July 4 is the day when America became independent, and July 4 is the day when I became an American citizen. It’s a big day for America. It’s a huge day for me.
I’m going to celebrate this day with a bunch of people who are from all around the globe: Colombia, Brazil, Slovakia, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Sweden and of course, the United States.
I’ve had an American passport for five years now. On paper, I am a legal, law-abiding American citizen, and on paper, I am not an Indian citizen anymore. I wonder about all this. What does it mean to be an American? Am I an American now? Am I not an Indian anymore? Now that I have pledged allegiance to the Star-Spangled Banner, do people see me as an American? And for the same reason, do people not see me as an Indian, anymore?
Every year, July 4th makes me reflect about my journey from India to the United States. About 15 years ago, I moved to the US, and I didn’t even know the significance of July 4.
Before that, I celebrated August 15 — the day when India gained independence from the British. I, as a child, got excited about this day, mostly because I got off school early that day. I never wanted to miss school on August 15 because we got laddoos, a donuthole-like sweet snack, a pack of candies and a tiny Indian flag. I walked back home with my friends from school and then played cricket most of the day. I never went to any cookout parties in India where they had giant cakes that looked like an Indian flag.
On Saturday, in Ann Arbor, I will be at a cookout and there will be a giant cake with an American flag. This brings me back to the question: Am I an American? Or am I still an Indian? And, most importantly, do these labels have to be so exclusive?
Readers, what do you think about being American and labels and the Fourth? Let us know in the comments section. And if you want to get into the historical issues of the Fourth, with a rock beat, we offer you this video.