Not Really Indian, American Born Desi.

Photo-Rahul-IyerRahul Iyer
Mesa, AZ

Not Really Indian, American Born Desi is what could be used to describe me.

Not Really Indian (NRI) is a term that is often coined to describe people of Asian Indian background who were born outside of India. The actual legal term used by the Indian Government is Nonresident Indian (NRI). American Born Desi refers to my background. “Desi” being a colloquial term in India meaning “of the mother land”. Indians refer to the Indian homeland as “Desi”.

This classification does fit me. I am born in Chicago. I am an American. I am a Midwesterner. I attempted to join the USAF at one time. I behave like an American. I speak English like a Chicagoan. I have absolutely no trace of an Asian accent. My name is typical Indian. I am an Engineer.

To a person that does not know me, they are often surprised when the call me. I remember in a professional setting where I was on a conference call with others where I work. There were people on the line from Belgium, and elsewhere, in addition to the USA. When I was addressed, I spoke. I guess my accent floored them. They were expecting an Indian sounding accent when I spoke English. Instead they heard a Midwestern American accent. This is the stereotype that is placed on me.

The same can be said for how I look. If asked where I am from, I answer, “Chicago”. Those around me never seem to let go, forcing me to reveal, “My parents immigrated from India in the 1970s.” I find it strange, as when I travel to Bombay, I am mistaken for a local, yet in the USA I am mistaken for an Indian.

This is my take on race.

Rahul Iyer

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

One Response to "Not Really Indian, American Born Desi."
  1. barry irving says:

    ..the problem with America is ambiguous ethnic titles. You look Indian, that will always be that way…you say you are American…that’s your national, Constitutional right. Face and language tell the story’s first stage. Looks like an Indian, talks like an the curiosity unfolds. That is always going to happen in a Race / Ethnic conscious, Nationalistic Society.

    …it is important to ask whether a person is talking race, tribe / ethnicity or nationality. Without that, there is no real understanding of what is being asked or said! Assumptions are subject to Folk Lore!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Tweets by Michele Norris