I am a Chai Tea Latte
I am a Chai Tea Latte america stories
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My take on being brown (specifically, Indian) and growing up in America.

I am a Chai Tea Latte

My cultural heritage has

A distinct South Indian flavor.

Weaved into my childhood -

Tamil films and Bollywood dance sequences

Aromatic spices in daily curries

Weekly religious singing

Rich spiritual traditions.

Born and raised here in California

In a country where

Brown is not the norm.

In a country where

At 7 years old, I cry myself to sleep

The day my classmate asks me

Why am I so hairy?

Why is my skin so dark?

Why do I always wear my hair in two long braids?

In a country where

At 9 years old, I tell my mom

I want to take a PB&J sandwich

Not a paratha or rice and curry

To school for lunch

Because the latter makes me a “fob.”

In a country where

At 12 years old, I refuse an invite

To a pool party

Because my legs and arms are

Covered in ugly dark black hairs

And my parents won’t let me shave.

In a country where

At 13 years old, I grab a pair of scissors

And try to individually snip off

Every hair on my skin

Until I nick my skin enough times

To let myself give up.

In a country where

At 16 years old, a guy from my community college

That I barely know

Texts me at 2:00 AM

Says I should meet up with him because

He has always wanted a “beautiful exotic girl.”

In a country where

At 17 years old, I take a bus home from work

A drunk man stumbles on and looks around

Walks to where I’m sitting with a friend

Tells me to get out of there and go back to

“The dirty ass temple you came from.”

But I came from here.

I was born and raised here in California

In a country where

Brown is not the norm

In a country where

Brown makes me special.

In a country where

At 8 years old, my friend from four-square games

Asks me to trade some of my food for his sandwich

My parathas and my rice and curry.

He takes a bite and hums in delight

At the explosion of flavor that he loves.

In a country where

At 10 years old, my friend from class

Asks me to teach her

How to say the numbers in my language.

Says she wishes she could speak Tamil

Because it sounds so cool.

In a country where

At 14 years old, the adults at my temple

Tell me how glad they are

That I haven’t forgotten my religion and culture

That I lead bhajans and pray every day

Because those traditions help make me who I am.

In a country where

At 17 years old, I go to a Dandiya festival

My friends and I dress up in our chaniya cholis and jewelry

Braid our hair and press a bindi on our foreheads

Eat samosas, grab two decorated Dandiya sticks each

And dance the night away with new friends to celebrate our culture.

In a country where

At 18 years old, I move to Los Angeles for college

I blast a Spotify playlist with my favorite Indian movie songs

I unapologetically own my brown skin and arm hair

I pray daily to the picture of Hindu Gods that I hang at my desk

I have never been prouder to be Indian.

In a country where

At 18 years old, I can be as American as I am Indian

Listening to Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars every day

Wearing T-shirts and shorts and letting my hair down

Going to the beach with friends that have

White skin, black skin, and everything in between.

“A grande chai tea latte with two extra pumps, please!”

My favorite Starbucks order

An Indian-flavored drink in American packaging.

Not afraid to be either

Quite the opposite, in fact,

Unbelievably proud of both labels.

I am a chai tea latte.

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