On Nepali Identity

Identity confuses me (a Nepali living in US, who hasn’t lived in her homeland for a decade). Am I still the same Nepali or my life abroad has eroded my original self and replaced(or reconstituted) it with a hybrid that cannot be traced back to a particular country?

I am in love with Jire Khursani and other Nepali comedy shows that fill my weekend evenings, love the American landscape and the ongoing deterioration of Nepal and US anger me to no end. If my identity come through my experiences and choices, I do look like a “trishanku”-the one who is stuck in between and doesn’t belong. Is it possible to have this conflict within and still identify with on group or nation?

The thought of losing grip on my Nepali side worries me, make me feel like a cheater. The feeling of guilt has pushed me to be more strict with my daughter on cultural matters,it feels like by preserving her Nepali heritage I am somehow atoning for my American ways.

But should I feel guilty about my American ways? I didn’t lose myself to acquire them..it just happened, and I live here.

At Sepia Mutiny (a wonder blog on South Asian issues), Sapana Sakya-a Nepali who grew up in Thailand and is now a student in California, discusses her take on the identity business.

“Until now, I categorized myself as South Asian but I always felt that the term South Asian represented the dominant group of that subcontinent, India. I am South Asian and Nepalese; the Nepalese language is similar to Hindi but Newari, my ethnic language, is closer to Tibetan and Burmese. So Himalayan is a more accurate descriptor of my culture and ethnicity.

Having the term Himalayan American to describe myself strengthens my identity and allows me to explore what makes us a community and how we can strengthen that network. But I am also still South Asian and Asian American because there I enjoy being associated to these larger communities for both political and social reasons.”

Sapana’s case is far more complex than mine, she has three countries, three cultures vying for loyalty. Read the complete post at Center for Asian American Media.

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