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A Self-Loather No More

As a freshman three years ago, if I had been told I would be onstage for three minutes in an essentially Indian culture performance-type celebration, I, an accomplished self-loather, would have been deeply hurt and insulted.

"What a horrible thing to say!" I would have told you. Maybe I wouldn't even have heard you, busy as I was running away from crowds of South-Asian persuasion.

When my mom stipulated Awaaz participation to attending Duke, I thought I could squirrel my way out of the cultural contract just as I was going only to pretend to be pre-med. But mom's a persistent one: there was no squirreling or rodent action of any kind. I am now in Awaaz.

And guess what else? Medical school is happening, too.

But my brittle backbone aside, underclassmen see reality through a kaleidoscope, and I know now I was just afraid of all that reflective symmetry. Sometimes, in this hodgepodge, melting-pot Superdome called America, a near-sighted man like myself can lose track of what life is really about, you know, in the long run.

I am not on this earth to lift spirits, preach peace-nothing so boring.

I am on this earth to throw down old-school Indian dancing.

Abraham may not have been that ecstatic when God gave him a purpose. Jesus might have been the tiniest bit disappointed when his dad didn't give him a bike for Christmas. Muhammad probably thought God was just giving him busy work. But when the God in my heart told me my purpose-to throw my hands and legs in the air to the epic twangs of the sitar and the lyrical styles of people using way too much of their back palate to talk-I lit up like the Hindu festival of lights.

I will never question this judgment again. If it's good enough for Jay-Z, bhangra's good enough for me. If Steve Carell, coordination connoisseur, can gyrate South-Asian-style at an Indian celebration, as he did on last week's episode of "The Office," so can I. And if Caucasians know more names of Hindu gods than I do, I'm obviously not carrying my weight.

Every minute I spend not getting down to the fine reverbs of classical Indian music is garbage time.

I won't stop there.

I'm going to use my skin color like a magnet to stick to my people and never let go, because as we all know, magnets never let go.

Where am I going to have a better chance of kicking some bhangra on the street side, with a few Indians standing in a circle or with a couple of white guys listening to Tupac? You can pretend that having friends of all colors, religions and shapes will make you a better person, but you will only end up miserable, alone, inconsequential. As an Indian at Duke, there is nothing more satisfying than the reassuring nods of recognition with Indians you don't know; sorry, but on some level we are very well acquainted. And I'm gonna chase that feeling.

When life gives you mangoes, just get up and Indian dance.

I heard someone say America isn't a melting pot anymore; it's a pot luck, and the lo mein no longer mixes with the sauerkraut, and the enchiladas rancheros shy away from the falafel. We can celebrate diversity and the fact that an ethnicity is not official until it can be defined by food.

And me? I'm going to keep my aloo tikka vindaloo over with the other vindaloos, because I don't want any soy sauce or salsa sneaking in and ruining the taste.

I'll end with an ancient Indian verse:

Take me down to Bombay city,

Where dreams are real

And the streets are.clean

Ashwin Bhirud is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Friday.


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