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 Don’t We Talk About It?

I met someone who was telling me about her journey to have her children. She was open about it which she mentioned was unusual for an Indian person.

She wasn’t wrong.

Why don’t we talk about it? I’m not just talking about things like miscarriages and infertility but also other things that we think are embarrassing or that we will be judged for in the Indian society.

Why should we be embarrassed? So many people go through things such as depression, therapy, divorce, miscarriages, in vitro fertilization, difficult births, and having a hard time adjusting to being a parent. The list goes on and on.

Why shouldn’t we talk about it? I’ve personally been through quite a few of these things and I try to be open about it because if my experiences can help one other person see that it’s normal to feel like this or go through this and it helps them figure out how to make themselves feel better, then it’s worth it.

We keep worrying about being judged by our community or society but seriously, what the hell? Who cares if some aunty talks about the fact that you had trouble getting pregnant? I promise you a fair number of the generation before us also had the same problems. So why do they believe that not looking like the “perfect” person is a bad thing?

As I said in Emotional Awareness- Yes, It’s A Real Thing, mental health is important. And as a South Asian Indian, we hide from our feelings. We try to play off that everything is always okay. Everything is not always okay. And most of us probably understand that even though we don’t share it. It’s a good thing to be able to recognize when you aren’t okay because recognizing that is a step to helping yourself.

It’s okay to not be happy 100% of the time. It’s okay to go through things. It’s okay to have physical and emotional health problems. And talking about it gives you a chance to finding a solution. It also gives you a chance to find a support system to lean on. None of these things makes you a worse person. None of them make you a weak person. Acknowledge and own what you are going through. Once you do, no one else’s judgment matters.

So let’s talk about it.

Stigma

Stigma.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, its meaning includes a mark of shame or discredit.

The Indian community takes stigma very seriously. If you do something that isn’t part of the community’s definition of acceptable, there will be some sort of stigma attached to you. If you don’t get married until you are older, if you don’t have kids by a certain age or at all, if you have a degree, if you don’t have a degree, if you have too many relationships, if you don’t have relationships with the right people, if you don’t speak your parents’ language, if you can’t cook and clean, and the list goes on and on, you probably have some sort of stigma attached to you.

There isn’t a specific definition of what is acceptable and what isn’t. It varies with each community.

Here’s my take on it: Who the f*** cares?

Why do so many people care about what someone else is doing? Why does it matter as long as the person is a good person and not harming anyone else? Why should it matter to me at all who is dating who or making how much money? It makes absolutely no difference in my life.

I didn’t think this way in my teens and 20s. Then, I wanted to fit the mold of what I should be doing. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy it made me to do what everyone else wanted that I stopped. It did break some of my friendships and relationships. It did wreak some havoc on my life as I reoriented myself to put my feelings and desires first.

It sometimes still does affect me. I’m Indian so my programming is definitely towards the “what I’m supposed to do”mentality instead of the “what I want to do” mentality. And then I have to sit and really think and ask myself if what I’m doing is making me happy. I’m raising children now and I don’t want them to feel like they have to fit some predetermined mold. I want them to be able to make choices throughout their lives without feeling like they are doing something “bad”.

I’m glad I’ve at least gotten to a point where the stigma attached to me bothers other people more than it bothers me. I am who I am.

Encourage, Not Discourage

I have a friend who posted about working out on Facebook. In her comments section, there were a bunch of comments about how it was funny that she started working out or that they were waiting for her to give up.

Seriously???

Someone is trying to do something good for their own life and whether it will work out or not, why are people discouraging her? Why would you tease someone who was trying to make a positive change in their life?

I don’t know about everyone else but within the Indian community, you do see this a lot. Instead of helping people out, we tend to put people down. We don’t always support others in their dreams or goals. Even when we do seem to support someone, it’s not always real. We end up talking negatively about them behind their backs.

Why do we feel the need to put someone else down? Why is it so hard to just believe in them? Does it matter if we end up being right or wrong?

Just say that someone does quit or doesn’t achieve their goals. Does it make a difference to us? My guess is what that person will remember is your belief in them, in your support for them.

