Have you wondered what it’s like to coexist in two places at once? To be physically, mentally and emotionally present in not one, but two realistic and very real environments? For many, it’s a daily occurrence.
I’m not referring to some out of body, science fiction-esque experience. I’m referring to being bicultural. For me, that’s existing in the Australian reality and the Indian reality simultaneously. And let me preface this post by saying it isn’t all fun and games. It isn’t always exciting and breathtaking. Behind the joy of this experience lies a plethora of hurt, dysphoria and questions.
It has taken such a long time for me to come to terms with my biculturalism. To love my Australian self as much as I love my Indian self. And I think that’s because I’ve finally come to terms that I’m an Australian that’s a person of colour. I have black hair, olive skin and eyes that are so dark, but change from amber to mahogany to hazelnut depending on the sun. Obviously, the physical disparity I share with the typical Australian wasn’t a new development for me. I knew I was different from the very beginning. What I’ve developed and come to accept is that, no matter how “Australian” my upbringing has been, there’s always going to be a part of me that’s inherently Indian. Inherently different in values, attitudes and labels. And that’s what makes me special. That’s what makes my story so much better.
Being bicultural means facing crossroads at almost every decision you have to make. Do I wear shorts so it’s more comfortable to run around or do I protect my modesty? Do I eat a paratha for lunch or a Nutella sandwich? Do I give up my loud voice because I’m not being demure enough, or do I continue my love for debating against the wishes of society? Do I join in a discussion with the men or do I stay silent? Do I go to the co-ed school dances or stay home and finish my work? Do I run around in the sun and be a kid or stay in the shade because I’ll get dark? Do I go out with the guy who asked me out, or refuse politely out of fear of someone seeing us together?
For nineteen years, questions just like that have popped into my mind, time and time again. And it’s boiled down to whether I want to make my own identity, or frame myself to a series of values, ideals and images constructed by a collective mindset.
One thing I have grown to deeply resent is when people assume and make judgements about whether I’m being Indian or Australian. When I present an opinion that would go against the demure, quiet and submissive portrayal of Indian girls, I’m typecast as being more Australian. In reality, I’m not thinking as “an Australian” or as “an Indian”. I’m thinking as Simran Goyal, a nineteen year old with a viewpoint and a pretty damn loud voice.
If anyone remembers the scene in A Walk To Remember, where Shane West takes Mandy Moore to the spot where she’s in two places at once, that’s often where I’ve found myself. Unable to decide which side of the line I should be on, when in reality, I can have my feet planted firmly on either side.
My actions don’t have to be defined by either of the two cultures that make me who I am. I’m not Australian because I love playing sport, am openly opinionated and do my own thing. Nor am I Indian because I choose to cook and help out in the kitchen, and sometimes submit to the wishes of elders even if I don’t think they’re right. What I’m doing there is choosing what I inherently believe is right, and which will make me a stronger, independent, more confident and assertive young woman.
I will always say yes to parties and the mention of having a good time, but I’ll never submit to sex before marriage. Not because I’m demure, but because it’s personal choice. I will always advocate for strong and assertive female voices, but I’ll also be a good daughter for my parents. I’ll flirt and have fun, but I know how to hold my own and only make decisions that I’m wholly comfortable with. I’m brown, loud and proud. I do things that I know I’ll benefit from, not because I know they’ll please someone.
I want to make something clear. My decisions aren’t based off me choosing one side of my identity over the other. I don’t make decisions as an Australian or as an Indian. I make decisions as a strong, independent young woman who is doing the right thing for herself. There has been so much dysphoria and inner turmoil that has come with accepting this fact about myself. But today, I’m so proud to call myself bicultural. To know that I’m wholeheartedly and unashamedly a part of two beautiful cultures. Two beautiful environments that have given me the opportunity to define myself without labels.
I am as Australian as I am Indian. There might be times where I’ll feel more of one part of my cultural makeup than the other, but that doesn’t mean one culture is wrong or inferior to the other.