Sunday, April the 30th, 2006

If you’re even a remotely frequent visitor to my journal, you’d have realised by now that I am perennially pissed about a lot of things. One of these that is always on the back of my mind—something that makes me feel almost sorry for myself—is the fact that I’m going to have to make it in this country (should I choose to) as a first generation immigrant. I’ve probably harped about this before, but this is not a trivial process, and is an unfair burden that no future generation will have to worry about.

Fucking freeloaders.

A term which I hadn’t heard in over two years—primarily because I don’t usually associate myself with people who use it—‘ABCDE’ cropped up recently in pleasant conversation. For those not in the know, this expands (I presume) to American Born Confused DEsi—desi being the generic term encompassing people of south-Asian origin. It refers in particular to the “unfortunate” second generation immigrant kids who’re supposedly “confused” because they’re born into and live in one culture, but the environment and values emphasised at home are remnants of a different society far, far away.

You know what? shut the fuck up.

They aren’t “confused.” They’re American and you know it. They’re culturally acclimatised since birth, mesh well into society, have no awkward accents (apart from being unable to pronounce their own names)—they’re socially, culturally and emotionally conditioned to “just fit.” Don’t feel sorry for them. They have the easy life, with their now-rich doctor parents and their consequent BMWs and super-hot blonde fiancés. What the fuck is there to be confused about?

Really, can’t the god-damned moniker ‘ABCDE’ just die already?

Instead, feel sorry for the genuinely troubled and confused first generation folk. They’re the ones who are really torn between two worlds. They’re the ones who’ll never really integrate themselves into society (if they tried to, I mean). They’re the ones who have to work extra-hard to ensure a fabulous life for their kids.

One that they can’t even hope to have.

This is a printer-friendly version of the journal entry “First generation woes – I/II” from actuality.log. Visit to read the original entry and follow any responses to it.

15 Responses to “First generation woes – I/II”

  1. pUl| says:

    “…the fact that I’m going to have to make it in this country (should I choose to)…”

    What’s keeping you from not choosing now?

  2. pundit says:

    I don’t understand the question. Are you asking me:
    – Why I haven’t chosen yet? As in what is it I’m considering?
    – If it’s such a crummy deal, why don’t I just choose not to?
    – Or something else entirely?

  3. pUl| says:

    My apologies, I was referring to something in the lines of option 2.

  4. pundit says:

    Because of a basic confusion as to the metric of a “successful life.”

    Part two of this piece, when I choose to unleash it onto the world, will probably make that answer more clear.

  5. anita says:

    i’ve only heard “ABCD” (without the E), but i’ve always gotten a slightly different interpretation of it – that it refers to people who don’t know or understand much about indian culture because they were born here.

    and for the record, although i was born here, i never felt like i meshed well into society, i do get an awkward accent from time to time (especially when i’m nervous), i can pronounce my name as it would be pronounced in india (and i prefer how it sounds that way), and i most certainly do not have the easy life.

    i know what you’re getting at, but there are some of us who were born here who feel that 1st generation immigrants have it easier in some ways. maybe you just need to move to some part of the US where there are thousands of them around : )

  6. pundit says:

    It is probably without the ‘E’. I, for whatever reasons, clearly don’t hang around enough people who use the term to be sure. Is it such a crime that they don’t know much about Indian culture, or understand it well? Why would/should they, and how does it even matter? I wouldn’t call someone confused for something like that; just living in the present.

    For the record, I think uh-neee-tuh (sp?) is a delightful way of pronouncing ‘anita’. It’s just, I find it mildly amusing when kids who have really long and hard-to-pronounce names (even by standards back home) here, even try.

    I can see that I’m just arbitrarily generalising from cherry-picked examples, but I’m really curious as to how you’ve arrived at the first generation having it easy, in any regard.

