In the issue of Newsweek dated March 6, 2006, there was an interesting brief article called Hyphenated Identity by Indian American Pulitzer Prize winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri. I have quoted her in the book also. I appreciated her articulation of struggle of the second generation of Indians in
America, caught up in the tug-of-war of cultures on a daily basis. In this article, she maps out how her self-perception had undergone changes through different stages of life and how she has come to accept her bicultural identity.
“As I approach middle age, one plus one equals two, both in my work and in my daily existence. The traditions on either side of the hyphen dwell in me like siblings, still occasionally sparring, one outshining the other depending on the day. But like siblings they are intimately familiar with one another, forgiving and intertwined. When my husband and I were married five years ago in Calcutta we invited friends who had never been to India, and they came full of enthusiasm for a place I avoided talking about in my childhood, fearful of what people might say. Around non-Indian friends, I no longer feel compelled to hide the fact that I speak another language. I speak Bengali to my children, even though I lack the proficiency to teach them to read or write the language. As a child I sought perfection and so denied myself the claim to any identity. As an adult I accept that a bicultural upbringing is a rich but imperfect thing.”
The second generation lives in two worlds simultaneously. Without either, they never feel complete. It is not an ‘either-or’ world, but ‘both-and’ world. They are neither here nor there; yet at both places all the time. Paradoxes paralyses the immigrant generation, but the emerging generation thrive on it. When the former generation always tries to establish order and rationale, the later works to increase disorder and flourishes on chaos. Welcome to the brave new world!!!
Read more on this in chapter 4 titled, Authentic Hybrids: Biculturalism of Coconuts in the book Understanding the Coconut Generation.