send his children to school and see them succeed, to see his friends and clients’ succeed and seize upon infinite opportunities, to live and work in a nation where THEORETICALLY the sky is the limit – and when you are limited, a legal means by which to challenge that limitation. He is immensely proud of all of this – he proudly identifies himself as an American.

    So, there are two perspectives I thought I’d offer, both hinging on how an individual views America and how they may seize upon and OWN the definition. After all, it is what you make of it. Perhaps the question is, are you defining "American" yourself, or are you taking a someone else's definition and seeing if you fit within. That, ultimately, might be based on one's own experiences and pride.

  14. sizzle says:

    Dalsher writes:

    However, it so greatly disappoints me when I see the children, some who I grew up with, that speak such limited Punjabi – and when I look back at what the reason could be – a common thread among all of those people is that they spoke english freely at home with their parents because their parents were worried that they wouldnt fit in with the general population.

    I quibble with your point but, I dont want to take this on a tangent. I just dont think that parents worrying about their kids fitting in can conclusively summarize why some people speak limited Punjabi.

    The real point that I want to make is what is it to be American? I can speak for myself. I dont really have a Punjabi identity at all. I am Sikh. I grew up listening to Kirtan, not Bhangra. I didnt even know what Bhangra was until college. If I were to rank my identities, Id rank myself Sikh first, American second, Punjabi a distant third. And that said, I seize the identity of calling myself an American with zeal. What is it to be American? I have studied in depth the American constitution, law, and history. I take great pride in the progressive history, the ideals that were instituted 250 years ago and how, while there were great, great shortcomings, have evolved via a system that was instituted. I get VH-1 shows, Family Guy, and anything else that are essentially a string of pop-culture references aimed at our generation. I will dominate you at Trivial Pursuit. I have an extensive classic rock and rock collectionand growing hip-hop collection. I follow sports rabidly, except baseball, which may be the quintessential American past time, but it is pretty boring (and there are plenty of 7th generation Americans who agree with me). I go to Thanksgiving dinners at white peoples homes when I am not able to make it home. I go to white weddings. I socialize plenty with white people. When I am called out by some fool who thinks I am an Arab, I almost DARE anyone to point out one tangible reason why I am different than any other American. Inevitably, the only difference is the color of my skin, the sound of my name, and my Sikh appearance. If thats their only reason, theyre full of sh*t and dont really understand what it is to be an American, so its kind of a moot point. For me I am a Sikh who has retained Sikh ideals and culture, but was raised in America and can identify with American culture. Thus, I am as American as a Jewish American, Christian American, African American, Muslim American, etc. etc.. That said, if America didnt permit me to be a Sikh, then I wouldnt so proudly identify as an American, if at all. So, if there is someone who places American above any other identity (religious, regional, etc.), well, then they may be more American than me. Oh noes.

    So, what of someone who wasnt born and raised here, and may have tangible differences from the prototypical American other than color, name, Sikh appearance? How do they define American? Its up to them to seize? Ive spoken to my dad about this a proud American who immigrated when he was 30. To him, simply, America gave him immense opportunity and is filled with people with whom he can identify. Despite living and working here for 31 years, despite battling discrimination that almost destroyed him, not having a clue about American noise [music], never having read an American novel, doesnt really watch movies, has no idea of any pop-culture reference, couldnt tell you what a touchdown is, despite all of that, he still identifies on a human level with his clients. He enjoys them, they enjoy him, and he does very well. To him, the human relations despite such different upbringings and culture, the opportunity to make a living as a visible immigrant, to work hard and succeed, to send his children to school and see them succeed, to see his friends and clients succeed and seize upon infinite opportunities, to live and work in a nation where THEORETICALLY the sky is the limit and when you are limited, a legal means by which to challenge that limitation. He is immensely proud of all of this he proudly identifies himself as an American.

