How I Learn To Utilize My Cultural Mismatch To My Advantage
Spicy curry poured over greasy french fries may seem like an uncommon take on poutine, but for me this blend was lunch. Growing up, many of my friends had one default cultural group their families belonged to. But coming from a biracial background, I was constantly switched from one culture to the other, never identifying completely with either one. My dad’s South Indian background was worlds different from my mom’s Christian heritage in rural Michigan. These worlds only moved further apart when my parents divorced, and these two different ways of life were confined to two different households. This gap always made me feel as if I needed to prioritize one culture over the other so I could be accepted into one group, and for a long time I did just that. Only when I was older did I learn how to utilize my cultural mismatch to my advantage.
As a nine year old, I decided to go by my middle name Nathan instead of my given name Kris (short for Krishna) and started to eat meat as a backlash against the Indian culture of my dad. The pushback I showed my dad stemmed from the cultural discrimination that I felt coming from other Indians due to my mixed race background. At Indian events, I was always looked at as if I were some unknown creature that happened to wander into their vicinity, and people would talk behind my back as if I were not there. This attempt at escape from exclusion was not new to me as I already got separated in school due to my dyslexia. Being dyslexic, my communication skills were far from ideal, and I struggled to connect to the already disapproving members of the community that I was supposed to be a part of. By breaking away from my dad’s heritage, I was briefly able to relieve myself of this alienation. But I only truly able to move on by embracing both cultures. Once I started embracing both of my parents’ heritages, I started to understand that being spread across two different cultures has not only allowed me to look from the outside in but from the inside out. Piecing together who I was provided me with great understanding of the foundations of my identity. I enjoyed the loudness of American concerts while at the same time appreciating the quiet intrinsic peacefulness of a temple. This exploration of where I came from was of great importance to me, and I became determined to carry that same level of curiosity and willingness to see others’ perspectives into many parts of my life.
I soon found that my ability to view things from two different vantage points proved especially useful in debate. Debate has been one of the biggest manifestations of my internal drive to gain understanding of complex topics. My background of being able to see both sides only enhanced my ability to see different perspectives during debate rounds and gave me the edge over many other people. The whole premise of debate is to prove different points through the showcasing of evidence and speaking ability. I was able to switch from one side to the other with ease while many others struggled to unhinge themselves from one narrative. Besides my love for proving claims to be true or false, debate provided me with a unique opportunity to prove to myself that I could overcome massive obstacles that at one point seemed unpassable. Growing up with dyslexia, I often had to speak slowly and would stutter mid-sentence. These problems would only get worse when I was nervous, so debate my freshmen year was brutal for me. I lost many rounds, but I kept going because I knew I had it in me to be successful and I needed to prove that to myself. With hard work, I meticulously climbed the debate ladder to the top 40 in the nation for Public Forum Debate.
Looking back on my last three years of debate, my determination and my roots of diversity and multiculturalism have allowed me to really access what debate is all about: understanding. Perspective is everything. Through debate, dyslexia, and divorce, I have learned that views are just that: views, the ability to see something from a particular place. I intend to stand in as many places as I can and see the full picture, whether it be in a debate round or regarding my cultural heritage.