'Indian at heart': Why does Aparna Mulberry feel like an Indian? Find out

D. Krishna Prasad
·Contributor
·7 min read

After the Citizenship Bill 2019, a lot has changed, including the number of foreigners entering India. For the last 10 years, over 21,211 foreigners from across 70 countries obtained Indian Citizenship, say reports.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the country-wise list exhibits us the number of non-Indians who were granted Indian Citizenship in 2020. Starting with Pakistan with 2120, the United States with 60, and followed by Israel, Barbados, Chile, Ireland, Russia, and a few other countries with only one person obtaining Indian citizenship.

On the flip side, starting from 2015, we have at least 15.6 million people born in India but residing in other countries globally, and around 5.2 million foreigners live in India, as stated by Pew Research.

Although the stats showing the number of foreigners residing in our country, it’s rare to find someone who is an Indian at heart and Aparna Mulberry is one such woman. This half-American and half-Chilean, who lived in Kerala for 12 years, has carried her ‘Indian roots’ wherever she travels.

Aparna Mulberry during her schooling days
Aparna Mulberry during her schooling days

Born in New Mexico, her family is more into spirituality seeking and traveling around the world looking for something more valuable than breathing a regular life. Her parents met in India in 1988 in Baba’s Ashram and got married in India itself.

During Aparna’s 3rd birthday, her parents were juggling for the right spot to settle and found Amma’s ashram in the Kollam area, Kerala. They fell in love with the ethnicity and culture at Amritapuri and made it their home place to stay.

American Malayali and Inverted Coconut

When asked about the uniqueness of her name “Aparna Mulberry”, she said, “I was given the name Aparna by Matha Amritanandamayi Devi when I was 6 years old. Mulberry is my family name and comes from England, which is where my ancestors came from”.

Started her school when Aparna was four and went to Amrita Vidyalayam, Puthiyakavu, Kollam, Kerala till 10th standard, but in the mid-way, she went back to the U.S. and pursued her high-schooling. As Aparna was raised in Amma’s ashram, she’s also a spiritual person with a service-oriented mindset.

So, she traveled around America and dedicated her three years of high school life to social service like private tutoring lower-income kids to increase their grades, gardening work in Oregon, and laying the foundation for lost houses due to a hurricane in Texas. Currently, Aparna lives in France with her partner, as she’s a doctor working short contracts at various hospitals, whereas Aparna works online.

When the unprecedented pandemic, coronavirus, struck the world, Aparna came up with an idea to enhance her identity and keep the Indian roots intact with her. So, that’s when Inverted Coconut happened - An Instagram page created by Aparna Mulberry to express her endearment towards the Malayalam lingo.

Speaking about the account with Aparna, she said, “I want to keep practicing Malayalam because I couldn’t travel to Kerala this year. So, I was hoping to stay connected with the culture. Also, my Malayali is becoming pretty bad as I wasn't speaking it very often. I needed to keep practicing Malayalam and have a chance and excuse to speak every single day with this account being active. That was a goal. Not like the bigger picture. I wasn’t thinking of like followers, nothing like that. It was just a simple thing”.

With lockdown in place, Aparna started to enjoy creating creative content like spreading light-hearted fun messages, educational, comedy, and other random things. About her interest in learning Malayalam, she said, “it’s a difficult language to learn, especially as an adult. Because your brain is already developed. It takes a lot of effort and constant work”.

She further added, “For me, it’s different, as I grew up as a small girl there. So, when you are young, it is easier to learn the language. You are like a sponge soaking up all the information. I didn’t take Malayalam as a subject at school. I learned with my friends. It wasn’t like learning by the book. I would consider myself a proficient Malayalam speaker. It took me about 2 years to learn. And if I go to the U.S and stop speaking Malayalam, then my flow turns out worse”. Hence, the reason for Inverted account social media.

Aparna dancing to the Indian tunes
Aparna dancing to the Indian tunes

However, as the account started to grow at a whirlwind pace, she was stupefied that people were interested in tuning into her content. Although the account created is for a reason, she also has a message to share with the readers and the audience, which is: “where ever you go in the world always keep however much you want to travel, whatever country you go to live in or imitate, always keep a little bit of your culture, your tradition, your language in a very special place in your heart”.

Trolls & Turning point

Well, even if you are a new user of social media or a popular influencer on Instagram, trolls are common. So for Aparna as well, where people used to create fake accounts with a similar pseudonym.

When asked about how she deals with such trolls, she gave a swift reply: “I ask my supporters to report them. Other than that, people who try to bully you or are jealous or something, I would block them. But they used to create a different account. That’s out of one in 1000 people who completely support and appreciate your stuff. You always have to focus on the positive and not get disturbed by the negativity”.

Nevertheless, Aparna has a turning point in her life. Though she is an American-Chilean woman, her heartbeats to the Indian roots. While she was 15, she shifted to the U.S, and there she faced manifold difficulties in understanding and connecting with Americans at school.

Just like you watch these American high-school drama movies, it was the same cult at schools in America. They have bullies, some girls are mean to you, and it’s all truly depicted in the Hollywood movies”, claimed Aparna on high-school culture in America. So, this never helped Aparna to show her true colors and express them to the world. For two years, she tried to fit in the shoes, and that’s why she entered India.

Aparna Mulberry along with her friend Ambujam who dressed like Lord Krishna
Aparna Mulberry along with her friend Ambujam who dressed like Lord Krishna

In 2007, she started her senior year of high-school and something has shifted. She visited Kerala over the summer and started her classes. That’s when things changed in Aparna’s life. It was the first day at high-school and it was the same scenario with horrible things happening around. So, she went to her dad and said that “people don’t like me, I’m not understood. I can’t be myself”.

Then her dad made Aparna sit and gave a beautiful life-related message. He said these words which were Aparna’s changing point: “Aparna, listen to me very carefully. You have India within yourself. You were raised with different values and different morals. People would like to see that if you allow it to shine”.

She took her dad’s words to heart and went to school the next day.

Things started to feel different as she started smiling at the kids, people saw an inner shift in Aparna and could see it from outside. By doing so, she also recommended this to everybody saying, “as long as you are shining who you truly are, you’ll no doubt become confident and happy for sure. And people will see it, respect and love you for it”.

Kerala Things and Plans Ahead

When asked about what she likes about Kerala, she said that people are friendly, she loves the culture and finds it very warm and welcoming, she also loves the food, especially the home-cooked food, and the colours of the clothes in Kerala.

She also had US friends visiting her, where they visited an elephant sanctuary. “It was the first time, you know, seeing so many elephants, especially the baby elephants. We fed them, and it was a completely new experience for them” added Aparna. Her future plans include traveling around Kerala and other places in India.

All the images are sourced with permission from Aparna Mulberry.

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