Monday, November 06, 2006

postheadericon Hyphenated - Canadians

Indian Minature Painting
of Mughal Woman

(The stamp depicts Laura Secord making her way
through the bush during her famous walk
to inform the British that the
Americans were going to attack Canada.)

Today, 06 Nov, my family and I became official members of Canada, yes, we are now citizens of this wonderful country and the Great White North. Ofcourse, it's not everyday that people embrace a new country, infact, most people never do, so the impending event really had me thinking long and hard on what it was going to be like to swear allegiance to another country. In honor of the event I'd like to share something I wrote in April this year and maybe sometime later I will write another post on what it means to me to have embraced a different motherland.


In July my family and I will celebrate our sixth year in Canada. Often people ask me if I have started to feel Canadian - I'd love to respond in the affirmative because it's almost like your adopted mother anxiously wanting to know if you love her - but the truth is, I feel more Indian than ever!

Don't get me wrong - I love my adopted country and I am loyal to it. I am grateful for all the opportunities it has provided me and my children and in return I will give it the best years of my life, but none of that changes who I am inside, for I will always be Indian. But my children, ahhh, that's another story. They are growing up Canadian; they speak perfect, unaccented English, they ski, they have pool parties, they speak French and do all the things Canadian kids do, except, unlike most Canadian kids, they have Indian parents!

So, when Friday comes around they accompany us to the temple. In March, we celebrate Holi (the festival of color) with our friends; they listen to Hindi music at home and watch Hindi movies (not always out of choice, I will admit, but because it is what my husband and I are watching and they are happy to join in); they eat curry and rice almost everyday of the week and best of all, spend every second summer in India. What does that make them? A few years ago saying they were Indian-Canadians would have seemed unpatriotic, but these days it seems everyone is happy to embrace their hyphenated identities, so I say it with pride: my kids are Indian-Canadians!

What sparked this post? An article by Jhumpa Lahiri ( Pulitzer prize winning author of "Interpreter of Maladies" and "Namesake") in the recent issue of Newsweek. She explains with candor and insight what it was like for her to grow up with two identities, working hard all the time to merge them into one and the effect it has had on her life. The last paragraph of the article is particularly poignant.


beenzzz said...

Congratulations on becoming a full fledged Canadian. Yes, I do agree that growing up with two different identities can be difficult, yet wonderful. It makes our children rich with culture. I grew up with three identities, Indian, Guyanese, and American. Talk about confused!!! But, I have an insight many don't have. You and you children possess that too.

Lotus Reads said...

hi, Beenzzz and thanks!

True, in this era of globalization being exposed, in a very intimate way, to more than one culture is a distinct advantage. Of the three identities, do you relate to any one more than the others?

beenzzz said...

No. I feel like I have three distinct personalities.

Shelliza said...

Congrats! Being a Canadian citizen is something that I too, value very much. Like you, once I was a "foreigner" in a new home, I became even more proud of my culture, hertitage and the person I am. I've always remained true to my Indian heritage and even though my son is only half Indian and an American, I'll be SURE to see that he knows exactly where he came from.

Princess Jibi said...

I am not sure if am going to stay in Canada, or return to Guyana as yet.. But its nice to read about what it feels like... Congrads on becoming a Canadian though..

Lotus Reads said...

hi, Shelliza and thank you! Do you still live in Canada?

Hi, Princess Jibi

You must be homesick,right? I get homesick, too, sometimes and I hope to cure that once and for all by returning to India on a sabbatical, perhaps after living there for a few years I will appreciate Canada more. Who knows?

Beloved dreamer said...

What a wonderful post Lotus. I stopped by here first and then just had to read the article by Jhumpa Lahiri. Of course I do not know what it feels like trying to be two people at once, Or trying to pass that need along to your children. I think you are doing a great job my friend and because of you I have come to know( a little) and love Your other country, India. Also , congratulations on becoming a Canadian. I look for you on your other blog. :-)


Shelliza said...

No, Lotus. For the past 8 years, I've been living in Florida. My parents just bought a second home in Whitby, so I'll be visiting much more now:)

Lotus Reads said...

Shelliza, I hope you will visit me the next time you come to Canada, it would be fun to meet you! :)

I used to know people from Guyana in Florida - they lived in Miami and some of their kids lived in Boca Raton (I think it's because they went to University there).

Ishrath said...

@Lotus: your post has been giving me a lot of food for thought, Lotus. I don't know whether it's just me or if it is somewhat common, but when it was time for me to take the oath of citizenship, i was mortified to be swearing allegiance to the Queen of England and all its heirs. in fact, i could not do it, and just mumbled.

i thought that when you let your oppressors define the standard of a good life for you, you have to deal with all these contradictions in your soul.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Ishrath!

I'm sorry I'm late getting back to this comment - for some reason this anthropologist blog doesn't inform me everytime a new comment comes in. I will have to try tweaking it to see if I can recify it.

Yup, like you, I, too, hesitated when it came to swearing allegiance to the Queen (and it's not unique to naturalized citizens like us, a lot of Canadian-born people also struggle with it) but then, isn't the Queen the head of all Commonwealth countries, including India?