Arguably the most important social identity to me is my Indian upbringing and values. I think this is not just the case because I spent my formative years in the country, but also because, as I left India and moved around to many other places, I noticed that I was somewhat losing touch with my Indian roots. Ever since this feeling crept in, I have doubled down on my efforts to retain my Indian sensibilities. Today, I pride myself in still being able to converse fluently in 2 Indian languages and keeping mostly in Indian culture. While I am glad that I was able to expand my view of the world by living in countries that are very different from India, I still find myself thinking about most issues and problems through an Indian mindset and I think that no matter how many more years I spend living outside India, this mindset and my Indian background will never rub off.

I have found that my Indian background has definitely had different interpretations in the different societies I have lived in. I found that during my time in Japan and Taiwan, Indians were held in very high regard. Apart from the stereotypical values of being nerdy and hardworking, Indians were perceived to be very welcoming and family-oriented people. Indian food is a very popular cuisine in East Asia, and the fact that almost any Indian you could find in Taiwan and Japan had taken an effort to learn the local language and culture, gave the impression that Indians really strived to acclimatize and integrate into the local community. However, when I moved to the UAE, I was exposed to a completely different perspective. Since Indians are the biggest represented race in the UAE (even more than the locals), Indians weren’t put on the pedestal as they often were in Taiwan and Japan. My time in the UAE was the first time in a decade that I was surrounded by a culture that I recognized and by people who looked similar to me and already knew about my culture and upbringing.

Given my experiences in countries that are and aren’t very similar to my Indian culture, I have experienced feelings ranging from alienation to feelings of belonging, I heavily empathize with people who aren’t surrounded by people from their culture/country. To this end, I have always strived to initiate discussions with such people and I am hopeful that the Global Fellows Program will enable me to improve on this competency.