How do you make friends?

Picture this:

Your long-time friend, not super close but good enough friend, has moved to another country. It’s been a while now and she visits. You ask her to meet. But because there isn’t enough time to meet everyone personally, she decides on a date, time and place for you and everyone else she knows and wants to meet in the city to come say hi. Now, the place and time works perfectly for you but you realize you’d only know her and nobody else who you’ll have to socialize with. Would you go?

My theory says that depending on whether you’re Indian or American, it’s extremely likely that your answers will differ.

If you’re Indian, you’ll make this observation, probably feel reluctant and text her personally, outside of the group chat, to see if she can arrange for another time to catch up. And you’re more inclined to not go at all than to subject yourself to socializing with strangers.

If you’re American, you probably won’t think much of it and go there, get a beer and chat with your friend and everyone else you’re around. How much you chat and how open you are obviously depends on how outgoing you are but situations like these are probably very regular.

I realized this over my trip to India this time. I do not have any extremely close friends left in Delhi. They’ve all moved away. So the people I catch up with are my casual friends. I wouldn’t be sad over missing anyone but would love to see most of them if I can. And what I have realized is that the situation I described above would totally work in America, more specifically New York. I see this all the time. I go to things like these all the time. But in India, I heard from many people that they probably won’t be into such a thing.

On one hand, I get it. Friend groups in India are very close and closed too. Fluid circles are not that common. I have grown up valuing these close bonds. But as an adult, if you’re not moving around in circles, how do you meet people? How do you make new friends?

And funnily enough, I have the same question as an adult in New York but for a very different reason. In America, friend groups are pretty open. You’re invited to things and you can socialize with strangers and have a good time. But it’s very hard to convert that into a real friendship and get close to someone over time.

I don’t have anything profound to say here except that culture stuff in a new country and old is always a work in progress, friends.


New York has no time

Have I ever said bad things about New York on this blog? I don’t think so. Well, there’s a first for everything so here we go: Nobody has time for anybody in New York. And it’s not a people thing. Shit people exist everywhere, people say they’re too busy everywhere, yes, but believe me. It’s a New York thing.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “New York minute,” which is basically the frenzied pace of lives we live here. It’s exciting and all when you think about how we hop from work to an after-work dinner/drink with friends to maybe another thing (I would never but some people do) and then fall asleep.

But it’s not exciting at all in other ways.

Dating, for example, is harder. People have time to do things. They lead full, exciting lives. But spending time with you, getting to know you is not one of those things they spend time on. So it’s harder to cultivate connections.

The funny thing is that even if you’re not from New York, you will take no time in partaking in this habit when you move in. I count myself in this. I just don’t have the bandwidth to think about random strangers and the good qualities in them that I might like. My parents warn me this will ruin my life and while I don’t build my life around the aspiration to date or marry, I guess they’re right in the broader sense of things.

Friends are unicorns — hard to find. Wait, no, that’s a romantic partner.

Well, friends are slightly easier to find than unicorns, but that’s not saying much. So far, my friend circle is made up of people I went to grad school with, people I know from India and three people who decided to befriend me at work in three different years. India and grad school is ok because I wasn’t working and you’re around the same people all the time, so it’s fertile ground for friendships to breed. But the work friends? I thought it would be over the minute I quit or they quit but it’s still going on, so you know, it might be akin to unicorn business but it’s impossible. Three new friends in three years in pretty decent? For New York, it’s pretty darn good, I’d say. I guess a good part of my time goes in making sure I don’t lose these few friends I have because truly, they’re all I have in this country/city.

Oh by the way, if you’re new in a city and especially if you’re new in THIS CITY, you should listen to this NPR episode about how to make and keep friends.

The next on this list of bad things that happen when you live in a New York minute should be the lack of patience but I’m from Delhi and I never had any of it to begin with so I’ll skip that.

Basically, born a New Yorker or not, if you live in this city, you will live in New York minutes and that’s all you get. Forgive me now for I must go, my New York minute writing this was long up and now I must run to work.



Where Are Your Manners?

Have you ever wondered if you have lost your manners or people never learnt them? Yes, manners are subjective. People can’t agree on the same etiquette living on the same street, it’s hard to expect uniformity when you go halfway across the world. Still, some people do.

