What is it going to mean to have Indian heritage?: Becoming Minnesotan

Nirupama Misra, c.2006.
  • Name - Nirupama Misra
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview -
  • Nirupama Misra and family, c.1995.

    We Are Here

    Asian Indian, Family, Identity

    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many Indian immigrants struggle with their “dual identity” - especially young people growing up in a different place than their parents did.  Their parents have more memories of growing up in India, and more of a connection to that country, which they often still view as home.  They often form friendships with other Indians and try hard to maintain their Indian culture, religious traditions, and values.    However, the younger generation often feels more "American" than "Indian", and they grow up surrounded by friends and classmates who are not Indian.  Parents face the tough challenge of finding balance between helping their children learn about their traditional Indian culture and also encouraging their children to become comfortable and successful in American society.

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2

    Download Nirupama Misra 5
    1:58 Minutes | 1.89Mb


    Narrator: Nirupama Misra (NM)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  So what are you finding, raising children in this culture? Are there things that stand out?

    NM:   It's been such an education raising them, and it's been so much fun, but it really has made me stop and think about what I want for them, and how am I going to try to get them through these years so that they have intact a sense of their heritage. And, you know, for me, it's a difficult task that I don't go too far in one direction or the other, because I try to think, six, seven generations down the road, how is all this going to matter? Because I think the fact that my father and mother came here, and never really intended to settle here, and now here we are.  You know, the lineage is going to proceed here in America, probably, and what is it going to mean to have Indian heritage?

    I know some families have a very strong sense of, "We want our children to be as Indian as possible," even though they're here in America. I guess what I want for my children is that they have a very strong sense of their heritage, and are able to draw from it some very, very valuable things, but it is going to have to be tempered by the fact that this is where they live, and this is where they're growing up.

    I want them to be very well versed in this culture, because I think that's going to be a tremendous source of strength, and if they miss it, it's gone. It's not going to be easy, I think. I think children who are having to deal too much with their Indian-ness are going to have a harder time in the mainstream.

    Continues in Chapter 2

    Download Nirupama Misra 6
    1:57 Minutes | 1.87Mb


    Narrator: Nirupama Misra (NM)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    NM:  Maybe we can learn some lessons from the immigrants that have come before us, to see, well -you know, Brian's family, for example, you know, he grew up hearing Swedish spoken at home, but none of the kids speak it, and they wish they did.

    PS:  So have you made attempts to go to Sweden as often as you go to India?

    NM:  Well, no. [Laughter] And that's interesting, because we've talked about why are we so much more tied to the Indian side, and I think it's because Indians have this very, very strong tradition of lineage and connection. You know, while I think Brian's mother and I'm sure his father did, too, have a strong sense of connection with their heritage, even now when Brian's mother's visiting or when we visit her, I don't sense the deep, deep need in her that I've sensed in me, to maintain the connection, and I don't know why that is. Maybe it's because the United States is not that different from Sweden.

    PS:  Or because she blends in. She probably didn't get teased about being Swedish.

    NM:  Yes. Or maybe - exactly - maybe some of those trials and tribulations had the effect of connecting me a little closer to wanting, to looking at what I am and having to figure out its value. Maybe. I don't know. But I do think that there's something in our culture that we have this sense of lineage and of heritage, and of ancient - you know, I feel connected to things, I feel directly connected to things three generations ago.  I mean, to me, that doesn't seem like going back very far.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  1. A period of around thirty years, the average amount of time before a child takes the place of its parents.  2. A group of people who are of approximately the same age.


    Noun:  A tradition; something that can be passed down from preceding generations.


    Noun:  A person who comes to a country to permanently settle from another country.


    Adjective:  Untouched, especially by anything that harms or defiles; uninjured; whole; undefiled; left complete or entire; not damaged.


    Verb:  To plan; to mean to.  (intends, intending, intended)


    Noun:  A family's descent from a common ancestor.


    Noun:  That which is common; the norm.

    Adjective:  Common; usual; conventional.


    Verb:  To move forward; to continue.  (proceeds, proceeding, proceeded)


    Verb:  To moderate or control.  (tempers, tempering, tempered)


    Noun:  A custom that is practiced within a group.


    Adjective:  Awe-inspiring; terrific; extremely large or great.

    trials and tribulations

    Tests of one's patience and endurance.


    Noun:  The quality that makes something desirable or valuable; the degree of importance one gives to something. 

    Verb:  To regard highly; think much of; place importance upon.  (values, valuing, valued)


    Adjective:  Knowledgeable or skilled, either through study or experience.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 628