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“This is the land of your people.”

“No, this is Glendale.” 

My For You Page echoes with the infamous TikTok as I look through videos displaying my hometown, Sugar Land. These videos often contain 2-3 South Asian kids showing off places like Voss Road, which is home to multiple Desi boutiques and restaurants, or Clements High School, which is notorious for its South Asian population. In fact, you could probably use this sound in my neighborhood, which contains at least three Indian grocery stores.

For many South Asians in the Houston area, Sugar Land can be seen as a cultural hotspot. Many of my friends travel from neighborhoods across Houston to Anjali Dance Studio or Naach Houston to take dance classes from some of the best teachers in the area. Similarly on Friday nights, many Desis head to Aga Juice for some “falooda,” a South Asian desert. 

Photo by Isha Merchant

Growing up, my parents and I would visit Voss Road for countless hours, meticulously picking out the perfect Eid outfit. We would search through whatever boutique was open. When we ran out of options, we would head to Hilcroft, another South Asian hotspot. However, before leaving, my dad and I would go to the corner store in the plaza. He would let me and my siblings pick out 2-3 mithai, various South Asian sweets, and let us have it as a treat. I remember spending what felt like hours combing through each section of the corner store. Each time I went, I felt like I had learned something new about my culture. I learned what a carrom board was (an Indian board game), and about tadkas and what they’re for (they’re a dishware item used to heat up spices). 

I didn’t grow up with a strong sense of my culture like I feel like others did. My parents immigrated to the United States over 40 years ago, and they have lost many parts of their culture through their adulthood. For example, when the rest of my mother’s family moved to the United States, my mother had to relearn Urdu, her mother tongue, when she realized she could no longer speak or write it. In fact, my family has only recently gone to Pakistan, over 20 years after leaving their home country.

Photo by Isha Merchant

Because of this, I have never had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in my culture.  As an adult, I find this difficult to grapple with. Over the past two years, I have put effort into reconciling with my culture and putting in the effort to appreciate and love parts of it. While I do not fully understand Urdu, I have consistently been challenging myself to read it and speak it, and the best places to start are places like Sugar Land. 

For many years, I felt lost in my own culture and I didn’t feel like I could appreciate the South Asian community around me. However, I think places like Sugar Land and Voss Road are some of the best places to reconcile with our culture. Even though it can sometimes feel jam-packed and uncomfortable, it is the best place to find a thriving South Asian community in Houston.

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