• Featured Writer/Artist

“The Harsh Reality of Immigrant Life”

By Roohi Jolly

Roohi has made an illustration of Barack Obama, USA's first African-American president. To go along with it, Roohi has written an essay from his perspective on how daunting immigrant life can prove to be and the discrimination Asian Americans and African Americans face.


Whenever someone says the word ‘childhood’, I get reminded of visits to my orchards and convivial weekend spends with my cousins. One such meeting which stuck out in particular, one that I won’t ever forget, was when I met an NRI relative of mine a couple of years ago. NRI stands for non- resident Indians, that is, Indians who are Indian by origin but live elsewhere. He used to call himself Nik, a nickname for his birth name Nikhil. Excited to meet him after several years, I hurriedly hugged him and went on to tell him all about my life in India; I filled him in on instances from my school and told him about the countless festivals my family celebrated each month – Diwali, Holi, Lori. He asked me my ambition, and I excitedly replied “I want to be a designer based in New York preferably, after all, it’s one of the world’s fashion capitals!” After hearing the last bit, there was a look of slight hesitation on his face. “What happened? Did I say something offensive?” I asked. He shrugged and let me off, saying that he just had a concern in his mind, which wasn’t of much importance. I’ve grown up now, and 10 years later, I realize the importance of that thought he had. He was merely referring to the extensive amount of discrimination and xenophobia that every immigrant encounters. By definition, an immigrant is a person from one country who moves to another permanently for a better life; but is that truly the case? Does life indeed get better once we move? Undoubtedly, the answer is no. Lives of immigrants can be strenuous and demanding in a number of aspects. Racial and societal inequities run deep in the American economic and governance systems. Most immigrants grow up with a sense of estrangement. Their childhoods are smothered with constant remarks about their skin color, their culture, their clothing, and countless other things. Treated like a token identity, most Asians have difficulties accepting their culture and embracing their differences after seeing their traditions being exploited and appropriated. People of color, especially Asians and Blacks, are severely underrepresented in the corporate sector. The wage gap between Black and White Americans continues to widen. Learning English becomes essential for many immigrants, and many a time, conversations in other languages are frowned upon. Today, there are more than 2 million Indians living in the USA. Each one of them have immense potential and an array of skills and ideas to offer, but none of them would be able to implement their thoughts and suggestions until they are provided with a platform.

Roohi loves to explore all arts and creative mediums; since he was a child, he has had interest in design and politics. Being an Indian teenager, he has the responsibility to bring change to the country and highlight issues that run deep in the hierarchy. For this reason, he works towards expressing his ideas through illustrations and writing, hoping that he can shed light on the gruesome reality of our society.Since he was young, he has  known that being Indian will influence my life in more than one way. Living in a society which favors other ethnicities a lot more can be terrifying and discouraging, and seeing his culture and roots being disrespected can be hurtful. He believes Indians have had extensive contributions to the development of the society, and he finds pride in that and hopes to contribute his own unique way.

Written by Joyce Hong and graphics created by Jasmine Nguyen. Originally posted on September 18, 2020, via Instagram (@creativelyasian). Click to go to the original post!