“Two Ways to Belong in America” by Bharati Mukherjee

In this essay, Bharati Mukherjee discusses the differences between her and her sister’s experiences of coming to America. Both sisters were born and raised in Calcutta, India and moved America in search of education and work. Bharati is an American citizen and her sister, Mira, is not.
I found it interesting that both sisters came to America for the same purpose—education. Mira ended up marrying an Indian student and keeping her Indian citizenship and status as a legal immigrant because she wanted to stay true to her culture. And Bharati chose to marry a Canadian-American and declare an American citizenship. I feel like Bharati became a part of a new speech community because she chose to adapt to an American lifestyle and declare an American citizenship. Her sister did not like the idea of transforming her identity to become an American citizen. It seems as if Mira belongs to a more traditional and cultural speech community, even though she has been in America for over thirty years. Bharati has accommodated to the “superficial pop culture” of American society.
The different views amongst the two sisters reminds me of the differing views of some of my friends and I when it comes to fitting into American society. Obviously, my friends have been raised differently than I have. When I ask them what career field they want to pursue, they respond with, “I just want to get married.” When I first heard this response, I was shocked. I understand that our mothers were born and raised in Pakistan and they got married at a young age. However, I feel that, being born and raised in America, we should have higher goals than just marrying some random guy chosen by our parents. I feel like they don’t have the motivation to work hard to reach a goal because their parents don’t encourage them to at least get a four-year degree. In fact, their parents talk about them getting married at young ages. On the other hand, my sister was engaged at a young age, but my parents are encouraging her to focus on school and at least finish her four years of undergraduate studies before getting married and starting a new life. I think it is important to assimilate to new speech communities, such as Bharati’s assimilation to American society. If not, you might miss out on what is really important, such as a future.

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22 thoughts on ““Two Ways to Belong in America” by Bharati Mukherjee

  1. “I feel like Bharati became a part of a new speech community because she chose to adapt to an American lifestyle and declare an American citizenship.” I agree Bharati became a part of a new speech community but by her marrying someone of a different speech community her and her husband created a new speech community by merging the two. By cultures now marrying one another even if people of one language speaking country but different areas can create a new speech community for the generation that comes after the two. This ability to create new communities is a great part of America and allows individuals to create a sense of improvement in their eyes to what used to be a melting pot country to conform yourself to the American way which was standard English not multicultural and multi linguistic country.

  2. It is really interesting to see the total opposite views of Bharati’s and Mira’s parents than to your parents. What I mean is that Bharati’s and Mira’s parents want them to marry young and their education comes second or third, however with your parents they were concerned about an education and then said to think about marriage. The thing that strikes it to be interesting is that both sisters came to America for education. While education was on their mind, their culture and speech community still played an important role in their life. It demonstrates that it does not matter which speech community you belong to or where you are from, anyone can make a connection with someone else-whether it be from the same culture with the same values, or stepping away from your own culture to a different one and determining those differences. A personal example is that of my boyfriend and I. I am Catholic and he is Baptist. Although we have different religious backgrounds we still get along and can be apart of the same speech communities without any problems arising.

  3. The cultural aspect of a speech community is huge in that a step away into another culture can create a world of difference in speech between the two cultures. I thought it was cool that you could partially relate to the idea of arranged marriages in the culture of Pakistan and India and the effects that came with it. My whole family and I are from the United States so I haven’t seen first hand how significant a cultural speech community change can be. So unfortunately I can’t relate to this but I can only imagine the effects this change has.

  4. I like how you made it evident from the very beginning that the girls both had the same goal by using this quote, “I found it interesting that both sisters came to America for the same purpose—education.”. I liked how you could relate to some extent to how the girls were feeling in this article, it helped me understand better the reasons behind why the girls chose the path they chose. I liked how you made the statement that if you don’t assimilate to new speech communities you may miss out on your future, because it made me understand that, yes it’s important to keep your culture in your life, but if you don’t at least begin understanding the culture you live in at the moment you’ll never progress.

  5. I do not think she left her speech community once she got married but she joined another community when she left. I do not think that you can leave a community if you still have elements from them in your life. Also I think it is really say when the only thing a girl wants to do is just get married, there is more to life then that. Having predetermined goals like that can effect your speech community. If you are always trying to impress someone you will not talk normally.

  6. When reading what you had to say about Bharati Mkherjee’s writing, I noticed that one main thing stuck out to me, and that was the emphasis you put on the relationship she had with her sister. I personally am closer to my sister than I am to anyone else, so that made reading your response flow very well for me. I also enjoyed how you so smoothly transitioned from Mkherjee’s relationship and similarities with her sister to how you noticed similarities within your friendships. You personalized your response just enough to make a connection, but not too much that it became about you.

  7. Its shocking to see how India parents have set their priorites. Not saying they are doing anything wrong, it is just so much different than American parents. My parents are focused on getting me through school and establishing a career before I establish a family, and when I do start a family, it is my choice who I marry, not my parents. I find it most surprising that education comes second to marrying someone for parents of Mira and Bharati.

