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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.

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