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Gauwali

Posted in AutumnIndianIndiaLifestyle

gauwali n. a woman from a village

I talked about identity last year a bit. Just touching on the surface level, and have alluded to things that are much deeper and even more complicated. In all reality, when people see “in my element,” interacting with family and indulging in all things Gujarati—they are absolutely baffled.

“How do you speak Gujarati so well?”

I grew up in a household where my grandparents played a major role in raising me and my parents were there to work to be able to provide for my future. I used to walk my grandfather’s hand and walk to the bus stop, spend the day at school {struggling in English as it was my 3rd or so language) and then come back home to go pick vegetables from the garden with my grandmother and finish homework. We did homework provided from an English speaking school in Gujarati and then spent the evening eating a proper Gujarati meal that was purely vegetarian.

Gujarati was my identity and the language helped. Most of our friends were Gujarati and bringing “an American” home meant that it was anyone who was anything BUT Gujarati.

Gauwali
Gauwali

”How do you know so much about your culture?”

In college, to fulfill a liberal arts course, I ended up taking an art history class called “South Asian Art and Architecture.” Little did I know, that the whole course was going to be basically looking at photos of places and things I’ve seen on family trips to India to visit family.

On each trip as a child, we visited a different part of the country. Scouting out museums, temples, mosques, statues, artifacts, and the like. We hired drivers and tour guides whilst indulging on local cuisines. It was safe to say that at a young age, I was able to embrace the most culturally diverse country so seamlessly.

what I wore

shirt & trousers c/o INDE ROOH sunnies RAY-BAN earrings c/o J.LAUREN

Gauwali

”You spent summers in India on your own? YOU’RE A DANCER?!”

I always open with the line with, “I’m a dancer.” People are a bit taken aback considering I’m quite a structured, less free-spirited type person. But as I explain with detail the discipline, intricacies and the pure art form that Indian classical dancing is, people are flabbergasted by how such an ancient discipline has structured, grounded and formed me into who I am today.

”But you seem… not so Indian…”

I grew up going to school with children who had white picket fences and thought the other Indian kid in the school was my cousin or brother (we went with it if you were wondering). After that I went onto a liberal arts university nestled in one of the least diverse part of the country and then continued my education in the same type of university, but in Scotland. I guess you could say, I wasn’t surrounded by diversity. I always saw myself as “one of them” and was never ridiculed for being culturally different, instead I was embraced.

Gauwali
Gauwali

”Will you marry an Indian? What about your children?”

This is something I’m still trying to work out. One of the things I’m truly proud of is that I’m multilingual and I definitely see the beauty in having those skills. I also find the culture incredibly rooted in tradition, values and morals that can teach basic and quality life lessons, but again, this is something I’m still here “working on.”

I’m typing this as I battle jet lag, but I can’t imagine a single moment where I wanted to hide my culture. It was something that came very natural to me and never have I ever felt as if I was someone who came from a different background or family compared to my friends in America or the UK. I should end on a more elaborate note, but jet-lag wins.