    So, there are two perspectives I thought Id offer, both hinging on how an individual views America and how they may seize upon and OWN the definition. After all, it is what you make of it. Perhaps the question is, are you defining “American” yourself, or are you taking a someone else’s definition and seeing if you fit within. That, ultimately, might be based on one’s own experiences and pride.

  15. sizzle says:

    To add one point – what is it to strive to be an American, as opposed to just being an American. If you take pride in something, own that sh*t.

  16. sizzle says:

    To add one point – what is it to strive to be an American, as opposed to just being an American. If you take pride in something, own that sh*t.

  17. Suki says:

    Was there an underlying intention in doing so?

    There was no intention to spell you name wrong.

  18. Dalsher Singh says:

    That is the absolute beauty of this nation – there is no standard for what is 'American.' I know it sounds so cliche, but the notion that this country is a melting pot is true, and for that reason, it's a culmination of various cultures. I feel, despite being born and bred on the soil of the US, that it's my duty to retain my Punjabi culture so it's not taken away from that melting pot. Now I am by no means a scholar on the US Constitution, but in the Bill of Rights, it's not a coincidence that the freedom to practice religion is under the first amendment because with religion comes culture. So many aspects of Punjabi culture are integrated into Sikhi, so no matter what country you're born in, no matter where your parents are from, if you practice Sikhi, you retain within you some Punjabi culture.

    I am in college right now, and no matter how many albums of CCR I own, I will never be viewed as just another american kid by my fellow peers – and I am perfectly fine with that notion. I hear it's become a common phrase among the Sikh youth these days, but a while ago, I heard the phrase: why blend in, when you're born to stand out. I completely understand the point you're making in that what does it mean for us to be American, and I argue that it takes our attachment to our roots for us to be American. Us giving up our roots, whether they're from Punjab, Kenya, Fiji, or any other nation that the Sikh Diaspora has reached, in order to conform to the book standard of the term American is the biggest mistake we can make. I challenge you to study the cases of Hispanic Sikh families in California during the 1940s-1980s – the offspring of the Sikh-Hispanic marriages were so confused as to what they were, and so driven in attempting to fit in with their fellow classmates, that they were never accepted by any group – the Punjabi, Hispanic, or Caucasian community. These claims have been documented, and it just shows that if we don't remain attached to what we come from, then we lose it all. I also recommend the documentary by Dashmesh Pictures titled: Roots, as it compliments my point. The documentary is about a ground-breaking ceremony for the building of a Gurdwara in DC; however the ground breaking ceremony of any Gurudwara also has a much deeper meaning: the preservation of one’s roots. “Roots” reflects on the connection between the establishment of Gurudwaras in today’s modern area and the history of Sikhism, which has its own roots based on the concepts service, truthfulness, and sacrifice.

  19. Suki says:

    Was there an underlying intention in doing so?

    There was no intention to spell you name wrong.

  20. Dalsher Singh says:

    That is the absolute beauty of this nation – there is no standard for what is ‘American.’ I know it sounds so cliche, but the notion that this country is a melting pot is true, and for that reason, it’s a culmination of various cultures. I feel, despite being born and bred on the soil of the US, that it’s my duty to retain my Punjabi culture so it’s not taken away from that melting pot. Now I am by no means a scholar on the US Constitution, but in the Bill of Rights, it’s not a coincidence that the freedom to practice religion is under the first amendment because with religion comes culture. So many aspects of Punjabi culture are integrated into Sikhi, so no matter what country you’re born in, no matter where your parents are from, if you practice Sikhi, you retain within you some Punjabi culture.

