All posts by Nida Motan

“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.