Sari Not Sorry! | Georgetown University Undergraduate Application Essay

I changed my name in preschool.

I’d always thought that being an Indian in America was about being the least Indian I could possibly be. I exchanged dosas and coconut chutney for the cafeteria’s coveted French bread pizza. I hid the six-armed religious idols in the cabinet whenever my friends came over. I even changed my name, discarding Namratha for “Nam”. I thought I was making everyone’s life easier, sparing teachers the awkward fumble over the seventeen-letter Scrabble board. Even at four years old, I knew that Namratha was a curse, and Nam was my ticket out.

While I spent schooldays as Nam, I spent my family life trying to be Indian. I reserved Sunday mornings for religious classes and observed every tradition; I even slipped into an accent, rolling my ‘r’s a little. I learned to speak Tamil and write Hindi and tie a sari and eat pani puri like someone off the streets of Mumbai.

I lived a strange dual life, never fully fitting in either half. There was no escaping the occasional “Go back to your country!” or paganic computer geek stereotype at school. When I traveled back to India, my “white” accent was mocked, and I felt lost in a place that was supposed to be my home. Perhaps most jarring was when my uncle asked me “Do…

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