A Third Culture Kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the culture, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture might be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.” -David C. Pollack
My parents grew up in India and lived there through their twenties. They grew up speaking Hindi and were blissfuly surrounded by extended family. They went to school and became secure and successful adults. They met in their late twenties and got married pretty quickly soon after.
THEN they up and decided to move to another country. My dad had already spent some time abroad studying anesthesiology in London, but after their marriage, they moved to Hong Kong. They left their home, their friends, and their family to start a life together and have fabulous babies (I was born in Hong Kong in ’93) in a completely foreign country. Two years later they moved to the US and have been here ever since.
If that isn’t the most terrifying and most brave thing a couple could do, I don’t know what is.
So I have grown up, as so many Third Culture Kids do, straddling two different cultures and not really fitting in either properly.
I am an American and I love America and everything that comes with it- the good and the bad. I love hot dogs, Beyonce, freedom and democracy, Channing Tatum, the midwest, Chipotle, Back to the Future, Target. My family and my friends and my high school and college and everything is here in the US and I will always be a true and proud American.
And while my parents have grown to love America as much as I do in their twenty years of living here, India will always be home for them. And so, partly by default, India is also home for me.
It is so strange though. I wasn’t born there. I’ve maybe spent a cumulative total of 8 weeks in the country, and only when I was very young. The things I do remember are brief and perhaps exaggerated– the dusty smell, a steady stream of cars honking when you drive anywhere, brightly colored and embroidered fabrics hanging outside stalls, massive crowds of people, taking my shoes off to enter temples, pushy hugs from relatives I didn’t know.
I’m a little nervous. While I’m expecting that I should feel like I’m coming home, there are going to be a lot of things that will be hard and that know nothing about. My Hindi is awful. I’m not particularly religious and its hard trying to remember things I learned in my Friday night Hinduism classes we used to attend. I don’t know too much about the history or art of India either. I remember for a few years in my history classes through Junior High, I was the one giving a mini presentation on India and Indian culture. WHY?! Quite possibly the only thing that I can even partly say that I have grown up totally embracing about Indian culture is Bollywood and Indian dance. It’s just so… superficial.
What I want to get out of this trip is to learn more about my roots. Become less ignorant. Learn more about where my family has come from and how my parents grew up. I think others as well feel a strange calming sense of returning home when they go to the place where their ancestors came from.
I embark on this very exciting journey this coming Friday with my sister Shivani and my close friend from school, Abby. We’ll meet up with my mom and my other sister Priya in New Delhi. For five weeks, we’ll travel, meet family, see the sites, and eat all of the food. We’ll be doing tourist-y things, like seeing the Taj Mahal, but we’ll also be meeting family members (some for the first time!). I’m excited to soak up everything and learn as much as I can about not only the country, but also about my family. And who knows, maybe it’ll turn out that I really am an Indian princess, as some of my sweet, gullible friends have been led to believe 🙂 Even more, I’ll learn about the people who loved and supported my parents who have in turn loved and supported me and my sisters. I can’t wait. 6 more days!