The American Way: Part One of Four

Junior Sanskriti Jha bridges the gap between her two identities.

Colors fly.

Music blares from giant speakers.

Little kids dart across a muddied field. 

Today is Holi, the festival of colors, an ancient Hindu tradition celebrating family, fun and love. In the midst of all the festivities is junior Sanskriti Jha, throwing handfuls of colored powder on her friends and dancing to the music alongside hundreds of others.

While she loves celebrating it locally, she knows it’s not authentic, and she finds herself wondering how much more fun it would be if she were with her cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

But they all live in India. Thousands of miles and an ocean away.

Jha is a first generation immigrant whose parents moved to America from Mumbai, one of the largest cities in India, in 2001. To her, Mumbai is an Indian version of New York City: fast-paced, diverse and exciting. 

But going back to Mumbai comes with its own struggles. She can hear the whispers. She knows they’re talking about her. They say she’s self-centered. That she’s too American.

“Everyone always tells me that I have it much easier [because I’m American],” Jha said. “But even here, when I was younger, every move I made was to fit in.”

That’s why in middle school she dyed the tips of her hair blonde.

She started wearing makeup to hide her “imperfections.”

And she never brought Indian food to school.

Once she got into high school, Jha started to accept and even appreciate her Indian heritage. She follows all the latest Indian movies. She attends every Hindu festival. And she can’t wait for this year’s Holi celebrations.