Someone I know since I high school — we have seen each other only once after graduating — recently moved to the West Coast. We got back in touch and when he decided to come to New York, I agreed to host him.

I’ve hosted a couple friends since I’ve lived here but this was a very strange time. My friend, let’s call him B, arrives and he expected the kind of guest treatment that I have never given or expected from anyone.

Fun fact #3: My parents raised me to be an extremely cultured and polite guest. I must always behave when I go to someone else’s house, pick up after myself, not ask for anything until really necessary, not expect much, be polite and self-sufficient. I’m a low-maintenance guest, if you will. And I like that. In fact, I’ve taken that to a whole other level in In America, I’ve become much, much more independent and hate to impose as a guest. I always promise my host that I’ll be out of their hair.

First, B makes the executive decision to come during the week, not the weekend. Then, he insisted that I take days off work and show him around the city. He also asked me to prepare an itinerary for him and when he was out and about in the city, he called me at work several times to make real time spending decisions for him. “Is the tourist guy asking for the right price in exchange for entry tickets to two tourist spots? And by the way, should I go to the Top of the Rock as you suggested on World Trade Center, as he suggests?” It looked like last night’s work of writing an itinerary down for him, going through it several times and emphasizing why he should go to Top of the Rock wasn’t enough.

He also asked me to make dinner the night he got in and then said he was too full to eat. I’m not a clean freak but he left his stuff all over the house, the blankets, the bowls he ate from, etc. It felt like I was expected to pick up after him if I wanted to make sure my other flatmates weren’t inconvenienced and as if I was supposed to spoon-feed him.

Talk about a tough guest. But I didn’t have any of it. Which brings me to my hosting manners.

Fun fact #2: Growing up, my mom set an example for me to be an ever-present host, who goes out of her way to take care of a guest’s needs. She works and is also super domestic, the kind of a superwoman, who thinks of every little detail. Luxury gyms take years to figure out how to take care of their guest’s every little need, but mom just knows. (Sorry, I’ve been exercising lately.)

In short, be an extremely kind host but don’t be the guest that expects grand gestures.

Here’s how a dinner situation would play out, for example.

Guests play coy with their food serving. They talk small portions on their plate. And your role as a guest is to insist on a second serving. If the guest accepts the second serving, then it indicates that the food was genuinely good. If the guest takes a big portion on the plate to start with, that makes the host happy, too. But guests shouldn’t shock them with a full plate with no space. Unless, you’re at a wedding, in which case, feel free to go crazy.

3 idiots

Go crazy with the serving at weddings. Scene from “3 Idiots”.

But I digress.

Fun Fact #3: I’m nothing like my mom or the Indian super host. When I came to America, I realized that hosts take a hands-off approach. Here, people typically don’t like you hovering over them. Especially when they visit a city like New York, they want some independence to do what they want and go wherever they want without a chaperone. A couple years ago, I had also noticed how kids feel free to pry into the their host’s fridge to get whatever food they want, instead of asking. It felt really weird to me because my mom always taught me to ask. But it works brilliantly, actually, given the extreme paucity of time in everyone’s lives. And now, with the culture change, I’m a hands-off host. It’s perfect.

I like that I can give my guest a couch and then they will suit themselves as they most prefer, without me having to stress about what they like, what would be best and worrying about feeding them every second and making sure their needs are catered to. I know they’ll be fine and if they can’t find something, they’ll ask. I’m not aspiring to be a superwoman in this domain, I guess.

So with my friend, I gave him suggestions for places he should check out and he was free to improvise as he went. But I refused to take days off work because the U.S. isn’t very generous with vacation days and he isn’t a close friend or family. Needless to say, his high expectations and my unwillingness to meet them strained the situation a bit. I needed him to independently go around the city and respect my time and not disturb me at work for random things. He wanted me to be his best friend and show him everything.

I like to think that it’s not all culture change. Maybe this is the universal style and it’s how all millennial hosts like to roll. I need for money to afford food and a roof over my head, for which I need to work.

