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Living with a Cross-Cultural Identity written by mohini pradhan

Mohini is a student of English literature. She holds the opinion that the subject completely changed her perspective on life by making her look at life more holistically. She loves reading and writing, which is a major part of her life. This is also due to her degree in English. Apart from this, she has varied interests in music, art, design, learning foreign languages and cooking. This has been fostered through her parent's encouragement in whatever she does. They believe in the utilitarian aspect of all things, which has influenced her as well. She hopes to be a fiction editor in the future, a role that she’s extremely fond of and enjoys.

As a child, it was easy. The mind of a child doesn’t look much at genealogy, but as that perspective of tracing lineage develops, the questions follow. My family is a confluence of cultures – you name it and we will have a member belonging to it. I remember an incident in class nine, when I was in conversation with my teacher. I recall the fact she was fascinated with the idea that my parent's belonging could be traced to descendants from three different communities – Nepali, Tamilian and Anglo Indian. As a response to this, the first question she asked was, “So do you have idllis and sambhar or momos ?” At first I didn’t know what to tell her, so I settled with saying, “Ma’am we eat normal food only.”

Now in retrospection, I realized that my answer was not really satisfactory. The fact that my family has so many cultures within it makes it unique and beautiful. Even the food, that I had described as normal, doesn’t really fit the bill, as my mother loves experimenting and cooking new dishes. Apart from food, what also amplified curiosity and fascination was the Indian names my parents decided for my brother and me. We experience a little of everything, so there’s never a dull day – from Madar Sapar (a lunch in honour of Our Lady of Vailankanni) to Bhai Tika to Chinese New Year to receiving eidis on Eid, along with the occasions celebrated in church - my brother and I have been a part of many things. Another beautiful aspect of living in such a family is the mindset that one develops, which is of acceptance and fraternity along with patience. My experience has led me to believe that there is beauty in everything, one just requires the right perspective to appreciate it. This applies to viewing my family as well.

The journey so far has been rather unique – with new explanations and experiences. Whenever I introduce myself to someone new, there are many questions. My personal favourites are, “Why don’t you look like a Nepali?”, “Why is your hair so straight? Have you had it straightened?”, “Why don’t you have a Christian name?” To these questions, my answers are always the same - I come from a cross-cultural family; my hair is straight due to my Nepali genes and I would rather have curly hair, and my father has given me a name that belonged to the most beautiful woman in Indian mythology, which I personally feel is great. Sometimes I have had to explain my family tree, which is a tad confusing and I always call myself a ‘two-fourth Nepali’, which creates confusion in the mind of the person listening to me, but it’s fine as I am always the one who is explaining.

Having a family as mine presents a myriad of experiences which proves beneficial for my overall and all round development as a person. However, at times it’s difficult to deal with most of them that come with taunts and teasers. Amidst the good and not so good, I know we’re always there for each other which I truly feel is a blessing as I have come across quite a number of people who belong to families that are not receptive to people of other communities. I find this sad as life is too short to live with differences. I believe every human being is special, unique and a representation of this can be seen in a cross cultural family.

Mohini is presently pursuing her Master of Arts degree in English from the Department of English at Loreto College affliated to the University of Calcutta. She can be contacted at

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