    I am in college right now, and no matter how many albums of CCR I own, I will never be viewed as just another american kid by my fellow peers – and I am perfectly fine with that notion. I hear it’s become a common phrase among the Sikh youth these days, but a while ago, I heard the phrase: why blend in, when you’re born to stand out. I completely understand the point you’re making in that what does it mean for us to be American, and I argue that it takes our attachment to our roots for us to be American. Us giving up our roots, whether they’re from Punjab, Kenya, Fiji, or any other nation that the Sikh Diaspora has reached, in order to conform to the book standard of the term American is the biggest mistake we can make. I challenge you to study the cases of Hispanic Sikh families in California during the 1940s-1980s – the offspring of the Sikh-Hispanic marriages were so confused as to what they were, and so driven in attempting to fit in with their fellow classmates, that they were never accepted by any group – the Punjabi, Hispanic, or Caucasian community. These claims have been documented, and it just shows that if we don’t remain attached to what we come from, then we lose it all. I also recommend the documentary by Dashmesh Pictures titled: Roots, as it compliments my point. The documentary is about a ground-breaking ceremony for the building of a Gurdwara in DC; however the ground breaking ceremony of any Gurudwara also has a much deeper meaning: the preservation of ones roots. Roots reflects on the connection between the establishment of Gurudwaras in todays modern area and the history of Sikhism, which has its own roots based on the concepts service, truthfulness, and sacrifice.

  21. Phulkari says:

    Sukhi,

    Although I understand your sentiments, I feel as though you are quick to use them to vilify immigrant Punjabis who live in ethnic enclaves (based on your previous comments on TLH that I have been following) because they don’t always have those "learning-moments" of interacting with all their white neighbors as you did.

    In this post, I was actually trying to complicate the notion of feeling "American", but you seemed to have super-imposed the traditional notion of it to make all your arguments … even on Canadians (wow, where is your Canadian pride).

    Personally, I don't blame my Nanaji for not feeling "American" enough to vote. He pays his taxes and gets benefits in return … sort of like a bank account. He spent more than half-a-century of his life in Punjab … that’s his emotional home. He doesn't have enough emotional attachment to America and it's politics for him to get-up and go vote like an "American". Thus, for him, feeling "American" means being able to apply for his relatives and get benefits. Where as my feeling of being American makes me want to go vote, but not be the "All American" poster-child. By the way, he speaks some English … I mean enough for him to interact with his white-neighbor … WOW he is on his way to being "American" right? Lastly, Punjabis stereotype whites and everyone else as much they stereotype Punjabis … let's move on.

    So, I really want to continue having a discussion with you Sukhi because your sentiments are real though your generalizations are false, but I am stuck with where to take it … any suggestions?

    ————————————————————————————————————

    Dalsher Singh,

    I completely agree,

    "… it shouldn’t be our goal as Sikhs or Punjabis to conform to an American Standard because then we are no longer anything."

    But I ask, are we completely divorced of the country (America) we live in? How has it influenced our personal sentiments of our national identities? [Dalsher Singh, I think you answered my question in your previous comment post … I think we were writing and posting at the same time. However, if you have anything else to add, please do so! :) ]

  22. Phulkari says:

    Sukhi,

    Although I understand your sentiments, I feel as though you are quick to use them to vilify immigrant Punjabis who live in ethnic enclaves (based on your previous comments on TLH that I have been following) because they dont always have those “learning-moments” of interacting with all their white neighbors as you did.

    In this post, I was actually trying to complicate the notion of feeling “American”, but you seemed to have super-imposed the traditional notion of it to make all your arguments … even on Canadians (wow, where is your Canadian pride).

    Personally, I don’t blame my Nanaji for not feeling “American” enough to vote. He pays his taxes and gets benefits in return … sort of like a bank account. He spent more than half-a-century of his life in Punjab thats his emotional home. He doesn’t have enough emotional attachment to America and it’s politics for him to get-up and go vote like an “American”. Thus, for him, feeling “American” means being able to apply for his relatives and get benefits. Where as my feeling of being American makes me want to go vote, but not be the “All American” poster-child. By the way, he speaks some English … I mean enough for him to interact with his white-neighbor … WOW he is on his way to being “American” right? Lastly, Punjabis stereotype whites and everyone else as much they stereotype Punjabis … let’s move on.