Now, I feel like a bit of a jerk. So, I need some answers from you. I expect they will differ depending on where you’ve grown up, where you live and what your culture is but tell me:

  1. When you visit someone’s house, do you expect them to be around all the time to take care of you? Or do you expect them to go about their day and you’ll be fine?
  2. When you host someone, do you make sure you go out of your way to make their stay comfortable? Or do you go about your day because you don’t want to be overbearing?
  3. Do you take days off work to hang around with your guest? No matter how distant or close they are?
  4. Assuming that your guest is not your closest friend or family, what are some needs you take care of for your guest before and while they’re visiting?

I might also need to rethink this policy of letting anyone I know crash on my couch.

The New Year Post

Happy New year everyone! I hope you ushered in 2019 in your special ways.

Before writing this post, I looked up what I wrote last year. I said 2017 had been a rough year and that was true. I wrote I was going to be working on managing stress in 2018. And I did. But boy, that was tougher than expected. In managing stress, I uncovered a much deeper emotion instability in me that I worked hard on dealing with. I opened a can of worms at first, it seemed. I dealt with high levels of anxiety, my insecurities and fears came out in full force. But now, I feel better.

I said I’d meditate. That didn’t quite work out because it’s such a tough habit to form. What’s surprisingly easier is exercise and giving up caffeine which gave me more control over my body and emotions. So one step forward right?

I also traveled. But yet again, things don’t go as planned. Instead of New Orleans, Montreal and Denver, I made it to Texas twice. That’s got to count for something right? For what it’s worth, I might actually make it to New Orleans this year.

I did manage to read 12 books. This year, I’ll try to be up at 14. Let’s see if I can make it work.

I did not learn any more French than I already knew.

But I did learn that goals are better than resolutions. They’re not promises to keep everyday but some improvement to strive for. So here’s what I have for 2019:

  1. I overeat. And I want to control that. It shouldn’t be surprising given how big meal portions are in this country. Sometimes, I can’t get the food packed so I always try to finish it instead of wasting it. Overeating started that way. Then I just got used to how stuffed I felt and I liked the feeling. As soon as I felt I could eat more, I would. So this year, I’ll try to eat mindfully.
  2. I’ll write more. I’m a writer, not just for this blog but as a journalist. I produce podcasts but I need to really work on putting more of my writing out there in the world and on this blog. So I hope I can work on that more.
  3. Be productive but the type that brings value, not just the type that fills time. I have always thought about how being an immigrant means I spend so much of my disposable time dealing with transition stress and paperwork. I only have so much energy left to use emotionally and in terms of tangible work. So I want to focus on using it right.

I think these are fair goals. What are yours?

We’re Not In India Anymore

I had never withdrawn money before coming to America.

That is neither representative of a typical twenty-year-old in India nor does it mean I was a brat demanding money from my parents whenever I needed it. It just means I came from a cash economy where I didn’t need a card, and that my dad never trusted me with a debit card anyway.

It doesn’t stop there. Learning to live in America has given me a lot of firsts. The third world and first world problem tropes feel very warped in my head.

Think about it. If I were living in India right now, chances are I’d still have the comforts of house help for cleaning the dishes, mopping the floors, and perhaps even preparing all three meals for each day. My only concern in life would be my job. Sounds comfortable, right? The catch is that I’d be living with my parents and/or living off of my parents. So I would never know what part of that comfortable life was my own doing and what life skills I was capable off.

Life in America? I work, cook, do my own groceries, clean, maintain friendships here and relationships back home. There is no house help because who can afford that anyway? I recently also made my own furniture because apparently, that’s what life is like here, and basically live a fully-functioning life at the cost of extreme exhaustion. I have to stay on top of my game to make sure I don’t starve to death the day I come home from work late and there’s nothing in the fridge ready to eat or to cook. I also figured out the tax paperwork of a whole new country and filed it on my own for two years in running. It’s a lot of work. A lot of my time of day is gone not investing in my work and in furthering my career, which makes me question how productive you can be here. Where did the first-world luxury go? And if I do have a semblance of first-world luxury, then what does it enable me to do?

My mom laughs every time she hears about how I keep up with life here.


The 4th of July fireworks remind me of home and Diwali.

