Growing Up In An Indian Household In The Rural South

Flickr / Luke
Flickr / Luke

I’m from Eastern Kentucky – born and raised. And sure, while there is debate if it truly can be classified as a southern state, I can vouch that my little town of 7,000 checked off all the typical stereotypes of the South. Friday night football games and Sunday morning church sessions were a must. Cornbread and mashed potatoes were dinner favorites, and I was regularly greeted with a “Hey y’all!” I’m also from an Indian household. Somehow, my parents settled in central Appalachia for my father’s job after living in India their whole lives. I spent my first seventeen years of life before college trying to balance my Southern identity with my Indian heritage. This, however, did not come without chaos and a lot of questions from outsiders.

1. Aren’t you supposed to love football if you are from the South? You would think, but instead of growing up going to see the Friday night lights my family and I would crowd around the TV and watch the latest cricket match. The only football my parents knew anything about was what we Americans call soccer, so growing up I was never exposed to the world of touchdowns and downs (those are football terms right?).

2. Are people where you are from racist? Surprisingly, no. People just had a lot of questions that might seem offensive, but were genuine. “Do you speak Indian?” or “Will your parents pick your groom?” were common questions I received in middle school, but they didn’t come from a bad place. I may have gotten some Apu jokes, but they get old fast, people!

3. Why don’t you have a Southern accent? Growing up, all my teachers, best friends and neighbors talked with a country twang, but of course my parents still talked English with their native accent. My theory of my “non- accent” is that I learned English from the television. I think I got frustrated with deciding whether to use “howdy” or “Namaste”, so I turned to the help of Spongebob Squarepants for honing my language skills.

4. Don’t you wish you grew up somewhere else? NOPE. I love Kentucky and am grateful for the lessons I learned by living there. It not only connected me closer to a community featuring authentic Southern hospitality, but it taught me to be a proud ambassador for my Indian heritage. TC mark

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