Hi, my name is Rajlakshmi De, but most people just call me Raj. Some of my fellow Duke students identify me as Southern, since I hail from North Carolina and I talk pretty slowly. But back in my hometown of Oak Ridge, near Greensboro, few would associate me with sweet tea. I am a second-generation American, which in the States has lead to many colorful conversations about my unique culture, but when visiting India, has meant that I lack many of the traditions of my ancestors. The process of reconciling dueling dualities is central to my personality, my lifestyle. The paradoxes permeate my relationships, my decisions, and my persona. I am both daring and reserved, emotive and collected, flared in the short-run but focused on the future.
Sometimes I relish my differing qualities as a stamp of my unique selfhood, but more often I just remind myself that my foremost label will always be that I am a human. Out of my realization that my humanity is equal to the humanity of every other individual in the world, much greater attributes flow, making my previous emphasis on city and country divisions a mere artificial boundary. As humans, we share many more similarities than differences. Not only over 99% of the same DNA, but love of family, fear of hate, drive to succeed, and yearning for self and societal improvement. My personal ownership of those universal fears and yearnings is evidence that whether I am driving down a Carolina country road or riding a riksha through the bustling streets of Kolkata, I will surely belong.