The reason I bring up all of this is because I’m starting to feel like the excuse that I didn’t grow up here is getting old. It doesn’t work anymore. It’s still a 100 percent true and still 100% explains a 100% of why I don’t have the same experiential education like most people do my age. Like when I was supposed to pack up my desk belongings in a cardboard box because my office was moving to a new space and I felt like I didn’t know how to do it because I didn’t grow up here. It felt completely dumb to think that because I just had to tape the cardboard into a box, but never having done it before and never having seen my parents pack things to move in a cardboard box to move before (not in my conscious memory), I felt like this was not something I knew and it wouldn’t be something I would have to deal with if I was still in India. Why I feel dumb about using the growing up explanation here is because I should know it, right? Or everyone has to learn it or do it at some point. So I should stop using that explanation as an excuse for everything.

And that’s when I realized. A lot of experiences in my adult life are happening for the first time now and it just happens to be in America. It would be done differently, sure. But I’m still growing up… Can I still say that when I’m 24? Well, let’s say, I’m still experiencing new things.

On that note, I’ve also come to the realization that it may also be that India is also doing things differently from how I’ve known it to be. Because my knowledge of India is now three years out of date and I have no way to keep evolving it unless I go back to live there for a good, long period again. So my knowledge of India is embedded in nostalgia. And that’s soon going to be too old to be functional. *Gulp*

Moving to another country has both, short-term and long-term consequences. I’ve seen the short term stuff. But I’ve always seen India as a given constant of my life. I guess this is the beginning of the long-term consequences and part one of the realization that I’m not in India anymore.


Tourist-ing With a Tourist

The fact that I haven’t been to many iconic spots in New York City doesn’t strike me as odd as much as it does to my friends. Perhaps because everyone who moves to New York generally covers them all in the first couple days for the Facebook and Instagram likes. My friend asked me how to get to the Statue of Liberty and I still don’t know.

But I covered one spot last weekend. My friend was visiting and of course he wanted to see everything iconic. And this time, I was surprisingly enthusiastic about it. Why? Because going to the Top of the Rock was actually exciting and it was my birthday and it’s okay to do these one-off things.

The verdict? It was TOTALLY worth it.


See what I mean?

We decided to go here instead of the Empire State Building because we wanted to *see* it along with other things. And while we didn’t get to see Central Park because it gets so dark by 5pm, it is visible from there, not from Empire State. So Top of the Rock wins. It’s also cheaper.

After going here, I was also open to watching a Broadway show. Those are so expensive but what the hell, right? Also, I now know that you have to book a tour to the Statue of Liberty ahead of time and you can’t just show up like I prefer to. I hate waiting in lines.

While I didn’t end up going to a Broadway show, I did book myself a visit to the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library. It’s got an exhibition going on: “Harry Potter: A History of Magic. Perks of living in this city. Can’t wait! I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

p.s Now that I’m actually open to touristy stuff, maybe you could write to me asking if I’ve checked out the things you’ve been eyeing, and maybe I would have. If I haven’t, maybe I would actually be open to it, and I’ll report back to you. Try me.


One of who?

In America, my first instinct was to blend in. That seemed easy.

Life in Delhi is very diverse economically, religiously, linguistically, and you can insert endless criteria here. When you grow up with the background I did, life is quite cosmopolitan. An English-medium school to teach me impeccable English, parents to keep me grounded in all things Hindi (movies, music) and “Indian” (culture, etiquette) and friends to show me the “western” world I can access with English (music, sitcoms) and more. With this cosmopolitan upbringing, came this sense of pride that I can fit in anywhere I go, naive as that perception I might have been. But it holds true, at least on the surface of things.

I got to America and I counted on this cosmopolitan, international component to help me blend in. I was one of them.

There were little things that gave me away, like when I said “thrice.” And admittedly, I felt flushed every time words gave me away. It wasn’t about being American, it was just about being similar.

But then I saw my other non-American peers being so completely different, making fun of America and being comfortable with it. I felt surprised, not just at their attitude but also at my reaction that was amazed and impressed that there was a space to do that. As I got closer to my British and Australian friends, I realized how we were a little more similar, and I also felt more comfortable in standing out. I was not like one of them and it was ok. I didn’t have to be. This gave way to a stronger understanding. I wasn’t one of the British and Australian folks either.

