Elle India
America Accent Culture Immigration Image Credit: Elle India
America Accent Culture Immigration Image Credit: Elle India

Being American Is Much More Than Acquiring The Right Accent

In the United States of today, writer Sharmila Sen, a first-generation immigrant, weighs in on the question of belonging, as she shares her hopes for tomorrow and trusts in the wisdom of time.

Sharmila Sen

From 1916 to 1918, my paternal grandfather was a prisoner in a British jail in Comilla (in present-day Bangladesh). He was branded a “terrorist” by the British for agitating against the Empire for India’s independence. In 1947, my future in-laws fled to Delhi from West Punjab. That made them refugees. In 1977, their son (my future husband), a young Punjabi Sikh boy, who had grown up in London, arrived in Youngstown, Ohio, making him an immigrant twice over. In 1982, I moved from Calcutta to Boston with my parents. That made me an immigrant.

In November 2001, a baby girl was born in New Delhi, whom we adopted a few months later and brought to the US. That made Ishani, our eldest child, an immigrant just like her parents. In the following years, I gave birth to two boys, Milan and Kabir. Born in Boston, our two sons are native-born US citizens. Whether our three children will one day choose to migrate to yet another country, I do not know. One family can contain a multitude of stories about national belonging and historical movement. Mine is no different.

When I arrived in Boston, Ronald Reagan was in office and the Cold War was on. Margaret Thatcher ruled from 10 Downing Street, and Indira Gandhi from 7 Race Course Road. India’s liberalisation was just around the corner, as was the fall of the Berlin Wall. The age of the Internet and social media awaited us farther down the road.

The 1980s was the decade when I first became acquaint


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