The definition of being Asian in Jersey City: Chinese New Year. Dumplings. Halal. Curry. Lotuses. Tagalog. Diwali. Eid. Newark Ave. Brown. Yellow. Accents. Culture. Tradition. Ancestors.
Being Asian to me means waking up as early as 4 A.M to study for any upcoming exams and going to bed at 8 P.M that night as to be energized for the coming morning. Being Asian to me means taking off my shoes when I enter anyone’s house no matter what race the owner is out of respect. Being Asian to me means paying homage to my ancestors once a year to honor them for looking out for me. Being Asian to me means not having a regular American diet; mine consists of rice, curry, and other delicacies
Being Asian to me means having to live up to high expectations and no matter how much one tries, one can never achieve them. Being Asian to me means having my life decided for me before I am born (“My child will grow up to be a doctor, or lawyer, or some prestigious businessman”). Being Asian to me means indulging only in academics (anything else is a distraction). Being Asian to me means not wearing too short skirts or shorts, otherwise the boys will look. Being Asian to me means maintaining a conservative mindset as to properly train our own children when we are older. Being Asian to me means everything.
A blurb about my background: I come from a West Indian/Guyanese background centralized around Indian culture. While my parents were both born in Guyana, I was born here in Secaucus, NJ. Bits and pieces of Indian culture seeped into my persona from a very young age. Only yesterday, my mother told me a story about when I was five.
You never used to like watching Indian movies. I had to properly train you because every time I would put one on, you would cry and go to sleep. Eventually, you started liking Indian movies, and look at you now. I think I did a good job.
-My mother’s comment after I told her that I only had Indian songs on my playlist.
I’ve never watched iCarly, Victorious, the Jonas Brothers, or any of those other shows people of my age had grown up with. My world was overrun with fictionalized ideas of romance, slapstick comedy, translating sentences from another language, catchy foreign tunes, and songs appearing on the screen every ten minutes, Up to third grade, I had no idea that the American entertainment industry existed, as I had not listened to American music either.
But that’s beside the point. My induced love for Indian cinema soon influenced other areas, including the performing arts. Anyone who watches Indian films knows for a fact that many of the scenes are highly dramatized and as such, the actors are amazing at their job. This sparked a desire in me as a preteen to one day become a famous Indian actress. By this time, I already knew how to sing (thanks to my mother enrolling me in vocal classes) and dance (thanks to my mother wanting me to dance like the actresses on the screen). In short, I had all the qualities to become a decent actress, however, when revealing my desire to my mother, it was then that I realized what the definition of being Asian really meant.
My culture had been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. No matter how much awards I won for dancing, I could not tell my friends because I was afraid they would think me being an Indian dancer was weird. Telling them about winning the title of Diwali Queen for two consecutive years also proved difficult. It was if I had been misplaced; an alien in a world full of “normality.”
A picture taken of my friend when she won the title of Miss Diwali at a school function.
It was only when I reached my adolescent years when I realized how welcoming and accepting the community of Jersey City was. Attending one of the most prestigious schools in the nation, I met individuals who had faced the same issues growing up as I had.
Being Asian to me means friends who share the same experiences. Being Asian to me means celebrating my culture every year in the month of May. Being Asian to me means embracing my culture every day of my life in small ways such as listening to Indian music daily. Being Asian to me means everything.