I was my own person. And I felt very comfortable with it.

Time passed and with that sense of comfort, I realized I wasn’t looking around and really noticing the company I had. In most rooms, I was the only Indian girl. Race is a whole different conversation to be had, but with me, I brought a completely new set of references, culture, problems, opportunities, perspectives. Everyone talked about being a 90’s kid, but when they were referring to singing along Madonna and TLC, I thought about dancing to all the songs of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dil Toh Pagal Hai. I wasn’t able to establish kinship with anyone based on what I know and where I came from. Perhaps, that’s why conversations and coming across as one of them was important so bridging the gaps became more of a joyous activity than hard work.

Maybe all my woke friends will feel differently and slightly judge me for this but as a twenty year old coming to America, I really didn’t think I was very different and it didn’t matter too much that I was around a very American, pre-dominantly white circle of friends for the longest time. Today, I feel differently. I still value each and every friend I have made along the way, but having Indian friends around means so much.

I recently celebrated Diwali with Indian friends and I felt like I was with a family. I wasn’t explaining what we do in India, we were all together celebrating the day that we all knew was important. I have celebrated four Diwalis here and this one was the first with Indian friends and the best I’ve had.


My friends really went the extra mile

Every day, I value being around Indian friends more. I don’t know why I didn’t seek more out earlier. All is not lost yet, I’m glad I came around.

You’re In New York! Watch the Live Shows

Yesterday, I was watching “Friends” for the umpteenth time and Chandler says, “You know, we don’t take enough advantage of living in the city.” I feel that’s right. A friend, who was visiting from India, asked me how to get to the Statue of Liberty and I had no idea. I have never been to Top of the Rock of the Empire State Building. You might think it’s weird, he definitely thought it was weird. But for people who live here, that sounds about right. It’s not like I don’t want to or that I actively avoid it, I just haven’t found a good time to do this stuff. I’m just not a tourist.

But this year I tried to change that. I like listening to live music and going for concerts. Being in the city gives me a unique opportunity to literally see anyone I want to. From Beyonce to lesser known artists who haven’t yet toured out of the country to John Doe, who the world is not ready for just yet, everyone is here. And I just don’t do enough.

I went to watch Novo Amor for a secret show (thanks, Spotify) at Rockwood Music Hall. It was also his first ever show in the U.S. He is brilliant and the atmosphere he created with his music was perfect. I recommend that you go if he’s ever performing in your area.


Novo Amor at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York, New York


Then I may not have seen Beyonce perform but I did go to watch Ed Sheeran for a very public show with thousands of people at the Metlife Stadium. I knew very few songs by him, which was a surprise because his music is everywhere. I knew some stuff but I was pretty behind everyone else who was singing along almost every song. But it was a good show.


Ed Sheeran at the Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey

I’ll go for another show by Mitski in the coming month at another venue. It’s exciting.

I also really enjoy standup comedy. I’ve been to shows before but I went to my biggest every recently. I watched Hasan Minhaj at the Carnegie Hall in New York City right before he wrapped up his tour and launched his show ‘The Patriot Act.’ He is so, so good! And the cherry on top is how I don’t have to work to relate to his experiences because as a brown man, his experiences and his culture are like mine. So for once, a show in the west, is talking about things I know and a culture I grew up with. It was pretty awesome. My friend sneaked a pic after he was done with his act and saying his thanks.


Hasan Minhaj at Carnegie Hall in New York, New York

Since I moved, I have been incredibly responsible about finances. I have this awful habit of guilt tripping myself for wanting to spend the money I don’t have on recreational activities. How dare I, right? So I did’t.

But a friend keeps telling me to go for broadway shows (you know who you are) and I keep saying I’ll do it when I have money and maybe when I’m stable in life. But then he got really annoyed one day, and he did this very smart thing of showing me the incredible amount of restrictions that lie in my future life, “When you grow old, you will have back and knee problems or have a husband to take care of or children to raise. Then where will you travel? What will you do? You won’t have a life of your own.” I’ve never stopped thinking about it. I think that’s scared me enough to calm me down and have a little fun.

