Last Updated 20 Jun 2022

Two Ways to Belong

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Two Ways to Belong in America Tiffany Detter PRPE 108 October 3, 2012 Caparas Mukherjee states, “In one family, from two sisters alike as peas in a pod, there could not be a wider divergence of immigrant experience. ” (p. 282). Bharati Mukherjee was born and raised in Calcutta, India and immigrated to the United States in 1961 to earn an M. F. A. and a Ph. D. in literature. In “Two Ways to Belong in America,” Mukherjee addresses the issues that confront immigrants in America. In this passage we see how two of the same people can suddenly feel or experience the same thing in two different ways.

Mira and Bharati immigrants from Calcutta have lived in the United States for some 35 years. The Mukherjee sisters find themselves on different sides in the current debate over the status of immigrants. Bharati is an American citizen and Mira is not. When the Mukherjee sisters moved from India they were almost identical in appearance and attitude. Their original plan was to endure two years in America, secure their degrees, then return to India to marry the grooms of their fathers choosing.

However, Mira ended up marrying an Indian student and acquired the labor certifications necessary for the green card. Mira lives in Detroit, is nationally recognized for her involvement in the fields of pre-school education and parent-teacher relationships. After 36 years as a legal immigrant she clings passionately to her Indian citizenship and has hopes to return to India when she retires. Bharati married an American of Canadian parentage. She was able to bypass the labor-certification requirements and the race-related “quota” system.

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The Mukherjee sisters have remained sisterly close by phone. They probably pitied one another. Mira, for the lack of structure in Bharati’s life, the erasure of Indianness, the absence of an unvarying daily core. Bharati, for the narrowness of Mira’s perspective, her uninvolvement with the mythic depths or the superficial pop culture of this society. Mira feels manipulated and discarded. She believes its such an unfair way to treat a person who was invited to stay and work. Mira’s employer went to I. N. S. and petitioned for the labor certification.

She believes that if America wants to make rules curtailing benefits of legal immigrants they should only apply to immigrants who arrive after the rules are in place. Mira’s voice is not just the voice of the South Asian community but of an immigrant community of the millions who have stayed rooted in one job, one city, one house, one ancestral culture, one cuisine, for the entirety of their productive years. Nearly 20 years prior Bharati was living in her husbands ancestral homeland of Canada where she too was always well-employed but never allowed to truly feel part of the Canadian society.

Through a green paper that invited a national referendum on the unwanted side effects of “nontraditional” immigration, the government officially turned against its immigrant communities, particularly those from South Asia. Bharati was able to feel the same feeling Mira currently has and will never be able to forget the pain of that sudden turn. A sense of betrayal had its desired effects and drove Bharati and thousands others from the country.

Although the Mukerjee sisters differ, Mira being happier to live in America as expatriate Indian than as an immigrant American and Bharati have the need to feel like a part of the community in which she has adopted. The price that the immigrant pays is the trauma of self-transformation. My sister and I came to face similar hardships as the Mukerjee sisters only in a different way. There is one thing in life all kids eventually have to endure, that is unless you are home schooled. This place can be the most evil place or it can be fun and exciting. No matter what your outlook on this place is, you will have to go.

We call this place HIGH SCHOOL!. It is the place of peer pressure, cliques, different classes and TONS of students roaming the hallways. My sister, Brittany, and I went through this process, and that’s where the most evil thing happened. This is when our close relationship was turned upside down. Brittany was “cool” and “popular”. How could she not be? She had the looks, long blonde hair, super model figure, and a dark tint to her skin. Plus she was a cheerleader. Everyone loved the cheerleaders, or so it seemed. I on the other hand was know as “the brain” or even sometimes “nerd”.

I had to everything to make it through those four dreadful years, only problem was everything was all up in my head and not in the looks. When we entered high school we promised each other that nothing would split us up. We ALWAYS did everything together. BOY WAS THAT A JOKE! This promise was soon to be broken. I wasn’t considered “cool” enough to hang out with Brittany and her “posse”. No one wanted the little sister around or even the “nerd” to be interfering. Brittany even asked one day at home, “Why do you HAVE to hang out with me don’t you have your own friends? ” So we parted our separate ways.

I made friends and Brittany stuck to her group. We were still very close at home when it came to being around family but we were never caught around each other if her friends were around. It wasn’t until Brittany had graduated high school that some of her friends realized that I was more than just “the brain. ” It was as if they had opened up their eyes and realized that I was actually pretty cool in my own way. I had all the quirks and qualities Brittany had except I had none of the drama. It took them constantly asking about Brittany in order for them to realize this fact though.

Although I had learned how to cope on my own through high school, Brittany and I still kept our close connection behind closed doors. Just like the Mukerjee sisters, Brittany and I “have stayed sisterly close” (p. 281). We speak on the phone just about every week mostly about our families and children, and when we are with family we are always together. Brittany has showed me how to spice up my wardrobe as I have helped her learn to memorize and maintain her professional job as a nurse. Even though you may experience one thing two different ways you will always know how it feels when met with a situation that another is going through.

This essay was written by a fellow student. You can use it as an example when writing your own essay or use it as a source, but you need cite it.

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