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Recently, I gathered with 454 applicants from 61 countries to pledge allegiance to the United States of America. I stood there, nervously examining my voter registration card, passport application, a notebook of the U.S. Constitution. Ahead on the stage, the proud flag - red, white and blue, 50 stars and 13 stripes -- beckoned me.

I remembered a conversation I had had with my four-year old son a few days back. We had spotted a flag on our way to pre-school and I had excitedly pointed it out to him as his American flag. Then introspectively, I had added that he will always be a little bit Indian. To this, my son had taken umbrage. He insisted that he was fully American and not a little bit Indian. I suddenly realized that the cross cultural divide I often find myself in was of no concern to my son. He was from America. Period.

As for me, when someone asks me where I am from, my thoughts fly in a thousand directions. My feet dip into oceans of nostalgia. My eyes flit through distant memories. I am at once the daughter, the niece, the neighbor of all the faces of my childhood, the girl slurping on yoghurt and rice in the interiors of South India, the young graduate in the crowded trains of lively Mumbai. I am also the bright-eyed student trudging in knee-deep snow in Indiana, the professional driving my first car in Kansas, the mother buying my first house in the Bay Area. I am so many people.

But that day, standing with the 454 others, listening to the address in English and then in Vietnamese, Tagalog and Chinese, I sensed a coming together. Californian, Midwestern, Kannadiga, Mumbaiker, Indian, American. Different, yet one. Fully American.

With a Perspective, I'm Sandhya Acharya.


Sandhya Acharya formerly worked in corporate finance and is now a mother of two living in Santa Clara.