An Indian-American Experience **

by Ambarish Manepalli

So we had an amazing time at IFP (post is coming, I know you guys have been patient based on the innumerable e-mails I’ve been getting!  Ha!  I mean really, thanks Mom!)

But I’d thought I’d take some time to talk about my experience growing up and how it made its way into the film.  I grew up in St. Louis starting from the ripe age of 7 years old.  I was Fresh off the Boat at the age of 3 (in this case a Swiss Air flight from Delhi) and we meandered a bit until we found ourselves in Durham, North Carolina for 4 years.  There I learned my English and I possessed a hilarious Elmer Fudd-like way of pronouncing my r’s up until I was bout 6.  Thankfully that all changed when we got to St. Louis in 1987.

There was already a sizable, thriving Indian community in the Gateway to the West.  Looking at Census data for 2010 the “Asian-Indian” population in Missouri has nearly doubled from 2000 – 12,269 to 22,899.  I’m currently back home now and I can attest to that  amazing throng of Indian-ness as I saw maybe half of them at the Temple for the Dashera festival.   But back then there were a few close knit families.  There were cultural associations that tried to promote the various regions of India (CASI for South India, Sangama for Karnataka…) but in many ways those regional differences didn’t translate to life here.  My parents’ best friends could be from Maharashtra or from Delhi but it didn’t matter.  In India it would matter, that sort of geographical mixing doesn’t happen as often.  But that was what made things interesting.

For me, brown was brown.  I saw my friends, Pakistani, Indian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh as belonging to the Sub-continental brotherhood.  I was naïve, I still am, I guess but I think you have to look for those commonalities…. but not be limited to them.

I mean to say that we were all American also.  We all had desires that were pretty darn American, and a lot of that meant moving away from home to go to College, having friends, getting into trouble and wondering what sort of name you could make for yourself when you grew up.

For me, growing up in America was about playing little league (for the least Catholic Incarnate Word baseball team ever.  There was me, the errant hindu, a handful of jews, a few protestants and 2 Catholics, that team deserves a whole ‘nother post) acting in the theater and then coming home to the seemingly hundreds of cousins, aunts, uncles, family friends (who were invariably aunts and uncles as well) who made their way through our home.  And I have to say, I loved it.

That closeness and community is something else.  And even if we drift apart as we grow older, it’s something I do cherish.

So now I’m coming back home to explore St. Louis again.  I’ve been away for about 12 years since I went to college, but I’m open to figuring it out.    This film is about exploring how those two words co-existed.  The little league playing American kid, high-school musical acting teenager, and adult ne’er do well in me is coming back to play some football and figure out that wacky experience growing up.

Totally wacky.

But oh so delicious.

p.s. Please share your own experiences.  we’re all ears!  Comments, comments, comments!

pps.  Also thanks to Luis Beltran www.luisbeltran.es  for that amazing photo that looks like a bindi.  A Bindi is the red dot that many Indians wear as  a sacred symbol and sometimes just for decoration….

** Or Growing up Brown

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