  7. anita says:

    it’s not a crime, but i think a lot of indians tend to make fun of indians born in the US, either because they don’t understand their language(s) or traditions or history or whatever. my uncle in india actually uses the term “DA” instead of “ABCD” (DA for “dumb american”). though, he’s not usually referring to lack of cultural knowledge, but lack of knowledge in general.

    i know, my name’s easy. i just hate the “tuh” sound – especially when people use a really hard “t”. some people use a “duh” sound, which is ok, but i prefer “tha”.

    anyway, i feel like first generation immigrants (now, not years ago) have a built-in excuse for not being able to speak clear english (even though they may have spoken it all their lives). and yeah, that’s a silly example, but see…i don’t speak well at all and i have no excuse for that – it’s not fair!! seriously though, around here, it seems like it’s so easy for recent immigrants to find others from the same country and make friends with them. whereas i have trouble fitting in with those groups, and i also have trouble fitting in with “american” or “americanized” groups. also, i think in some cases, they are seen as more hard-working, intelligent, etc. but i know there are negatives as well…wasn’t disagreeing with that.

  8. pundit says:

    I will surely respond to you properly, but before I do, I must ask: Will anyone hereabouts be too offended if I made some sweeping generalisation, like “North Indians don’t really speak all that well (in English)?”

    If you will, you have 10 or so hours to voice your displeasure.

  9. J says:

    It’s not that bad is it? I mean being nice to the generations to follow.

    Oh btw, I loved the way you pronounced ‘uh-neee-tuh’… what would you do with my name?

  10. pUl| says:

    pundit: For the most part, I would totally agree with your “generalization”.

  11. pundit says:

    anita: For the record, and as is hopefully obvious by these posts, I don’t make fun of people born here. I don’t think of them as dumb or clueless, just aware of different things, things that matter to them in their present—not some remnant of their parents’ past.

    I feel that the bit about the built-in excuse for being unable to speak properly in English is a bit disingenuous, because I think that I speak clearly; and don’t have a problem with articulating myself. It is not something I resort to, or need to. I do believe that some portions of the population definitely do not speak clearly at all, but that is not because they’re first generation immigrants, but because they stay in their little closed-circles and don’t interact with people outside who do speak with more clarity.

    I have no friends in the recent immigrant community, so I have to disagree with that being “easy to do” as well. On the other hand, I strongly feel that I’d have more friends outside the community if I were more culturally meshed. And I mean the little things, like a passion for common sport, or even not having to worry about using the right fork for a salad.

    But I have to admit that I think I’m more intelligent. But that’s just some misplaced ego-talk and I feel that way about most people, not necessarily toward second generation immigrants!

  12. pundit says:

    J: I am not saying that it is a bad thing. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be a little bit peeved about missing the same being done for me now, does it?

    With regards to your name, I’d do what many other people do too I am sure, drop the middle syllable and contract it to a ‘jay-shree’.

    And off-topic, I’m still confused and downcast as to how you went from this to this.

  13. pundit says:

    pUl|: Strange, with your penchant for quoting Hindi movie stories, I thought you’d be more accommodating to their quandary.

  14. J says:

    I’m a yo-yo, ok? ok.

  15. anita says:

    i never meant to imply that you make fun of people born here. i just meant a lot of my relatives in india seem to think that americans are a bit lacking in common sense.

    anyway, as for the language thing…i was only half-serious about it. just had in mind a particular incident at my old job. this person i worked with was a terrible writer, and when my boss saw that, he said something along the lines of “we’ll have anita write this instead since she’s a native english speaker” (the other woman was not born here, but she had been living here for over 15 years and had a perfectly good command of english, yet she managed to play up the immigrant thing and get away with things like that.)

    other than that, i have this manager now who is a pretty recent immigrant, and i can’t understand what he’s saying half the time, but i feel like whoever hired him might have ignored the whole “communication skills” requirement to some extent – could be he’s a great programmer or whatever, but i feel like lack of communication skills work against me in interviews more than it would for someone who was from another country. maybe it’s just me.

    i hate to drag this out and make it longer than it needs to be, but regarding the friends thing, i think you’re a bit atypical.

8,942,154 people conned into wasting their bandwidth.