Pulled in two directions.: Becoming Minnesotan

Ravinder Manku, c.2001.
  • Name - Ravinder Manku
  • Age at interview - 32
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 12.17.1998
  • SILC dance troupe member and her family at the Sikh Gurdwara, Fridley, Minnesota


    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many Indian immigrants struggle with their “dual identity”.  They face the tough challenge of finding balance between maintaining their home culture and adopting certain aspects of American culture that will allow them to be more successful in the U.S.  It can be difficult for young Indian-Americans to grow up in a place that their parents don’t fully understand.  This younger generation can feel more “American” than “Indian”.  They grow up surrounded by friends and classmates who are not Indian, and become influenced by these different cultures.  Some see it as a positive that they are able to have two cultures!  They can continue the Indian cultural practices of their parents, but also operate like any other American in this society.  However, these second generation children often clash with their parents when they decide to forego certain Indian traditions.

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

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Ravinder Manku (RM)

    RM:  In terms of growing up in this society, one of the things that I struggle with still is - you know, I grew up with two different cultures, and it's hard, because you have your parents pulling you one way, and you have society pulling you another way. So it's really hard to find a balance, and I think it takes a long time to actually do that, and I think now I feel satisfied as a person in terms of where I found a balance, where my parents are happy and I'm happy. But I think it takes a lot of work, and it's really hard. I mean, it's very hard. I think like if I'd been raised in India, it would have been probably easier for me in a sense because I would have just kind of grown up in a homogeneous culture. But here it's been really a struggle, and it's been hard for my parents, too, because they've had to come and change their values and stuff like that.

    But I consider myself - I don't consider myself Indian, totally Indian, because I'm not, because there's many things that I reject about the culture, and there's many things I've kept, and I don't consider myself to be American or Canadian because there's things about that that I don't agree with and I've rejected. So I feel I have the best of both worlds because I can adapt to both cultures. If I'm in an Indian group, I can be that way. If I'm in an American group or Canadian or whatever, I can be that way. So I think in that way, for me that's kind of unique, because I can understand both perspectives. I think that's really great, being able to have that type of view. So I just think that's important for people to know.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  To conform and make suitable.  (adapts, adapting, adapted)


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Adjective:  Having the same composition throughout; uniform.


    Noun:  Point of view.


    Noun:  The people of one’s country or community taken as a whole.


    Noun:  A collection of guiding, usually positive principles; what one deems to be correct and desirable in life, especially regarding personal conduct.


    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
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