Senior Graduation Speech
by Abhishek Chakivarty and Mark Mozena
Mark is an American and Abhishek is Indian by nationality. Both live in Bangladesh and gave this speech for the 2001 commencement ceremony for American Inernational School/Dhaka.
"What happened to you," asks the local storekeeper in Delhi when I went to buy some gum after a few years abroad. "Why are you wearing such strange clothes? Are you trying to be a parachute?" I was wearing very loose pants, a garment that was not very common in Delhi at the time. Another amusing reaction to my appearance on returning came from an elderly ladyfriend of my grandmother when she thought I wasn't listening. "That necklace, those rings, why do foreign boys try to dress like girls nowadays?" But perhaps the most scathing remark I have heard came from one of my old friends. I told him that I was unsure about my belief in God, an unthinkable sin to many Indians, especially from me, a Brahmin. He looked at me and said, "You've changed Abhishek. You're not Indian anymore." Those words were harsh, but to some extent they are true. Because of my life abroad, I have slowly lost my ability to be Indian. My country is now a strange land, like any of the others I have lived in.
Rice is an essential part of almost every meal in the subcontinent. After spending ten years in this region, rice has become an essential part of my meals, and my life. When I go back to Iowa, the land of meat and potatoes, my relatives have a very difficult time dealing with me. A very difficult time. My grandmother has to special order rice from the store since Rice-a-Roni simply will not do. Without real rice the South Asian inside me starves. I go into clinical depression, and my mother has to put me on a rice iv drip. I may be Iowan, but when it comes to rice, I'm as Deshi as it gets. On a side note, I will be attending Rice University. How ironic is that?
These experiences are two of many that help define us as Third Culture Kids, or TCKs. We have no home. Our travels around the world have alienated us from the concept of home. The only refuge for us is the third culture we have created. Our world is one of tolerance, adaptation, and knowledge. Saad Chowdhury, a member of our graduating class, has lived in five countries. His father is Bangladeshi, and his mother is British. He speaks with an American accent, and looks like an Arab.
On his first day of public school in America, someone asked him "So, where are you from?"
Saad answered, "Bangladesh."
"Where's that," the person inquired.
"It's right next to India."
The guy shrugged. "Sorry man, I'm not familiar with Europe."
Abhishek Chakivarty and Mark Mozena
We welcome your comments, and we invite you to share your own experiences of international mobility through poetry, stories, or other prose.
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