Second Class Citizen

Yesterday, while I was on the treadmill at the gym, some older white guy got on the treadmill next to me. When he turned on his tv, it was on Fox News. As long as I was there (for another 5-10 minutes), he hadn’t changed it. I don’t know if it happened to just be on and he wasn’t paying attention or if this is the channel he meant to watch. He had also socialized with a few other people around us. One of the men he spoke to was watching CNN. The other man that said hi to him then proceeded to go hug an older African American woman. So I’m really not sure what the guy next to me believed.

I’ll tell you what I do know though. I felt awkward. I felt like if this guy actually watches Fox News (while it was talking about the Muslim Travel Ban), he had no reason to actually want me around. It made me feel severely conscious of my skin color.

I was born here and have lived here my whole life. I’ve barely even moved out of the city I’ve lived in, let alone the state. I’ve always been proud of my dual heritage of being South Asian Indian and American. I’ve always thought it was so much cooler to live in American with its progression while also having a cool background where I get to wear gorgeous clothes, have a huge movie and music industry, and still participate in my cultural traditions.

Right now, with the way this America is, I don’t feel that. I feel like I’ve been downgraded. I feel like I have to second guess who I am. I feel like I am going to have to protect my family from all the problems that have still yet to come. I have thought of where we would go if it got that bad where we couldn’t live the life we were used to living. Would we go back to India? Another westernized country? Do you know how hard it is to even think of leaving our home?

I’ve always been more on the optimistic side of how these things resolve. Right now, it is extremely difficult to be optimistic. I can’t imagine how people can’t care for other people. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be threatened by people of another skin color or religion. Maybe it’s because being Indian means a whole variety of skin colors and religions already. To me, growing up in American already meant a blend. I don’t know it any other way. I’ve never understood it any other way.

Now, based on the fact that I’m more tan than that guy next to me on the treadmill, I get to feel like less of a person.

I really hate that.

A Cultural Norm

For those of you who have grown up in America, we are taught to do everything ourselves. Our goal in life is to be independent. It actually can become a problem because we don’t tend to ask for help even when we do need it.

Something else I encountered on our trip to India which is very different than what we have here is the idea of having servants. Almost everyone has them. Someone cooks, someone cleans, someone helps you with the kids. It’s very much the cultural norm.

Every day I’d sit for breakfast and someone would bring me food and coffee just by my request. It was very weird. I’m sure, on some level, it would get easy to get used to having so much help but on my 2 week trip, it wasn’t. There was a day when we returned from a shopping trip and we had a lot of bags with us. I did what I’d normally do at home which was grab all the bags I could and take them to my room myself. I did notice that a few people tried to help me but it just didn’t feel right having someone else carry my stuff.

It’s one of those things that is just a part of the culture in India. I can see both the good and the bad sides of having servants. On one side, there is a class system in place and there are people working for you. On the other side, these are people who are getting a good job, food, and a roof over their head. They have the opportunity to make money for themselves and their families that they might not otherwise have.

I don’t know if there is a solution or a chance to change this or if it’s something that even should be changed. I just wanted to mention it because it was definitely something out of my comfort zone while we were traveling.

That Auntie!

I go to a dance class every Saturday. It is run by an Indian woman that’s probably around my mom’s age. Almost all of her students are about the same age. I actually have a great time in this class because anytime I’m around dance, I’m at ease.

A new lady showed up at the last class I went to. Our teacher told her I was Gujarati because apparently, that lady (who was South Indian, Tamil to be more specific) knew how to speak Gujarati. Then, my teacher asked if I understood Gujarati. Before I could even answer, the other lady said “No. Most of that generation can’t.” I immediately jumped on that because, in reality, most of the people I know can speak their parents’ native language. At the very least, they understand it.

I think what bothered me was that the lady assumed I didn’t know anything. She started testing me. Now Gujarati is my second language. If you start putting me under pressure to speak, of course, I’m not going to be as good as I would be in English. She asked me a second question later and I was able to recover and prove that I knew my own language.

Seriously though? Why was I being challenged like it was wrong if I didn’t know Gujarati? I really wonder if her children understood her native language. Why would she assume that I didn’t? She had met me for the first time. For all she knew, I had just came to America recently with English as my second language.

I don’t get it. Being judged just based on my appearance or whatever she was judging me on was not appreciated.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just because I’m American doesn’t mean I’m not Indian. I wish Indian people would stop treating me that way.