The Daily Illini

Two races, one household

By Serina Taluja, Assistant Special Sections Editor

It’s 2002, and it’s Halloween in the Taluja household. As a 4-year-old girl, naturally, I’m dressed up as a fairy. My 2-year-old sister, my mom and I are in the kitchen laughing about glitter, fairies and candy. Suddenly, the kitchen lights click off, I hear stomping and this glow-in-the-dark skull mask rounds the corner of the kitchen, appearing to float with the lights off.

My sister starts crying, and I scream. The figure wearing the mask starts giggling and clicks the lights back on. The figure is my dad. This is the same man who gave me beer at age 1, chocolate chip ice cream at age 2 and by the time I hit 3 years old, he was surprised I wasn’t speaking in full and articulate sentences.

Flash forward a few years, and I’m in middle school. I got over the scary skull mask, so my dad and I are in a good place. I was starting to get curious about my family, who still lived in India, and about Indian culture in general. I started learning all about Hinduism, Buddhism and how to write in Hindi. My dad was super impressed.

The only thing that ever bothered me at this age was my friends said my house was “weird” when we hung out there. They never told me why.

Jump forward another 10 years and I’m where I am today. A 20-year-old in college and finally in a place where I can start to understand my dad and where the “weird” that my friends talked about came from.

I had barely thought about this “weird” comment until my boyfriend said the same thing. He didn’t say anything specific, just that my household was “weird.”

But this time, I asked for an answer. What made it weird? After getting into this idea more as we drove down the main street in our town, I asked him if the word he was looking for might have been “different.” He agreed the word he wanted was “different,” but said he didn’t know what was different or even what it was different from.

This different weirdness is actually something pretty simple. My household is a biracial household: My mom is white, and my dad is Indian. It had never occurred to me other people didn’t grow up in a household with parents who had different religions, different styles of upbringing and very different ways of interacting with and raising their kids.

My dad tends to get the blame for the weirdness placed on him. He’s quiet, he doesn’t like interacting with my sisters’ or my friends, and he makes jokes only we find funny.

But really, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone.

My dad immigrated to the U.S. when he was just 17 to go to college, play tennis and kickstart his academic career. He studied engineering at Kansas State, worked with my mom, fell in love with her and then had three daughters.

My mom is American, and my sisters and I have all been born and raised in the United States. This turns out to be a huge factor in the way we think about things versus the way he thinks about things, as a man who was mostly raised in New Delhi, India.

For instance, upon coming to the U.S., my dad ran into a whole new set of expectations for him that were different from those in India. There were cultural changes, language changes and social and behavioral changes my dad had to deal with. And unless you make the appropriate changes quickly, people tend to call you things like “different” and “weird.”

Being a dad in the U.S. brought with it whole new set of expectations. After adopting more American cultural and social norms, having to be a dad in a way that made sense to him as well as in the context of the country we were living in became a new, big challenge.

Bridging this gap has been a feat, and it has taken over 20 years for my household to understand how it functions as a unit. Luckily, I think we’ve gotten there, and we have my dad to thank for it. He had to do a lot of learning to become the dad he is today, and I couldn’t be more proud of my weird, different home life and dad.

Serina is a senior in LAS.

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