Embracing My Indian Culture

By Zaki Khan

As I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I am 100% American. But, my parents emigrated from India in the 70s, so that makes me an Indian-American. While I grew up around the language (Urdu), culture, and cuisine, I actually did my best to abstain from a lot of aspects of my Indian heritage. Although I loved the food, I refused to learn Urdu, I protested any Bollywood film viewing, and I begged my mom to let me wear western style suits (instead of the traditional shlwar-kamis) to important functions and parties.

I shunned all these aspects of my parents’ upbringing because my biggest objective growing up was to fit in. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, and my greatest fear was for my peers to think my family’s customs were weird. My reluctance was so great that, on move-in day four years ago, I rolled my eyes and made a fuss when my parents said they met a nice couple from Bangladesh and that I should meet their son.

This wasn’t the first time my parents wanted me to meet and befriend a kid my own age just because he or his parents were from the Indian subcontinent. So I did what I usually do – I greeted the parents with respect, exchanged a few words with their son, Waiz, and told him we should definitely get lunch sometime (not really expecting either of us to follow through on the invitation).

But as it turns out, we actually had very similar interests. And after running into each other repeatedly at different events the first couple months of school and sharing the same dreadful CHEM 105a class, we became really great friends. Soon enough, we decided to room together for our sophomore year and continued to remain roommates and best friends throughout the rest of college.

My four years with Waiz have really helped me embrace my culture again. I’m much more proud of my diverse background and my parents’ struggles, and I wear them proudly when I’m out in public or meeting new people. I’ve even beared through a couple 3 hour Bollywood films!

But something that is even more spectacular about our friendship is that we share extremely similar interests, political views, interpretations of Islam, social practices, etc., despite growing up thousands of miles apart in completely different countries, communities, families, and environment. I think our friendship really speaks volumes to how important it is to get to know international citizens. They could be your partner, your lover, or in this case, a life-long friend.

Featured image by Naveed Ahmed on Unsplash

Zaki Khan is a Junior studying Business Administration at the Marshall School of Business. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and wouldn’t have it any other way. He is a soccer fanatic but also loves following the NBA, NHL, and various college sports. He is the current president of Kicks for Kids at USC, but in his free time, Zaki likes taking spontaneous drives through the mountains or along the coast, listening to new music, exploring LA food culture, and hanging out with friends.