Tag Archives: accent

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

I am brown; 

I am different 

from the white and the black.  

I am Dravidian, a word as 

mysterious as the origin  

of the universe. 

Now I am a hyphenated American;  

I speak English 

with a discernible accent, but my  

students loved it. 

It’s not Southern Utah accent; 

It’s not South Indian Brahmin accent, either. Oh!  South Indian accent 

is perhaps rooted in Telugu, Tamil,  

Kannada, or Malayalam. Or, is it a  

composite one; 

The composite one that is further  

nurtured by your school, teachers,  

and peers? 

While I was growing up in South India, I was  still a minority: 

Because I was a Brahmin; 

because I was not rich like Reddys or Kammas.  While I was in New Delhi, 

I was still a minority. 

I sharply felt it so then. 

 

First, my name gave out; 

second, my Hindi was tinged 

with a distinct South Indian accent; 

third, I was a shade darker than the fair Punjabi;

fourth, I was brighter than the others in  my mixed Indian circle;

fifth, I was able to speak their tongue, while  they couldn’t my language; 

it was exotic and foreign to them; 

 

sixth, for that matter, 

they couldn’t even pronounce my  

mouthful Godly name; seventh, I was  

cultured and knew Gita and  

Shakespeare; watched popular  

Bollywood movies and attended  

Krishnamurti’s 

discourses on metaphysics and theology; 

missed no major classical concerts 

or dance performances–eastern or western.  Yet, I was different for being poor. 

 

I am what I am. 

Why should I be like someone else?  

Even my brothers are different. 

We share the same parents. 

 

I am brown 

I am different 

from the white and the black.  

The Upanishads say 

“Tat Tvum asi.” 

“That thou art. 

I am an immigrant 

And I am conspicuous 

by being brown and  

different from occidental  

and oriental 

 

And I am now scared of being in a bar 

though I am an American

******

Notes 

Dravidian: of South India different from North India; considered the original natives of India. 

Brahmin: The highest caste in the hierarchy of the traditional Hindu caste system.    

South India: Essentially of Dravidian culture with four major languages- Telugu, Tamil,  Kannada, and Malayalam, each with its own script and linguistic origins. 

Hindi: The national language of independent India; also, one of the major languages of North India. 

Punjabi: of North India in the state of Punjab. 

Gita: Short form for Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Blessed Lord), the great devotional classic of Hinduism; renowned as the jewel of India’s spiritual wisdom; represents the essence of Hinduism, much as the Sermon on the  Mount presents the essence of Christianity.

Krishnamurti: considered one of the greatest thinkers of our age who influenced millions throughout the twentieth century.

Upanishads: a series of mystical and philosophic prose works in a dialogue form constituting the chief theological documents of ancient Hinduism – a total of 108 discourses that can be dated to about 600 BC. 

Tat Tvum Asi: translated from the Sanskrit language, the ancient classical  language of India, similar to Latin, means “that thou art.” Taken from  Chandogya Upanishad, this famous expression identifies the relationship between the individual and the Absolute.


Satyam Sikha Moorty is a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and taught for 31 years at Southern Utah University. He has two chapbooks ready: “Who Am I? and other poems”  and “Poems of Fear and Songs of Hope.”  His book “Passage from India: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays” has recently been published.

Remote: GUAA Winners Discuss Representation

The representation of the Asian American community is in a perpetual state of evolution — much like the community itself. Every age of immigrants must forge their own narrative, from leaving behind the securities of their motherland to confronting racial stereotypes. Read 11th grader Arya Das’s essay, Remote, where she discusses the generational ties between her father and herself amid a changing America. This essay won the ‘Best In Class’ award in the ‘Growing Up Asian In America’ contest. 

America Is Not Complete Without Us by sixth-grader An Ly

Remote

I pick up the remote control, flip through the channels, and count off the characters.

One geeky sidekick whose glasses lay atop his large, angled nose. Two simple-minded shop owners who speak with the same broken English that my grandparents have struggled to leave behind. Three caricatures. The comedic relief whose awkwardness is overlayed by laugh tracks. They all look like me, and they have never had a story of their own.

This must be why the people at school giggle amongst themselves with their hands together in prayer, nodding side to side and grinning like fools. I fail to see the humor in the familiar way they drum their d’s like a tabla, imitating Apu from the Simpsons but reflecting my relatives and loved ones. Flipping through the channels, these are the jokes that they see. Confusion bubbles up inside me, but all I can manage is a small laugh. This is what I have learned. When my father immigrated to America over 20 years ago, he counted. He counted down the days, working as a hotel dishwasher to pay for engineering school and dreaming of moving to the heart of innovation and technology. He left behind security for hope.

There are unfathomable sacrifices that every immigrant has made for the future of themselves and their children. These sacrifices cannot be brushed aside. My father’s story wasn’t written out for him, but he picked up a pen and set to work. I asked him one day, now that he has raised us in the Bay Area and works as an engineer, whether he feels prejudice. Whether he even has to think about his accent. I didn’t expect him to say yes. He recounted the investors, associates, and superiors who turned him down, seeing him primarily as his race, completely remote from his credentials. Does his accent make him stupid? Is he unintelligent for learning a new language by himself, for moving across the world and working as hard as he can? He told me it’s okay, that he just picks himself up and moves on to the next person. This is how he survives. This is what he has learned. Even when living in the Bay Area and knowing that TV portrayals are a stark contrast from the people in our lives, these stereotypes still sting us in a million little ways.

However, equality is no longer a remote dream. Acceptance must be the story we write every day, the narrative that drives our future. The next generation will see us when they flip through the channels. We can help them recognize that they span beyond the control of others’ expectations, into arts, innovation, and vivid colors. We count, and we need them to know that they count, too.


Image: The artwork, entitled, America Is Not Complete Without Us, was created by sixth-grader An Ly. 

Essay: Remote was written by eleventh grader Arya Das.