ABCD: American Born Confused (Crazy) Desi




Story by Ruchika Bajaj

#Basicwhitegirl or #Browngirl, the struggle is real.

My life has always been a culmination of different cultures, food, holidays, languages, and clothing, somehow joined together in creating something exotic.

I never knew how I would ever be able to define such a jumbled life. Until my family shed light on the acronym they were introduced to. ABCD, it may just seem like the first four letters of the alphabet, but it stands for American Born Confused Desi.

As soon as I learned the saying, I’ve been relating my life to as ABCD for as long as I can remember. 

But I’ve made a slight change in this acronym to more reflect my own identity, as I have no confusion or shame in where I come from.

I was born in Pomona, California with roots coming from Delhi, India. However, there is still a “C” present in my personal acronym, which I believe stems from my crazy side. Thus, my life as an American Born Crazy Desi. 

When people start to guess what ethnicity I am, I think it’s safe to say I’ve got every answer in the book. Starting with Hispanic and ending with Persian. Indian somehow just gets lost in the mix of things.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name isn’t the easiest to pronounce and the mispronunciations day in and day out are too real. My parents were both born in India and moved to the United States in their mid 20s. Somehow in between grad school, getting accustomed to American lifestyle, and moving from place to place; they had my sister and I. We were blessed to be born in California. However, that never stopped us from getting in touch with our true culture. My travels to India have only confirmed how much I love being an ethnic Indian woman.

I’ll never forget the first time I traveled to India. Too young to remember it myself, but the stories are definitely ones that have stuck my whole life.

December 7, 1996. A beautiful day it was supposed to be. My uncle was getting married, and I was bound to be the youngest kid at the wedding. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I spent what was supposed to be my first day in India in the hospital.

I’m sure I’ve now got you curious as to what I possibly could’ve done less than 24 hours into my trip that sent me to the hospital. Being the curious one year old I was, I ate the bird food my grandpa would feed to the pigeons outside the house every morning.

How could I possibly mistake bird food for baby food? What was I thinking? I guess my one-year-old self was going through a little bit of culture shock!

Well to tops things off my sister wasn’t the brightest in the Bajaj family either. Instead of keeping the thermometer in her mouth when she was running a fever, she decided to take a bite out of it like she was little kid that got her hands on a cookie.

So OH BOY is right, an eventful, memorable first trip to India it was.

Each trip after that only got more exciting, as I grew older I was able to understand and take in the beauty of such a remarkable country. Yes there’s poverty that exists, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from visiting.

You always see people travelling all around Europe because it is a so called “developed” nation. So India being a “developing” nation has people afraid to open their eyes to different cultures and experiences. I owe my knowledge about the world and global outlook on life to this country. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the perspectives on life India has given me.

My travels to Delhi in India showed me this poverty up close, revealing the extreme hardships people around the world face. It opened my eyes to the harsh conditions people live in and what a blessing it is to live in California, yet have the opportunity to visit and travel to different places in India at least every other year.

Don’t fret the term “developing nation” and seek new experiences in your life. India is a world filled with magic, colors, and wonderful culture.

From Diwali, commonly known as the festival of lights, to Holi, to week long weddings, filled with the smell of mehndi referred to as henna, the tunes of bhangra music, the groom and bride riding in on elephants or horses, and the colorful exotic saris women wear. Being an Indian is a true blast!

I’ve realized my home is both Laguna Hills, California, a short 15 minute drive from the best beaches in California, a 30 minute drive from Disneyland, the most well known theme park in the world, and amazing eateries. But also the loud streets of Delhi, India, where poverty can be seen no closer than outside the window of your car, the sounds of cars honking and traffic can worse than Downtown Los Angeles, and the history behind its landmarks are incredible.

From Southern California to India. Black Coffee to Chai. Luxury cars to rickshaws. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Ain’t nobody like a desi girl!

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