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The official student news site of Coppell High School

Coppell Student Media

The official student news site of Coppell High School

Coppell Student Media

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October 26, 2023

Diary of a coconut

Deeper look into the life of an Indian American teenager
The+dilemma+of+being+a+part+of+two+cultures+is+a+familiar+one+to+many+Americans+of+Indian+descent.+The+Sidekick+CHS9+editor+Nyah+Rama+shares+her+personal+struggles+with+being+estranged+from+her+culture.+Graphic+by+Noor+Fatima
Noor Fatima
The dilemma of being a part of two cultures is a familiar one to many Americans of Indian descent. The Sidekick CHS9 editor Nyah Rama shares her personal struggles with being estranged from her culture. Graphic by Noor Fatima

“N-Y-A-H. Yeah, I know it is spelled weird. It is Swahili.”

Every August I have this conversation at least three times a day whether it be with teachers or the new friends I make who have not figured out just how American I am. Over the years, this has led to the lovable monikers I’ve received all my life such as “coconut” (brown on the outside and “white” on the inside) or “ABCD” (American-Born Confused Desi).

All my life I have been a walking puzzle piece to any Indian person I have met. Everything about me is a contradiction to what they are used to. I do not speak any Indian languages, I have never been to India and the fact that I am half Punjabi and half Telugu (although depending on the day and what story my grandfather tells, I am one fourth Pakistani). 

Explaining this to my Indian friends usually leads to the stated process:

Step one: Stare at me in awe and ask a series of culturally specific questions for the next five minutes.

Step two: Make it their personal mission to “Indian-ify” me by teaching me either Hindi or Telugu.

Step three: Watch me fail miserably at step two and then I watch them slowly give up on this empty pursuit.

Step four: Denial.

Step five: Acceptance.

Step six: Come back a month later ready to try again, clearly forgetting how bad this went last time.

The reason for my lack of cultural awareness is not anything complicated and quite simple. Both my parents are Indian, my father was born in Hyderabad, India and my mother in New Jersey. Simply put, I am a second generation Indian American from Flemington, N.J. with a very American-ized mother and a father who never really considered himself as Indian.

That is the reason why I have never been to India, why I don’t speak any of the languages, why I have never celebrated any of the big festivals and why my name is actually African.

Growing up, I never felt like I was lacking anything though. I did not realize how little I knew until I came to Coppell in fifth grade. While it was not the first school that I had attended with a high Indian American student population, it was definitely the first where people actually talked about their cultures. 

As the years went on, I slowly started to feel out of place, like a needle lost in a culturally aware haystack. I would nod along when someone was talking about a ceremony or smile and respond with “No, I’m too busy” when someone would ask if I was going to Garba over the weekend, rather than admit I did not know what that meant.

It is not as if I never cared to learn, it’s just that for their own reasons, my parents never taught me. However, as I was being hit with cultural shockwaves throughout the years, I was simultaneously becoming aware of something. In the rest of America, most Indian Americans end up like me. They are completely lapsed from their cultures. Sure, they might know a few things here and there but they’ve only absorbed a small fragment of a much bigger picture.

It took me a long time but I have finally found an equilibrium. I am OK with who I am but I now make more of an effort to participate in my culture. My friend and The Sidekick staff designer, Manasa Borra, teaches me Telugu when we have lunch together and this year I’m going to garba with my friend, CHS junior Chandana Pagadala.

There was a time when I felt so out of place being in Coppell, but I’ve learned to appreciate my unique experience and that is all I can ask for. Besides, it gave me one pretty great story to tell.

Follow Nyah (@nyah_rama) and @CHSCampusNews on X.

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About the Contributors
Nyah Rama
Nyah Rama, CHS9 Editor
Nyah is a junior and the CHS9 editor for The Sidekick. Although she was inspired by Rory from Gilmore Girls at 9 years old, Nyah’s journey in the school newspaper and journalism started when she won Writer of the Week during a journalism summer camp. Outside of writing for The Sidekick, Nyah is also an editor for the magazine TaHB, which focuses on topics and events in the science and medical field. When not working on a story for The Sidekick, struggling through IB classes, or editing for TaHB magazine, Nyah enjoys critiquing reality TV with her friends over FaceTime, listening to female rap artists such as Cardi B, Saweetie and Latto, and keeping up with her football team, the New York Jets. As a proud New Jerseyan, born and raised for 5 years, Nyah attributes her opinionated personality to her Jersey origin. She loves everything about the American Northeast: people’s aggressive attitudes and aggression, and the busy city lifestyle. To discuss Patrick Mahomes’ football career, share opinions on reality TV characters, or discuss rap culture, you can contact Nyah by email at [email protected] or on Instagram (@nyah_rama).    
Noor Fatima
Noor Fatima, Staff Designer

As an excited, wide-eyed Noor walked into D115 for the first time on the first day of her sophomore year, she tilted her head in confusion and thought to herself, “I thought this was an art class, why are there newspaper awards lining the walls?” Despite stumbling into the program by accident, Coppell High School senior and Sidekick graphic designer Noor Fatima found her place in the newspaper.  

Expanding beyond her expectation of designing graphics, Noor has tried a variety of mediums in the program. She enjoys writing stories and drawing graphics.  She grew up in Canada and moved to Texas five years ago, where she joined The Sidekick in her sophomore year of high school.

 She is the secretary of The Coppell Young Writers Association, and has a deep passion for writing. She appreciates the convergence of writing and multimedia that The Sidekick has, and believes that they go together. “People often separate writing, photos, and graphic design, but I think they are amplified and speak for each other when put together,” Noor says. 

Her favorite genre of music is J-pop, and enjoys listening to artists such as  Yoasobi and Kanaria. Noor is fond of rainy weather, and she loves to spend rainy days reading a good book with a warm cup of coffee. She enjoys reading a mix of manga and the occasional novel, and doodling characters from series she likes in her sketchbook. She wishes to pursue writing, and publish a graphic novel in the future. You can contact her at [email protected].

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