Cowtown or Browntown

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By Sona Bhargava

Without all my brown friends at college, one might mistake me for a human hermit. Almost every organization or club I’ve joined, and almost every friend I’ve made shares my cultural ties (cough, cough Other Collective). This is interesting, considering my culture did not influence my upbringing in the same manner that it is affecting my college life.


Growing up, my parents implemented cultural values and rituals into my everyday life. Every morning my brother and I would sit in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, and pray to a shrine to both thank God for our blessings, and pray for safety and good health among other things. But my “brown identity” was not an essential part of my life. Living in a predominantly white suburb of Los Angeles, I did have brown friends, but the majority of my friends were of other ethnicities. Growing up, I had a friend group of five girls; Filipino, Irish, Mexican, Argentinian, and me, Indian. Due to our diverse backgrounds, the activities we participated in were not culturally connected. We watched movies, ate food, and got  together to indulge in pastimes that did not associate with culture. We simply partook in these cultural undertakings on our own times with our families.


Upon entering college,, I adopted the typical college student mindset: I wanted to make new friends, and join a few clubs. When Other Collective came to my Indian Civilization class, looking for staff writers, my interest piqued. I was a journalist in high school and adored writing, so the chance to continue expressing myself through words was exciting. I joined Other Collective mostly because of the writing aspect, although the cultural ties were intriguing to me as well.


I later joined UC Davis’ Raas-Garba team, UCD Raasleela, on a whim. I went to their dance workshop and auditioned for fun, thinking I would never make the team. I danced as a child, and was heavily interested in dancing in college. But the traditional folk-style of dance that Raasleela is was very out of my comfort zone. However, I soon became accustomed to the style of dance and hence, the plethora of new brown relationships.


I became part of a brown girl friend group within the first few weeks. The idea of making all brown friends from the get-go was unintentional, but I loved the company of these girls so much so that it did not matter. I had no clear vision of where I saw myself on campus, but I was open to joining just about anything to get involved from the beginning. After reflection, I realized  connecting to my culture in college occurred because it has helped me feel a sense of family. I never needed to look elsewhere than my family for my culture because they were always right there. Now, being over 400 miles from home, turning to my friends here in the same way I used to turn to my family makes me fulfilled. I feel content in cultural spaces on campus and a strong sense of community.


The connections in brown society between colleges across the nation have yet failed to amaze me. Last week, I discovered that one of my best friend’s friends from home is friends with one of my close friends here at Davis. I quickly uncovered that the reason there are so many connections between my friends at Davis and my friends from home is due to a shared culture. Originally, I was thinking it might just be a weird Bay Area cult-type thing, but lately I’ve been hearing about people from all over the nation who are friends of my friends at Davis, but also of my friends at home. Weird, right?


I hope my college experience continues the way it has so far. I have been blessed with an easy adjustment period because of the new relationships I have made. These friends I have made at Davis have quickly turned into family, and I believe a strong part of that is the culture we all share. I feel a sense of positivity with my friends that excites me for the next four years.