Identity can be defined as "qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person (self-identity) or social group”. Season Two of Aliens with Visas is an investigation of this very self identity, through the perspectives of American people and those well on their way to citizenship.
In this episode, Ravi takes us through experiences in work, relationships and daily interactions that have shaped his identity as an Indian expat in America. The affinity towards cliques, 'international student privilege’, and freedom of expression, are some of the things we discuss in this conversation.
Narrated & Produced by Sandhya Ramachandran
Music Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy Scramble, The Impossebulls - Slave Education XE, B.A.G. by Jazzafari, Noahs Stark by krackatoa
TERMINOLOGY / REFERENCES:
H1B is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa for temporary workers. USCIS normally issue a maximum of 65,000 regular H1B visas each year, with some exceptions.
Mambalam a suburb in the city of Chennai, India.
Hari Kondabolu an American stand-up comic, actor, filmmaker, and podcast host of Indian origin.
Bobby Jindal American politician, Indian origin.
02:11 - A sleepy university town may not necessarily be the best place to start the US journey! It can be a jarring experience if you are from a bustling metropolis like Chennai. Academically, in Ravi’s experience, Indian institutions allow you to get by with the least amount of knowledge while here you can know a whole lot and still not ‘make it’. When it comes to hacking social systems, pop culture knowledge might not be enough!
07:00 - H1 B becomes necessary post grad. It is a painstaking process, there’s more money and time involved for the employer which results in poor immigrant representation. From an employee standpoint, work here is better due to employee ratios and quality of work - you feel like what you do matters. Your value in being a social asset to society however, not as important…
11:16 - South Asian identity in America thus comes with merit + skill at its core. Another characteristic part of the identity? A tendency to stick to groups. Ravi’s own methods of finding his people in this new environment involved a lot of cliques.
16:20 - The safety net of cliques doesn’t work very favorably when it comes to dating in a foreign country. Not understanding boundaries and the rules of the courtship game can make it a big hit or miss. In America, it’s okay to express your sexuality. People thus seem to be more vested in physical appearances compared to India, which also contributes to a different experience with dating.
27:01 - Ravi reflects on his ‘privilege’ in this country. Being able to code switch and speak English convincingly allows for more inclusion in social circles and heightens his degree of assimilation. However, it can get exhausting and still doesn’t guarantee feeling ‘at home’.
32:50 - Some aspects which could make immigrant or expat life more comfortable is for starters, removing this label of aliens. Putting all immigrants into one box can be stifling, and a nuanced understanding of the foreigners would help a great deal in humanizing their experience.
35:42 - The Indian American diaspora can be hard to connect with due to a completely different upbringing and overall experience as compared to those coming into the country on the special worker visa program. How exactly so is something we discuss on the next episode!