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Junior Rekha Nagarajan embraces her half-Japanese and half-Indian background and was raised to appreciate people for who they are. Photo by Varsha Venkat.

Daniel Fernandez

Junior Rekha Nagarajan shares her positive outlook on having a multicultural background.

Junior Rekha Nagarajan embraces her half-Japanese and half-Indian background and was raised to appreciate people for who they are. Photo by Varsha Venkat.
Junior Rekha Nagarajan embraces her half-Japanese and half-Indian background and was raised to appreciate people for who they are. Photo by Varsha Venkat.

When most people see junior Rekha Nagarajan, they just see an Indian girl strolling around campus with her friends. However, those first impressions are wrong. Well, partially. Nagarajan is half-Indian and half-Japanese, two different ethnicities that she initially struggled to balance.

“Before, I used to be more Japanese because I didn’t look Japanese and I wanted to prove that even though I look Indian, I’m more than that,” said Nagarajan.

Only later did Nagarajan view her mixed heritage in a positive light. She credits her mom, Ayano Nagaoka, with blending the two cultures and keeping both the Japanese and Indian traditions alive in the household.

“Before she was born, we decided we wanted to have the two cultures,” said Nagaoka. “People would say she is half, [but] for me it was not half. I was always thought it was one Japanese and one Indian.”

Nagarajan keeps in touch with her dad’s culture by participating in bharathanatyam, a classical Indian dance form. Rather than viewing the dance as a solely religious art, she chooses to interpret it as a story that can apply to anyone. Nagarajan believes that her friends from dance class have helped her further explore her Indian heritage, for they have helped immerse her into the Indian community by taking her to festivals.

However, New Year’s is Nagarajan’s favorite holiday. It’s a time when her family hosts a party for people of many different ethnicities to come together and celebrate. In Japan, where her mother was raised, New Year’s is one of the most popular holidays, when people pray for their family and give thanks for what they have. The Japanese celebration also calls for the preparation of several different dishes, each representing a particular aspect of life.

“On the New Year’s Eve we are supposed to eat noodles because they are related to long life,” said Nagaoka. “And we have a pickle made of daikon lettuce which is white and carrots. We call the carrot red, because red and white is good luck for us.”

Nagarajan is proud of her unique background and the opportunity to participate in multiple traditions. She feels that being biracial has broadened her views and made her far more accepting of different cultures and values.

“I’m really open to anything,” said Nagarajan. “I feel like because of my parents, anyone [should be able] to just do their thing.”