    So, I really want to continue having a discussion with you Sukhi because your sentiments are real though your generalizations are false, but I am stuck with where to take it … any suggestions?

    ————————————————————————————————————

    Dalsher Singh,

    I completely agree,

    “… it shouldnt be our goal as Sikhs or Punjabis to conform to an American Standard because then we are no longer anything.”

    But I ask, are we completely divorced of the country (America) we live in? How has it influenced our personal sentiments of our national identities? [Dalsher Singh, I think you answered my question in your previous comment post … I think we were writing and posting at the same time. However, if you have anything else to add, please do so! :) ]

  23. Phulkari says:

    Sizzle,

    Yeap … I sincerely thank you for your constructive comment! You captured the “feeling”! :)

    I agree with you,

    So, there are two perspectives I thought I’d offer, both hinging on how an individual views America and how they may seize upon and OWN the definition. After all, it is what you make of it. Perhaps the question is, are you defining “American” yourself, or are you taking a someone else’s definition and seeing if you fit within. That, ultimately, might be based on one’s own experiences and pride.

  24. Phulkari says:

    Sizzle,

    Yeap … I sincerely thank you for your constructive comment! You captured the feeling! :)

    I agree with you,

    So, there are two perspectives I thought Id offer, both hinging on how an individual views America and how they may seize upon and OWN the definition. After all, it is what you make of it. Perhaps the question is, are you defining American yourself, or are you taking a someone elses definition and seeing if you fit within. That, ultimately, might be based on ones own experiences and pride.

  25. sizzle says:

    my comments are always constructive.

  26. sizzle says:

    my comments are always constructive.

  27. Publius says:

    I am American. I "feel" American because I believe in the American experiment in liberty and equality set forth by the Framers, I believe in the rule of law, I believe in the promise of prosperity and equal opportunity, I believe in religious freedom and due process, etc. I feel blessed to be part of this imperfect, but ongoing experiment.

    In my mind, it's a relatively easy question. For others — with different experiences, views of what "American" means to them, how those views can be reconciled with other aspects of their identity — the question may be more complicated.

  28. Publius says:

    I am American. I “feel” American because I believe in the American experiment in liberty and equality set forth by the Framers, I believe in the rule of law, I believe in the promise of prosperity and equal opportunity, I believe in religious freedom and due process, etc. I feel blessed to be part of this imperfect, but ongoing experiment.

    In my mind, it’s a relatively easy question. For others — with different experiences, views of what “American” means to them, how those views can be reconciled with other aspects of their identity — the question may be more complicated.

  29. Raja says:

    I am Canadian, but I love reading these comments.

    I guess personally, I never fully see myself as Canadian because of barriers that still exist socially. When educated young people, ask you "what are you" and you reply "canadian", and then turn around and say, "no really, what are you"… speaks volumes about the barriers that still exist.

    Even though I was born in Punjab and travel back every year and am proud of my heritage, I came here @ a very young age. During my medical school interviews, I remember walking into a room of white faces, whose mommies and daddies who were all aluminai. I think about when will I walk into an interview like this where the faces will be representative of the population. I think about the struggles we face as a community, even in a place like Toronto where there is no shortage of Punjabis.

    I remember watching "The View" (dont hate haha) and Whoppi said something interesting. She said when Obama was elected, her grandmother who went through the civil rights movement, and blacks not being able to actually vote, and so forth; she said she felt as if she could "finally put her bags down". That she could finally "put down her luggage". I found that SO profound (dont hate, you liked sister act too). I guess as a Canadian, even though there are advancements in our community everyday, I am waiting to "put down my bags".

    Then again prejudice will always exist. Until we as a community cant branch into the upper classes of our repective countries (without comprimising our heritage) I guess there will always be feelings of inferiority.

    I am not this negative all the time, I actually enjoy life haha.

  30. Raja says:

    I am Canadian, but I love reading these comments.

