A Competitive Community

Indians are competitive. We are competitive in every possible thing that we can be.

As a child, I remember the competition to get the best grades. Later, it was SAT scores and colleges. After that, it was careers. Then came marriage and children.

It was also happening within the community outside of our Indian one but it was definitely amplified within it.

It didn’t matter if we were in the top 10 of our class in our school, we had to also to better than the people we were growing up with (or at least comparable).

I’m positive that there is always some talk about who is married and who has had kids and who is a stay at home mom and who is a working mom. There’s definitely competition in who has the best wedding and the most original wedding and the most expensive wedding.

This competition exists in whatever we do. I’ve experienced it heavily in different dance companies. The crazy thing to me is that I honestly believe we limit our potential as a culture if we compete.

We want to be able to share how wonderful the Indian culture is with the world. But how can we do that when we try to keep each other down? We want to involve and encourage as many people as possible.

So the question becomes why? Why should we encourage others in our community? What if they are our competition for schools and jobs? What if their business competes directly with ours? Won’t it hurt us?

In my opinion, no. I’ve seen the discouragement and disappointment of a competitive community and I’ve seen the amazing community that people can build if they have each other’s support. In the long run, everyone moves forward if we work together and lift each other up. Maybe, just maybe, India with its billion of people can have more of a presence world-wide. We could enter in the Olympics and have more than 4 people. We could be more than a side-note in the entertainment industry (especially since India makes the most movies in the world). We could build a great, progressive country that is respected.

I honestly believe this all starts at home. Build each other up. Encourage each other. Help each other move forward.

Why Do Indians Try To Change The Way Our Babies Look?

I’ve mentioned that I’m a part of a few different mommy groups on Facebook, one of them being an Indian mommy group. There are so many great things about being a part of that group because you get to share ideas and things you’ve done and get help from others when you have questions.

But there is one big thing that drives me crazy every time I see it posted. There are Indian moms who ask how they can change the appearance of their child.

Here are examples of what I’m talking about (my version of examples since I don’t want to copy and paste things that are confidential to the group):

–My child was born with curly hair. If I shave it, will it come back straight? How can I      make it look better?

–My child in a month old and has hair on her face. How can I get rid of it?

–Will an oil massage help lighten my child’s skin?

And this goes on and on and on.

Why? Why are we trying to change the way our babies look? We criticize and try to change these children that are born after everything we go through to have them. We go through so much to get pregnant and then the stress of the pregnancy itself. These child are born perfect. Every single one of them. How can we judge the looks of someone so small and innocent?

And why do we think certain qualities are bad? Why is darker skin bad? Why is curly hair bad? I have curly hair and I love it. I know a girl who has darker skin than I do and she is one of the most beautiful, talented, and smarter girls I know.

Our goal in raising our child is so they grow up with great values and culture and become amazing adults. And yet, as newborns, we sit and criticize how they look. How are these kids supposed to develop good self-esteem and confidence with this type of parental attitude?

We are trying to get our babies to fit society’s standards of beauty. But here’s the problem. Society’s standards of beauty are wrong. Beauty shouldn’t be judged on one or two different physical characteristics. So if we try to change our children, what are we telling them? The only way to change what society considers beautiful is to believe that our children are beautiful just the way they are and teach them that.

I know I want my child to be confident in who she is as a person. I personally went through an ugly duckling phase when I was in school but I made it through. I think it actually made me a more grounded person because I haven’t relied on my looks at any point in my life. I had to learn to be social and to be able to relate to people around me.

I hope mothers will start appreciating their children for who they are and not what they look like. I hope they will start focusing more on how to raise their children and not how to improve their looks. I hope that these children will learn that your physical appearance has nothing to do with how beautiful you really are.

Fair and Lovely

My husband found this article and thought it would be a good topic since this whole Miss America being Indian thing has generated a lot of controversy due to racist comments by ignorant people. 

Please read this before proceeding: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/asha-rangappa/miss-america-and-the-indian-beauty-myth_b_3941524.html

I like what this writer says in terms of America recognizing that true beauty really has nothing to do with the color of our skin. The fact that a darker skinned Indian woman born and raised in America won really shows how much it doesn’t matter. 

But this is just one aspect of what is being judged. Here is my issue. I’m brown. There’s no getting around it. I’m not dark, I’m not light. I’m just brown. But I also have super curly hair and curves and definitely do not weigh 110 lbs or less. So where is the discussion on the rest of that? 

When I was 18, I remember telling a friend of mine that guys only check out girls with straight hair. At this time, straighteners were just starting to get popular. It wasn’t common yet. And to be honest, I really felt this way. I felt that every guy I came across went for the straight haired, super thin Indian girl. And I can’t say that I didn’t join this crowd. When I was 21, I layered my hair and started wearing it straight on a regular basis. It’s not until recently that I actually realized that I loved my curly hair and it was something that non-Indian people tend to pay a lot of money to get. 

The reason I bring this up is because many Indian girls do not have straight hair. So why aren’t we proud of that being a part of who we are? 

Another aspect of this contest that I’m having issues with is that every single girl is usually under a certain weight. I’m all for healthy. But I’ve always been curvy regardless and even when I was at my lowest weight, I never looked like the women in a beauty pageant. 

Let’s talk about old Indian cinema. The woman in it had big fluffy hair and fantastic curves and held up her own. I’m waiting for that to come back into style. But what happened now? Everyone has perfect hair all the time and these super perfect bodies (“Perfect” is all an opinion as well). So how much of that is America’s influence on Indian’s cinema? 

I guess my point is that while I applaud the Miss America pageant for stepping out of its box and choosing someone who is truly American regardless of her ethnicity, I still have issues with the ideal look that a “beautiful” woman should have. And I think that India has been influenced by America in terms of what that ideal look is. 

When the winner is someone that I can fully relate to, I will feel like things have changed. Here is to one stepping stone at a time.