Wednesday, March 29, 2006

'Minority Report :: Cultural Aliens'

My days here in the US have tought me the significance and hardship of the life of a 'minority'. Painful as it is, it has served me well. My erratic passions have reduced, my compassions have deepened.

What is the worst part of living the life of a minority? What is the very deprivation that defines it? What are the thoughts that border it?

My experiences lead me to believe that the worst part of a minority life is cultural alienhood.

I know more about Halloween from my second grade textbook than from my two years in America. I know of Christmas because that's the time when Kevin McCallister was left behind by his family. I know of Thanksgiving as "Mardi Gras of Fall" and of Margi Gras as "the other Spring Break". Fourth of July is an online sale day, Martin Luther King Day is "the first extended weekend". After all, I never dressed up in the October nights, never felt the Christman snow with my hands, had only a Bengali version of Thanksgiving, never bothered driving up to Bourbon Street (which happens to be an hour's drive only) on Fat Tuesday, didn't know which way to look to see the Fourth of July fireworks, and never stopped to appreciate how much MLK has civilized America.

St. Patrick's Day was no different. Another day came and passed. I only knew of it from the green beads on the streets. There may have been something else a few days back. I saw more cars in the parking lot than usual, saw more couples wrapped around each other, heard some more noise than usual. I have been living the life of a minority long enough to understand that this is my time to stay home and keep tight.

I have been in the majority for a long time, too. I know the surprise I would feel if I were reading this account. I know the usual reply, too. It is just that the true meaning of "I wish I could explain why it's tough!" now. Is it a fault of the majority for not reaching out? Is it the fault of my timid heart? Is it about living abroad, alone?

Or is there something else? My mom knew about St. Patrick's Day. She celebrated it by working a 12-hours shift. So did many others. It is, then, just a matter of class? I don't remember seeing Americans below a certain level of affluence, either.

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