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Mental Health

To Blend or Not To Blend
By Sushama Kirtikar -

Namaste. Come, sit and join me in this dialogue. Khaas Baat has graciously agreed to have me voice my thoughts every other month on a subject that I feel passionately about. I hope it will enthuse you to think and offer your opinions as well.

It is time for the Tampa Bay community to have a forum where voices can be expressed, respected and heard. This column will provide just such a corner. In time, I hope there will be enough interest generated when you, the reader, will begin to request certain topics of discussion.

My vision is to air this column in the fledgling format right now, and allow it to evolve over time, according to the needs of the readership.

For a long time, America has taken pride in calling itself the Great Melting Pot. It refers to the idea that people from various cultures can come together to form one culture by blending, melting, or assimilating their cultures together. At first blush, it sounds so romantic. At second glance, we begin to see how unfair this goal is.

Although some of the culture of the immigrant groups will become part of the dominant culture, much more of the dominant culture will become part of the immigrant groups. Some assimilation is good and necessary for a cohesive society, both cultural (food, dress, language) and social (adopting names, integrating into neighborhoods, intermarriage). But adopting the idea that assimilation is the goal does not embrace cultural differences and uniqueness.

The Tossed Salad theory embraces a model of multiculturalism, pluralism and integration. The idea is that in a multicultural society, one should be able to put together all of the different cultures in a big bowl and toss them all together. While they become integrated throughout, they maintain an identity and uniqueness. Canada calls itself a Mosaic. I would like to introduce the metaphor of a Patchwork Quilt: we sew our own unique patches of individuality on the fabric of USA. The quilt is a whole integrated entity, yet each patch is distinctive with its own peculiar patterns, threads and colors of choice.

I invite you to reflect back on when you first arrived in the U.S. What worked for you: blending in, adapting selectively or resisting the slightest challenge to your native identity? See where you are today. Do you notice any transformations? Envision where you would like to be tomorrow. The next column will address our strife for a balanced adaptation.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or (727) 586-0626, or e-mail at

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