So I may not have covered all the touristy spots in the city but I have started doing what matter, little by little. Taking advantage of the city, in the ways I can.

I Went To Texas Twice

Texas was that part of America where, in my head, things could not get more stereotypically American. This year, I went to the state twice! Once to Houston and then to Austin. Boy, was I right!

First, the food portions are huge. I couldn’t finish it in one meal. Mind you, I’ve been in my stress eating phase and I can take on some big meals but I ate, and then some, and even so, there was food left for a second meal. Exhibit one: A chicken fajita at a restaurant in Houston.


From left: The big plate of chicken, the rice next to it, the beans next to the rice, the tortillas that you can’t see because my phone can only capture so much in the frame are all mine. I didn’t know what I was asking for. And it didn’t cost an arm and a limb.

This entire spread cost me under $20 and I’m pretty positive it was under $15. I am gawking because in New York, I would one, never get this much food and two, if I did, I would have to pay at least $25. This is when I came up with a rule of thumb for Texas: Only order things under $10 if you want to finish it in one go.

Another thing, the Mexican food here is stupendous! They call it Tex-Mex. When Chipotle introduced Queso on its menu, I tried it and it was awful. But Texas has Queso that is to die for. I kid you not. I have also never had Tortillas so warm, fresh and soft before.


Torchy’s wasn’t kidding about how good their queso is.

A special mention to the Horchata I had there.


I would go back for the Horchata I had in Austin

If you’re in Austin, you should also go to Voodoo donuts. They have really fun options and they’re really good!


Americans don’t lose an opportunity to flaunt their flag wherever there is space. Even if it is a 500-watt lit up installation in a donut shop, where it probably doesn’t make sense.

Other than food, I also saw men in cowboy hats in Austin. I didn’t think people would actually go around doing that, but they do. One of my Uber drivers was wearing a cowboy hat. A passenger who shared my Uber was wearing that. No big deal.

They’re also very Texas proud. So the local radio plays obscure country music, which I couldn’t get myself to like. The Marriott Marquis hotel in Houston has a Texas shaped lazy river.

Except for the rare people who give you a stink eye as they walk by or stand next to you in a line, as it happened at Voodoo donuts, people are generally nice, surprisingly nice. They have a ring to their voice when they say thank you. When I came to America first, I was struck by how people asked you how you are. I thought that was nice. But I guess that’s also formal, when you compare it to Texans who seem to mean it instead of just saying it.

They are weird about women, though. Right next to the Voodoo donuts place, where there are many young and old families coming in, there is a place called ‘Bikini Bar’. And right at the entrance, there were waitresses standing in their underwear with menus. The whole place was completely open, no doors, no walls. Just open windows. Inside, there were all these men sitting yelling at the TV screens watching some match and drinking on that Sunday noon, while the other waitresses fetched them drinks in their underwear. It was really weird. Other places have this too but this was very jarring and so, it stood out.


No brownie points for what the “view” was supposed to be

American football is a big deal in all of America. But apparently, it’s not just professional teams. People also really, really care about college football. If you’re thinking it’s just students, you’re wrong. While I was visiting, the hotel prices were shooting up the roof because my visit coincided with the college football match game. The University of Texas was playing against University of Southern California. Apparently, people from all over the country who were either currently studying at USC or were alumni of either colleges were coming for this game. I’ve never really seen a whole city painted orange before. Orange is the colour of Austin’s team, The Longhorns.

In India, people would think it’s *just* college and not a big deal. Gosh, let the kids live and play. But it’s broadcasted on national television. I don’t understand why but it is really important for people, it seems. In fact, on my ride back to the airport, I pooled an Uber with these two men who were pretty bummed that USC lost. I like sports but not enough to make a trip to just watch a team play, let alone a college team. So, I think people really care about college football.

While making my way around the city, I saw these crowds of people everywhere just heading in the same direction from miles and miles away. If there was a cluster of people somewhere that was not moving, they were still wearing orange jerseys and blasting music so loud because it was what they called “a tailgate”. A tailgate is a special word for people drinking before a game. I think it specifically applies to football games because drinking before any other event is usually called “pre-game.” It got the name because people often just park their truck-type cars with people and drinks loaded in the truck part of it and then just drink up until the game starts.