    I guess personally, I never fully see myself as Canadian because of barriers that still exist socially. When educated young people, ask you “what are you” and you reply “canadian”, and then turn around and say, “no really, what are you”… speaks volumes about the barriers that still exist.

    Even though I was born in Punjab and travel back every year and am proud of my heritage, I came here @ a very young age. During my medical school interviews, I remember walking into a room of white faces, whose mommies and daddies who were all aluminai. I think about when will I walk into an interview like this where the faces will be representative of the population. I think about the struggles we face as a community, even in a place like Toronto where there is no shortage of Punjabis.

    I remember watching “The View” (dont hate haha) and Whoppi said something interesting. She said when Obama was elected, her grandmother who went through the civil rights movement, and blacks not being able to actually vote, and so forth; she said she felt as if she could “finally put her bags down”. That she could finally “put down her luggage”. I found that SO profound (dont hate, you liked sister act too). I guess as a Canadian, even though there are advancements in our community everyday, I am waiting to “put down my bags”.

    Then again prejudice will always exist. Until we as a community cant branch into the upper classes of our repective countries (without comprimising our heritage) I guess there will always be feelings of inferiority.

    I am not this negative all the time, I actually enjoy life haha.

  31. Publius says:

    The View, Whoopi, Sister Act?!

    I won't hate, instead I give you props for openly admitting your interest in those three things!

  32. Publius says:

    The View, Whoopi, Sister Act?!

    I won’t hate, instead I give you props for openly admitting your interest in those three things!

  33. Phulkari says:

    Raja,

    No hate here … I like "The View" too, second to "Oprah" I have to admit! Good thing you’re enjoying the comments … kudos to the commentators (we wouldn't have much of a blog without you … even though some of you annoy the bajeezus out of us)!

    I agree, when can we "put down our bags" too; but then again, do we even want to permanently (would that make someone feel "American")? I agree, the racism needs to go, but do we want to lose our transnational connections and the type of mobility they provoke?

    Also, you write that one way of escaping prejudice is to "branch into the upper classes", but isn't that just another prejudice? There are plenty of Punjabi Sikhs with the money, power, and connections who have “moved-up” and "maintained" their heritage in the West, but many of them think they are "better" than their working-class brothers/sisters. I feel as though, it's just not "us" against the white "them" … we have plenty of hate within our own community, which influences feelings of being "American". One of the biggest is the whole F.O.B situation where the 2nd generation and those who have been in America for awhile demean the newly arrived (not just for months but years).

  34. Phulkari says:

    Raja,

    No hate here … I like “The View” too, second to “Oprah” I have to admit! Good thing youre enjoying the comments … kudos to the commentators (we wouldn’t have much of a blog without you … even though some of you annoy the bajeezus out of us)!

    I agree, when can we “put down our bags” too; but then again, do we even want to permanently (would that make someone feel “American”)? I agree, the racism needs to go, but do we want to lose our transnational connections and the type of mobility they provoke?

    Also, you write that one way of escaping prejudice is to “branch into the upper classes”, but isn’t that just another prejudice? There are plenty of Punjabi Sikhs with the money, power, and connections who have moved-up and “maintained” their heritage in the West, but many of them think they are “better” than their working-class brothers/sisters. I feel as though, it’s just not “us” against the white “them” … we have plenty of hate within our own community, which influences feelings of being “American”. One of the biggest is the whole F.O.B situation where the 2nd generation and those who have been in America for awhile demean the newly arrived (not just for months but years).

  35. Suki says:

    So, I really want to continue having a discussion with you Sukhi because your sentiments are real though your generalizations are false, but I am stuck with where to take it … any suggestions?

    If you want to disagree with me, I have no problems with that. My views come from my 32 years of being born and raised in North America, and my life experiences.

  36. Suki says:

    So, I really want to continue having a discussion with you Sukhi because your sentiments are real though your generalizations are false, but I am stuck with where to take it any suggestions?

    If you want to disagree with me, I have no problems with that. My views come from my 32 years of being born and raised in North America, and my life experiences.

