DNA ancestry, global citizenship and identity crisis

DNA ancestry, global citizenship and identity crisis

HITESH SHARMA

Contributing Writer

hsharma@goshen.edu

 

Nothing, absolutely nothing good can ever come out of your saliva. Just last semester it gave everyone mono, and last Christmas, it gave me the biggest shock of my life.

I have always been fascinated with how Americans (mostly white people) always talk about their ancestry. They always throw these random stats at you when you ask them a simple, “Where are you from?” “I am six percent Irish, 50 percent British, ni percent Greek.” “My dad is 19 percent Scottish and my mom is 60 percent German.”

I always get very jealous of how they have so much “global citizenship” in their DNA despite being 100 percent from Goshen, Indiana or Lancaster, Pennsylvania. But every time they ask me, “Where are you from?” I only have a very boring, one-liner: “100 percent from Kathmandu, Nepal.” Well, technically, my dad was born and raised in India, but both he and I like to deny that connection.

I should also let you know that if you have ever called me an Indian, asked me where in India I am from, or confused me for any Indian on campus, I have probably either slapped you in your head or spat in your drink at Java. Nepal has a long history of sharing a love-hate relationship with India (the same relationship I share with my Indian friends here, just much more love and much less “hate”).

I hate how our Nepali identity always gets overshadowed by our more popular, bigger neighbor.  Also, I don’t understand why they confuse me for all the other Indian guys on campus when we look nothing alike. Seriously! Would you ever confuse Ryan Gosling for Woody Allen?

Anyway, like I was saying, my one-liner ancestry always made me feel less like a “global citizen” than white people here. So, to pay my respects to one of the essential core values of Goshen, I decided to take my DNA Ancestry test last Christmas, hoping that I would get to brag about my global citizenship as well. It did end up giving me those rights, but also ended up creating more chaos and drama in my family than the one from the show “This is Us.”

My ancestry came out as 80 percent, Indian, 7-9 percent British, 3 percent Central American, and the rest Central Asian. Zero percent Nepali AND 80 percent Indian. INDIAN. What could be worse than realizing you’re just like one of those Indian kids on campus? I may be more beautiful and less annoying, but still.

I was heartbroken. My whole family thought we had a really careful history of marrying only within our own culture, but we were devastated to find out that one of my great-grandparents is white. We knew they lived and studied in Calcutta when it was the capital of British-held India, but we didn’t know they did more than just studying.

Well, it could be worse, but we still like to believe that my great-grandmother fell in love with a white guy while sipping tea at East India Company and my other great-grandparent traded more than just spice with Central Americans. I am over it now, but I think that caused my parents to have mid-life crisis now and they are still exploring the fragments of their identity they never knew they possessed.

So, yes, my winter break was full of chaos and identity crisis. It caused enough drama in my family for us to get our own reality show someday. Now I have to live with the fact that I might be Indian (even though I’d still spit in your Java Junk if you ever call me one).

Written by Record

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