I am a first generation Indian American, the eldest of three children (one sister and one brother). My parents definitely brought me up in a traditional desi household. Hardly anything pertained to the American culture while I was in elementary school. Mom stayed at home taking care of us and doing the typical chores that were expected of an Indian housewife, while Dad went to work. The traditional “sidi-saadhi” role was expected from me and my sister at all times, doing household chores, never talking back to anyone, keeping our opinions to ourselves, never talking back to anyone. We were to listen to everything our parents told us. My parents expected the most from me since I was the oldest and because I was the oldest, there was always a clash of cultures between school and home.
At home, I spoke Punjabi and ate Indian food. At school, I spoke English and socialized with peers of other cultures. Growing up, I noticed that my parents and I could not see eye to eye due to this and they continued to expect that I follow everything they told me. As stubborn as I was and still am, I fought my way to have some say in the family. I spoke up, I used my voice and talked back whether if it was going to a friend’s house or a night out with friends. If I had something to say I would not allow myself to hold it back.
At 22 years old, I can honestly say the fight for yourself never ends. My parents wanted me to stay at home for college and study something in the medical field, which I did. However, I felt like I missed the whole college experience that my friends were having, and that is something I regret. I know if it was one of my male cousins going away for college, it would be absolutely no big deal. I have two male cousins who went to Michigan and NYU for college, my family was so proud that these two boys were going out on their own to achieve their dreams. I never got that enthusiasm or motivation even though I commuted to a college of my parents choice.
There are definitely different expectations for boys in the family. It didn't matter what they did, who they were with, where they were or how long they were allowed to stay out. There was always a double standard growing up. As girls, we were expected to be home before a specific time, making it more difficult for us to go to any social gatherings in the evening with our friends. Our parents wouldn't want us to dress a certain way or have certain beverages. I am not supposed to be doing the 3 D’s: Drinking, drugs, and dating. But let’s be realistic, in America this is all considered ‘normal’. These restrictions have definitely affected me. I was more reserved and shy in my classes and always felt like I didn’t belong. I didn’t know who I was because I lived two separate lives between home and school. Quite frankly, I enjoyed my school life because I was free to be myself while I resented my life at home where my parents and I would never see eye to eye. Had these restrictions not been imposed on me, I would have gone away to college such as Chicago, Seattle or Michigan and studied medicine there.
Don’t hold yourself back from doing what YOU want to do. If we keep our opinions to ourselves or never use our voices, we will never make a change in our households or in society. Suppressing ourselves is a waste of life. Just because we are girls does not mean we can’t do anything boys can do simply because of our gender. If you want to study in a particular field that is not medicine, then do so, otherwise having no passion for what you are studying will only make you miserable in the long run.