In Attire

As a child of immigrants and an immigrant myself (I emigrated when I was two), the dominant trend in my story isn’t a new one: it’s been the struggle to project myself, on my own terms, as an Indian-American. I readily admit that it’s become more important for me to appear “American,” often at the direct expense of my Indian identity. For years now I’ve been uncomfortable with explicit displays of my Indian heritage in America. Much of this discomfort is undoubtedly tied to the discrimination that I’ve encountered, from strangers asking where I was really from to neighbors who didn’t want my dark skin touching their toys. But I’ve found that one way I’ve been able to maintain my connection with Indian culture is through dress – in particular, through accessories like bangles. These are two pairs my mother recently brought back for me from India. The simple act of deciding when I want to wear bangles has helped me feel more in control of the projection of my cultural identity; I can choose to whom and the context in which I reveal my Indian cultural ties. And when I do decide to wear them, they’re often paired with a dress from Macy’s, so, very literally, my body displays my mixed identity in a way that is accessible to observers. This is, of course, a small step. I still find it difficult to speak Hindi in public or even to don more traditional dress in a Western setting – but it is nevertheless progress towards reclaiming my ownership of my hyphenated cultural identity.

Year: 2015

– Upasna

Relationship:  Im/migrant who arrived as a child Im/migrant who arrived as a child