Dec 22, 2011

Asian Indians in America-An Asian Indian Student's Perspective

There are many Asian Indian students in Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University and one has to wonder if they get any kind of help from the many Asian Indian groups in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.  Siddharth Sehgal a graduate student at University of Alabama at Birmingham and a columnist at the University student newspaper writes an interesting article presented below. 

NRI Indian community - missing in action from the lives of new Indian students in US by Siddharth Sehgal. 

It’s a tricky question, whenever I think about the help and assistance that is available to new students from India from the Indian community here in United States, rarely anything comes into my mind that I can credit to the Indian community and by that I mean Indians who are already settled here with family, job and businesses.

The only support system I had was the help I got from the Indian students already living here but as I said in the beginning it’s a tricky question because everyone has their own experience, each student has his own story to tell whether good or bad.  But on a general level and the students that I have met and known over the years didn’t get any support from the Indian community.

Shakespeare once quoted that expectation is the root of all heartache but I really don’t think that a new comer to United States would have big expectations with the NRI community, of course that’s just me but from apartments to food, from transportation to telephone all kinds of basic sustainable requirements are provided for by other Indian students. The things where a new student should definitely get support from the Indian community is the guidance on how things work in US, the cultural differences, community involvement and other crucial information. I was lucky to have the guidance of few kindhearted Indians who shared their valuable experience with me which helped me a lot in my academic and professional endeavor but not every Indian student enjoys such privileges and there are several reasons for that.

Birmingham Hindu Temple and Cultural Center
Most of the time students don’t know whom to ask for help and great many times the Indians who are well settled here don’t bother to reach out to their struggling young compatriots. I have seen and experienced this wide gap firsthand in Pelham temple when I was doing a signature campaign in support of India against corruption movement. It was only after I was shown the door, I was told about the politics that has divided the seemingly unified community. Even here at UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham), there are two types of Indian students. One who came from India and the other who are of Indian origin but are born and raised in United States, popularly known as ABCDs. Though, I have good friends in both these groups but very rarely I have seen people in both these categories interacting with each other. When I was starting my journey at UAB, I didn’t have any ABCD friend. My roommates told me that most of the ABCD students maintain distance from other Indian students. When I asked the reason behind this rift, I didn’t get any satisfactory answer and even today, it’s somewhat of a mystery to me.

But the story didn’t end there because then we have subdivisions in Indian students itself. There are groups of Marathis, Guajaratis, Bengalis, Tamils and God knows how many other different clusters that live on loosely exclusive bases. Student from one state usually live together and being from a Hindi-speaking state in India, I had a really hard time adjusting with my roommates; I was always on the sidelines. Many times, these students get help from their paternal state cultural groups like Bengali, Tamil or Telegu organizations. I have many Telugu and Bengali friends who would often visit their respective community gatherings and festive celebrations but rarely people from other states attend these meetings. Either they are not invited or they have an organization of their own.

It was a bit amusing, ironical and pleasant fact that I never had anything else to identify with other than my country. There is a saying that society doesn’t owe us anything and that indeed is true, but from the lessons I have learned here in United States I think, things can be changed a bit but as I said earlier, that’s just my viewpoint. After all, we all fight our own battles.

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