All of this is so weird but so much fun. It’s quite a sight. I’m glad I went to Texas. On to the next state.



People change, accents change

This week, I came across a clip of Satya Nadella talking. It’s not the content of the clip but his speech that led me to write this post. If you don’t know him, he is the CEO of Microsoft. He was born and raised in India, then went to America for higher studies. You know, basically my story except I’m not the CEO of anything (yet) and I’m also not an engineer (very important).

The reason I dwelled on this clip was because I heard him talk and I thought to myself, “He sounds British. Was he raised there or did he live there for a long time or something?” I had not heard that or read that anywhere in all of the coverage on him when he took the helm at Microsoft. So I googled it and sure enough, nothing about England came up. I wondered for a second before the reason dawned upon me. Of course he sounds British to me now.

This is exactly the response I got from people when I first came to America, “Are you British?” or “You sound British, not Indian.” And I used to silently judge the people who said this to me because they were so unaware of how Indians could sound. I judged them for being so caught up in stereotypical portrayals of the Indian accent, like Apu from The Simpsons. I rolled my eyes when something different from that stereotypical accent immediately sounded British to them. And yet, I found myself doing the same thing.


Satya Nadella

What does this say about me now? I felt ashamed of even trying to come up with an excuse. Because how could I forget? Not just about the different ways in which Indians talk but also about my own experience. How could I not connect the dots immediately?

To be honest, I am still not over it. Self-accusation is hard.

Anyway, here’s the thing. I live around Americans who sound a certain way. The other accents I hear around me frequently are British and Australian or very Delhi-Indian. Then I see different types people of Indian-origin around me. They have American or British accents as well. I am attuned to that. My Indian friends almost become outliers in a sense. They’re people I talk to once a week, perhaps. I fell victim to the dichotomy of accents. American or British. Every other accent is an outlier, and exception. (I know, I know, I’m terrible for saying this. How could I? Still trying to get over it.)

I’m susceptible to accents. Satya Nadella is not. Clearly. But I remember one particular time when I had to call countless sources living in places that are not regularly exposed to different accents. I didn’t have time to make them understand what I was saying because I was on deadline. I also remembered being hung up on because the 311 operator didn’t understand what I was saying. I couldn’t allow that. So I put on an accent. Many times, I left voice messages and two of them, when returned, asked for “Katy” and “Judy”.  But perhaps that’s where the more solidifying change began.

When I went to India to visit last year after a period of over two years, I don’t know why it matters to me so much, but I decided I will make a conscious effort to talk without an American accent. I was sure I would slip in the Indian accent anyway, but just as a conscious measure, I wanted to make sure I sounded like nothing changed. Ten minutes into reaching home, I sat down with my parents and two relatives, whose visited coincided my arrival. One of them was quick to point out that my accent had changed completely. And I responded saying there was no way, especially now that I was paying attention to how I was talking. I looked to my dad to back me up on this, especially given how I talk to my parents every week. And he didn’t even look at me once and told them, “she won’t realize it now, but give it a bit more time and the change will be even more starkly present.” To this day, I don’t think I was talking in an accent in that moment, but it was still striking to me. I guess it matters because it is such an important indicator for where I am “originally from”. To my parents, it shouldn’t look like I went too far away or forgot where I am from.

Accents are indicators of where you’re from, where you’ve been, if you’re susceptible to sounds and accents around you, if you’re nicely etched in your roots. “Where are you from” has become a difficult question. I’ll always be originally from India but what are you asking me? Where do I live? Where was I born? The city that is home? The city I now call home? Which city do I home? I haven’t answered that for myself. Or maybe I don’t want to. Maybe I’m afraid to. Who knows. Right now, I my accent indicates I have lived in America long enough. But I slip into that tendency to switch. Make me talk to an Indian friend and it’ll sound like I never left.

But accents are also an indicator of the fact that you assimilated. And I am not apologetic about that. I didn’t desperately work on, but it happened. It’s not assimilation bit I think about. It’s what someone asked me, “Once you go American, can you ever fully go back?”

To use the phrase that many “experts” use and journalists hate it when they use it: it remains to be seen.