  37. Suki says:

    The issue of being punjabi and sikh vs american is an issue that my sister will have to deal with when she has kids. She just get married to a Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu person who is not very religous and neither is my sister. Will my future neices or nephews be Punjabi Sikh American, Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu American, Indo-American or just American.

    The thing was that we had 2 wedding celebrations, the 1st was in Vancouver in sikh cermony. The music at wedding party was typical punjabi bangra music. Yet all my brother-in-laws friends most of them the white wall street type and all his Sri Lankan relatives danced to song and had a great time partying all night.

    The 2nd part of the wedding was in New York for the hindu part of the ceremony. At the party the music was done a live band playing all english songs. And I noticed that some of my punjabi relatives seemed to not really enjoy it. My brother-in-law noticed this and halfway through the party the band stoped and they played a couple of bangra songs and all of sudden just to make my relatives happy.

    After the wedding my brother-in-law said to me noticed that some punjabi people needs to open there horizons. He said there nothing wrong for one loving there own culture, but at the same time living in the west, you can't live in a bubble. Was it wrong for my brother in law to say that.

  38. Suki says:

    The issue of being punjabi and sikh vs american is an issue that my sister will have to deal with when she has kids. She just get married to a Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu person who is not very religous and neither is my sister. Will my future neices or nephews be Punjabi Sikh American, Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu American, Indo-American or just American.

    The thing was that we had 2 wedding celebrations, the 1st was in Vancouver in sikh cermony. The music at wedding party was typical punjabi bangra music. Yet all my brother-in-laws friends most of them the white wall street type and all his Sri Lankan relatives danced to song and had a great time partying all night.

    The 2nd part of the wedding was in New York for the hindu part of the ceremony. At the party the music was done a live band playing all english songs. And I noticed that some of my punjabi relatives seemed to not really enjoy it. My brother-in-law noticed this and halfway through the party the band stoped and they played a couple of bangra songs and all of sudden just to make my relatives happy.

    After the wedding my brother-in-law said to me noticed that some punjabi people needs to open there horizons. He said there nothing wrong for one loving there own culture, but at the same time living in the west, you can’t live in a bubble. Was it wrong for my brother in law to say that.

  39. Phulkari says:

    Sukhi,

    I don't doubt your opinions are based on your 32 years of living in North America and it’s pretty obvious I already disagree with you. But disagreeing doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation. However, when you’re continually hitting a brick wall of assumptions and hatred you sure do feel like stopping. So, I thought you may have some suggestions, but it doesn’t seem like it … your stuck on building your brick wall higher and higher.

    So, that said here is my last comment to you on this topic unless you make an effort otherwise. I think you can have 100 years of experience living in Vancouver but your deficit-model approach to understanding fellow Punjabis will keep you confined in your vilifying world. You won't learn anything new, but just continue to reify your current beliefs. Thus, never being satisfied with the Punjabi community. You will never understand and connect with them and they will continue to piss you off.

    At the end of the day, truly it's your own loss … maybe if you could be open to understanding the variation among Punjabis more openly you would find that they may actually understand and sympathize with your sentiments, even if they chose not to live like you and you not like them. Heck, if they see you as someone who understands them rather than someone who belittles … they may even try dancing to an English song at a wedding reception; even though they think it’s really weird and awkward or at least supportively smile as you dance to it!

  40. Phulkari says:

    Sukhi,

    I don’t doubt your opinions are based on your 32 years of living in North America and its pretty obvious I already disagree with you. But disagreeing doesnt mean you cant have a conversation. However, when youre continually hitting a brick wall of assumptions and hatred you sure do feel like stopping. So, I thought you may have some suggestions, but it doesnt seem like it your stuck on building your brick wall higher and higher.

    So, that said here is my last comment to you on this topic unless you make an effort otherwise. I think you can have 100 years of experience living in Vancouver but your deficit-model approach to understanding fellow Punjabis will keep you confined in your vilifying world. You won’t learn anything new, but just continue to reify your current beliefs. Thus, never being satisfied with the Punjabi community. You will never understand and connect with them and they will continue to piss you off.