  8. I like how you took on a different approach and related the essay to your own friends. I have a few friends like yours who aren’t very concerned about their education and just want to meet a guy and get married as soon as possible so they don’t have to have a real career. Like you, I disagree with them. I believe by going through college and then on to a career we learn so much about ourselves and others. We meet people of all diversities and learn about other cultures. Mira and Mukherjee made a huge life decision to come to America. They easily could have stayed in India but took the risk and ultimately made their lives better by moving here. Although they went their separate paths, they both experienced culture change and huge diversity that impacted their lives in a positive way.

  9. You made some really good points. I find it interesting how both sisters have been in America for so long yet only one of them has adapted and accepted the way of life most people in this country live by each day. Meanwhile, the other is still committed to her original culture and refuses to change just because she moved to a new country. She is purely committed to her speech community and sees no reason to alter what she has lived by so long. Yet, her sister has taken on change with open arms, and has entered a new speech community on her own.

  10. I don’t really understand why anyone would move to America looking for a job and not want to become an American citizen. I feel like life would be easier here in American for Bharati because she chose to declare American citizenship and adapt to this new lifestyle. I also feel like life is going to be tougher for Mira because she did not choose to adapt to the American culture, but she chose to stay with her Indian culture. I think it would be smart for people that immigrate her to change their culture because it would make life a lot easier for them here in America.

  11. It interested me that you thought of this the way you did. I feel as if assimilation is a good thing, unless you don’t want to be part of the country or culture. I think that one should not be forced to become part of something they don’t want to be. I like how you used your personal experience to back up your feelings about the situation. I also understand where you are coming from, in that if you deny a culture while you live in it, you miss out on life essentially.

  12. I like how you said that both girls came to America for one purpose and that was education. And I’m sure both of them achieved that goal but in different ways. I know, personally, my parents have never forced a relationship with any Bosnian guy over an American guy. I’m sure my parents would be happy with whoever I married as long as I received an education first. And I don’t believe what either of the sisters did is wrong. Marrying an American simply introduced Bharati to a new speech community and just because Mira didn’t marry an American doesn’t mean she won’t get introduced to any other new speech communities. She’ll just be a part of a different one whether it be at work or in her community.

  13. I found the difference between the two sisters interesting. Bharati fully embraced the American culture and married a Canadian American and became a full citizen while Mira kept ahold of their Indian culture and marrying a man from there and keeping her Indian heritage and citizenship. I really like how you made this personal to you as well. The fact that your friends have been encouraged to get married and find a good guy to take care of them is far different with what you have been encouraged to do from your parents. I find it good that they encourage you to get an education and do things for yourself rather than rely on someone else to do it all for you.

  14. I think it is important to assimilate to a new culture because how are you supposed to communicate if you do not assimilate. Assimilation will help get you a job and further your education. It is very difficult if you do not talk outside of your regular speech community. I could only imagine being Mira and only talking to indians day in and day out. Or having an arranged marriage that you don’t have control over. America can free a human of their culture and let the be free and pursue what they want.

  15. I like how you pointed out that both sisters came to America for the same purpose. Even though they came here for education, they went about it different ways. I feel like I would have done what Bharati did by embracing the different culture. I wouldn’t have done it the same way, but I still would have embraced the new speech communities. Also, your friends are pursuing things that we find less important than what we pursue, but couldn’t your friends think that pursuing an educations is less important than getting married? I think it is just the way that their priorities are setup.

  16. It is very common for immigrants to come to the US and to become “Americanized”, where they separate from old cultures and habits and adopt the American Way. I find it somewhat useless to come to a country and if you decide to live there to not pick up the culture that surrounds you. There are some countries especially in Africa where the local people find it insulting if you do not abide by their culture. However, it is different in America because we allow everyone to be whoever they want to be, but I feel like it is important to “branch out” and discover what different cultures have to offer. I thought it was very interesting how you made a connection with your family’s heritage how you are motivated to be self-sustaining and how some of your friends just want to get married and fulfill their household duties. It is awesome to hear that your family made the decision to help influence going to school and become successful in whatever you decide to do. Great story and great blog!

  17. I think it’s great how you showed that even your parents’ speech community differs from America’s. Although it’s important to keep parts of your culture with you, it’s good to grow into your new community. I agree, you should look forward to your future and take care of it. Everyone who has the opportunity should try and get higher education to grow and learn from.

  18. I enjoyed the way you compared your parents with Bharati’s parents. Her parents focused on marriage. Her parents kind of put education to the side. My dad didn’t really stress an education for me. Yeah he wanted me to get good grades and made sure I did but college wasn’t that big of a concern for him. He never went to college and worked his way up in a company to get to where he is now. He wanted me to do the same thing by working hard for things with the “option” of going to college. Every parents speech community is different. I think you did a great job.

  19. I found your comparisons rather interesting and enjoyed reading about your thoughts about how your parents speech communities differs from America’s. I also find it interesting that Mira wanted to keep her own heritage alive within her. Personally I would’ve wanted to adapt to the cultural change yet always keep my own with me as much as possible.

  20. I could definitely relate to the article because me and my brother moved to America for the same reason as well, education. But interestingly enough we grew our own speech communities and even though we came to the states at the same time, we developed our own unique groups of people whom we talked to and associated with.

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