Common App personal statement; thoughts, opinions, and feedback greatly appreciated
“You guys are the ones with red dots on your forehead?” is a question I habitually nodded in response to after telling someone I was Indian. Growing up in America, I never knew what being Indian really meant beyond that. Sure I had seen Bollywood movies and went to the temple to participate in Holy, the festival of colors, every year, but that’s where my connection ended. It wasn’t until the first time I heard traditional Indian music that I finally felt strongly about any aspect of my cultural identity.
I felt like it was the most gut-wrenching noise to ever be played. When my parents bought their first Indian CD mix and played it on our way home, I was ashamed to feel such displeasure at what my parents, my brother, and my people thought to be beautiful, harmonious sound. An avid fan of the complexity and synergistic nature of R&B, I was simply unable to appreciate the monotonous, haunting melodies of Hindustani classical music.
I went to my mother after the eternity it took to get home and confessed my feelings, shedding tears because I had let her down. “I don’t deserve to be Indian,” I admitted. I was little more than the average American mix of a multitude of cultures. My mom kindly silenced me and explained that even she had not liked traditional Indian music when first hearing it. It did not mean I wasn’t Indian, just that I was human. For her, it was an acquired taste that she had found the beauty in through dance.
My interest was peaked. I had always loved the fluidity of motion and grace with which one can move their body, in tune with a creation from someone else’s mind. Though I often danced more to Chris Brown and other contemporary artists, I was eager to find this connection to my heritage. I wanted to understand more about my culture than why we wear Bindi’s on our forehead.
After taking up classes at the local temple and practicing whenever I could with my mom, I soon uncovered the hidden gem that lies within Hindustani classical music. In its simplicity, one can more easily express the joys and anguish of their own soul through dance, in unison with the sole voice of the music. The once tedious and overworked beat became reassuring, a constant base for any daring exploration I chose to take with my routine. I began to love this once dreaded element of my culture.
Because of my newfound interest, I spent more time at my temple learning about Indian history and culture, while also expanding my musical and dance interests. I shared a common passion with my mother, whom I still rehearse and choreograph with today. I’ve even picked up Indian language through my constant exposure.
I’ve learned to reconcile my Indian and American cultures through dance, where I often take the classic R&B “pop & lock,” and incorporate it into my Indian Kathak dance style. It is no longer a competition as to which of my cultures defines me. They complement each other, both pouring equally from my heart into not only dance, but everything I do.
Through this experience, I learned that beauty can be found in anything, if one takes the time to look. I began to try everything I could, knowing another hidden gem may be found in the most expected places. I’m never quick to judge, but instead am willing to give anything a shot, careful to never make this mistake again. I take my passion, coming from thousands of years of both of my people, and channel it into my everyday actions.
When playing tennis, I often use the “sidesteps” I’ve learned to quickly get to the ball. When volunteering, I often teach patients some of my routines. The combination of my Indian and American people swirls inside me, giving me strength and unique perspective. I know I will make them all proud.