    At the end of the day, truly it’s your own loss … maybe if you could be open to understanding the variation among Punjabis more openly you would find that they may actually understand and sympathize with your sentiments, even if they chose not to live like you and you not like them. Heck, if they see you as someone who understands them rather than someone who belittles … they may even try dancing to an English song at a wedding reception; even though they think its really weird and awkward or at least supportively smile as you dance to it!

  41. Kristin Kaur says:

    Sukhi,

    I really hope you can look at Punjabi community from different perspective. May be it will be a good idea to read all your comments one day to notice how repetitive they are on TLH and Sepia Mutiny. You clearly seem to paint Punjabis with this broad brush- uneducated, illiterate, backward etc. Let us imagine how you will interact if you were living in a community when you can't speak their language. Will you have any social life? I have taught English to elderly Punjabi men and women here in United States. I actually commend their willingness to even live in this country with very limited language skills. They do that because they want to live close to their children.

    My own parents never went to school in Punjab. Yet, for years they did let me live alone in this country. I actually visited them only once during that period ( I am not proud of this fact). Over here I met very educated and financially affluent Indians and Americans who seem to control their children more than my parents ever controlled me. Variables such as education, income, social status, ethnic background are not real predictors of someone's willingness to understand other cultures. Probably our life experiences are greater predictor of understanding variations among one group. You are not willing to understand variation among Punjabis ( even when you can speak Punjabi) because of your life experiences. So how can you judge Punjabis with no English skills of not open enough to understand the variation among other groups?

    For your information- For us immigrants joys of present are full of memories of the past. The longing for home is called up with every tangible reminder of our culture. I feel this despite the fact I have been involved in the political process here. On daily basis I interact with people from different parts of the world compared to people of India. Yet in my recent memory the happiest moment in life had been my interaction with Pakistani woman from Multan because I could hear melody of my native tongue.

  42. Kristin Kaur says:

    Sukhi,
    I really hope you can look at Punjabi community from different perspective. May be it will be a good idea to read all your comments one day to notice how repetitive they are on TLH and Sepia Mutiny. You clearly seem to paint Punjabis with this broad brush- uneducated, illiterate, backward etc. Let us imagine how you will interact if you were living in a community when you can’t speak their language. Will you have any social life? I have taught English to elderly Punjabi men and women here in United States. I actually commend their willingness to even live in this country with very limited language skills. They do that because they want to live close to their children.
    My own parents never went to school in Punjab. Yet, for years they did let me live alone in this country. I actually visited them only once during that period ( I am not proud of this fact). Over here I met very educated and financially affluent Indians and Americans who seem to control their children more than my parents ever controlled me. Variables such as education, income, social status, ethnic background are not real predictors of someone’s willingness to understand other cultures. Probably our life experiences are greater predictor of understanding variations among one group. You are not willing to understand variation among Punjabis ( even when you can speak Punjabi) because of your life experiences. So how can you judge Punjabis with no English skills of not open enough to understand the variation among other groups?
    For your information- For us immigrants joys of present are full of memories of the past. The longing for home is called up with every tangible reminder of our culture. I feel this despite the fact I have been involved in the political process here. On daily basis I interact with people from different parts of the world compared to people of India. Yet in my recent memory the happiest moment in life had been my interaction with Pakistani woman from Multan because I could hear melody of my native tongue.

