By Medihah Merchant
Have you ever added lemon concentrate into water? The concentrate disappears over time becoming invisible in the water. This occurrence is quite familiar in first-generation children of immigrants*. They forget themselves in order to assimilate to the crowd around them; Sometimes choice, other times out of necessity.
Take me for example. I am a first-generation immigrant child. I have a birth land, a homeland and a motherland. To most, it’s all the same, but I have the privilege of knowing the difference. I also have the privilege of knowing how it is to be asked where I am ACTUALLY from (Doy, Earth!). I was born in my birth land- the Middle East-, grew up in my homeland- Canada- but am ethnically related to my motherland- India. My homeland was the whitest town known to me. I went straight from brown sand to white snow. Not much of a problem…at first. I did what every child had to do. Got up in the morning, went to school, came home, conveniently did not do my homework, and instead watched tv till my parents came home. You know? The usuz. A year into my relocation, I started getting reminders which went on for a while. The reminder was that my ethnicity was not Caucasian. Obviously I knew that, but did not think I needed to be reminded of it, nevertheless I was. The funny part is when I was told to go back to my country, I laughed in the face of adversity. That was my first lesson of resilience. In the beginning, I ignored it and used it as fuel to motivate myself further. But as time went along there was only so much I could ignore. At that point, I was hurt that all my efforts of trying to be myself went wasted. I was still an outsider. So, I tried something else. I pretended to be white. A total fail. What was I thinking? No part of me is white. I am 100% Indian, unless my sister’s theory of me being adopted is proven. That is when reminders changed from “Go back to your country” to “Stop showing off with your Canadian accent”. I was in my mid-teens when I was too white for my Indian family and too brown for my white country. There was no pleasing either side. I can definitely relate to Raja Kumari’s ‘N.R.I’ song.
Although there are many other profound definitions that properly describe individual situations, mine can vaguely be called an identity struggle. I would not call it a crisis because that is too dramatic for my brown conscience and I prefer to leave the drama to the experts of my motherland: Indian soap operas. Many first generations* fight hard to find a balance between their two worlds. It is mentally exhausting as it is very easy to fall under the impression that nobody understands your struggle especially when you yourself might not understand it. So, it gets pushed under the rug. Rather than addressing the issue, I blamed it on my teen age and told myself to stop looking for irrelevant and useless problems when I already had those in my math textbook.
In the end, it does not matter how long it takes to find your balance or your side of preference. It has taken me ten years to understand that being the lemon concentrate in the water does not mean I have to disappear, become invisible or forget myself to be part of the water. It means that I get to add flavour and sweetness and become a refreshing drink needed on a hot summer day. After all, who does not love a lemonade?
Love from your fellow lemonade.
*In this case, I am referring to children who are born in one country- their birth land- but brought up in two- their birth and homeland. The children who are part of the first generation to immigrate to a foreign nation.
Hey guys! I am Medihah. I am a third year human rights and social justice major in Carleton University (which is in Ottawa, Canada).