  43. Raja says:

    Hahaah, I am glad I am getting love and not being shunned by everyone for admitting my love for the view haha. I

    REALLY WANT PEOPLE TO HELP ME OUT WITH SOMETHING, SO PLEASE GIVE YOU 2 CENTS IF YOU CAN, ITS RELATED TO THIS ISSUE:

    So I had an argument with some hospital staff today. Basically the argument went like this. Three Jamaican nurses claimed to me that people who are born outside the country, HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF THE COUNTRY THAT THEY LIVE IN. Mind you, we are in Canada, a country who prides itself on equality in every sense of the word. They argued that (mind you these three women are from countries in which English is the majority) it is extremely rude when other non-Punjabi speaking people are in a room, for two people to carry on a conversation in their native language. They found it "rude". They claimed that since we were in "their" country that, it was an obligation for us to learn "their" language (an example of what I was talking about, not feeling at home).

    I argued the following: a) People enjoy equality as long as it is below the majority. Along as the majority has a sense of superiority and power, then equality is fine amongst the inferior. We see this in this language debate. I argued that if Canada is to pride themselves on equality in every sense of the word, it shouldn't upset you if people, regardless of the environment speaks their native language.

    They argued (it got heated) that they felt alienated in the sense that they didn't know what they were talking about. I argued, that again on the basis that we believe in equality, the alienation that they feel on an everyday basis, maybe not being able to speak the language as fluent as other, is much more than what they may feel.

    Secondly I felt that reductionism of the immigration identity is very prevalent in the west. If one were to study imperialistic notions, and tactics, they would realize that there are two ways to effectively reduce the minority. One is to either assimilate them completely into you own culture (either by reduction of their identity or promotion of one's own) or create institutions to keep them at a distance from the majority and their power. Language control is definitely a way to reduce their identity. You trivialize a language as merely a way to reinforce the "importance" or the superior aspect of the dominating language.

    I could go on, but I wont. I LITERALLY JUST HAD THIS ARGUMENT ABOUT 2 HOURS, so my mind is still on it, I guess I evaluate the points raised in this thread after I hear some opinions (ie- the talk about reaching upper classes)… Interested to hear your thoughts.

  44. Raja says:

    Hahaah, I am glad I am getting love and not being shunned by everyone for admitting my love for the view haha. I

    REALLY WANT PEOPLE TO HELP ME OUT WITH SOMETHING, SO PLEASE GIVE YOU 2 CENTS IF YOU CAN, ITS RELATED TO THIS ISSUE:

    So I had an argument with some hospital staff today. Basically the argument went like this. Three Jamaican nurses claimed to me that people who are born outside the country, HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF THE COUNTRY THAT THEY LIVE IN. Mind you, we are in Canada, a country who prides itself on equality in every sense of the word. They argued that (mind you these three women are from countries in which English is the majority) it is extremely rude when other non-Punjabi speaking people are in a room, for two people to carry on a conversation in their native language. They found it “rude”. They claimed that since we were in “their” country that, it was an obligation for us to learn “their” language (an example of what I was talking about, not feeling at home).

    I argued the following: a) People enjoy equality as long as it is below the majority. Along as the majority has a sense of superiority and power, then equality is fine amongst the inferior. We see this in this language debate. I argued that if Canada is to pride themselves on equality in every sense of the word, it shouldn’t upset you if people, regardless of the environment speaks their native language.

    They argued (it got heated) that they felt alienated in the sense that they didn’t know what they were talking about. I argued, that again on the basis that we believe in equality, the alienation that they feel on an everyday basis, maybe not being able to speak the language as fluent as other, is much more than what they may feel.

    Secondly I felt that reductionism of the immigration identity is very prevalent in the west. If one were to study imperialistic notions, and tactics, they would realize that there are two ways to effectively reduce the minority. One is to either assimilate them completely into you own culture (either by reduction of their identity or promotion of one’s own) or create institutions to keep them at a distance from the majority and their power. Language control is definitely a way to reduce their identity. You trivialize a language as merely a way to reinforce the “importance” or the superior aspect of the dominating language.

    I could go on, but I wont. I LITERALLY JUST HAD THIS ARGUMENT ABOUT 2 HOURS, so my mind is still on it, I guess I evaluate the points raised in this thread after I hear some opinions (ie- the talk about reaching upper classes)… Interested to hear your thoughts.