There’s no reason to discourage someone (even if you mean it jokingly). It could really hurt their feelings or prevent them from following their dreams. Even though we think that our words would not have that effect, they might.

Support. Believe. Encourage.

 

Being Alone and Being Lonely

I moved. I knew I had to move. I didn’t expect it though. I moved across the country while being 15 weeks pregnant. I moved because my husband got a job. It was between the job we took near family or a job in the south where we knew nobody. I miss home. I don’t even know where home is anymore. My nearby family members have a life of their own so we’re not having the family gatherings I envisioned before moving here. We moved to a seasonal town that’s empty till it’s warm. There isn’t much of a community to meet or interact with even though I’m actively trying to make friends.

I had a baby in the middle of winter. I tell my husband everyday how much I don’t like it here. That combined with my post partum hormones the isolation and loneliness has really sunk in. My husband is a typical male, a solution-focused individual who wants to help but doesn’t understand completely. How can he understand? He doesn’t know what it’s like to have a baby, be tethered to a baby, and be at home all day day in and day out.

Complaining or venting also isn’t how you want to start new friendships and having a new baby makes it difficult to talk to the old ones.

And each day passes. My husband is tired of hearing me complain. This affects our married which affects me. This all becomes part of a self-fulfilling prophecy of me saying if we didn’t move here I would be upset and if I wasn’t upset I wouldn’t complain and if I didn’t complain then it wouldn’t affect our marriage. And the days go on.

Is it me? Do I just not know how to be happy? Should I be thinking of starving children in developing countries or war and destruction and be happier? Are my problems so first world? I have my health, we are financially comfortable, and I have a beautiful baby. I don’t know.

What’s Your First Reaction? Good Or Bad?

Yesterday, I bought something that I thought a few other people I know might enjoy. When I asked them about it, the first response I received was the fact that what I had bought wasn’t the best and it could have been better.

It was discouraging. When I discussed the reaction with a friend, he mentioned that it wasn’t the first time he had heard a negative reaction coming from an Indian person.

The reaction brought up the question of why so many Indian people do have an automatic negative reaction when you tell them something.

Obviously, not everyone is like this. I know a few people that are amazingly positive. However, I am aware that even I do this to. When someone tells me about something good, my first thought is literally a “But…” statement. Why do I even respond this way? If someone tells me something good, shouldn’t my first reaction be a positive one?

Is it an Indian thing? Are we built to always be bringing others down a notch? Why? Is it insecurity? Do we feel insecure that something good happened to someone else? Do we feel as thought we aren’t up to some standard that we have set for ourselves? Are we comparing ourselves against the person who told us the good news? Is everything a competition?

It really sucks when someone has a negative reaction to you when you achieve something good or thought of something nice to do for someone else. It makes us feel as though it’s not worth doing or not worth sharing. As a community, shouldn’t we be supporting each other? Won’t we achieve more together than separate?

It takes a lot of self-awareness to recognize that you do this. But I think if you do see this pattern in your thoughts and reactions, there is a chance that we can correct this aspect of ourselves.

I am going to try to be more positive towards others. Why not? I have nothing to lose other than my negativity.

Why Do We Stop Trusting Doctors When It Comes To Vaccinating?

Today, I’m done. I keep reading arguments back and forth about vaccinations and I can’t handle it anymore. I can’t read another argument on why a parent should not vaccinate.

Honestly, I’m sad. I’m sad that in this day and age, we take something so wonderful for granted. I’m the first generation born in America. This means that my parents came from India. My spouse also was born and raised in India. We have gone back there quite a few times and you can see the devastation of people who can’t afford the vaccines of all of these preventable diseases. Some of the things that have been wiped out in America (or have been until recently) are still around in developing countries like India.

Why do some people take these medicines for granted? This American medical and scientific community has done so much for the people of this country and there are those that sit there and accuse them of conspiracies and putting our health at risk. This is the same medical community that has helped my grandfather to keep going at the current age of 93 while living with bladder cancer. This is the same scientific community that has found a drug that helps control my seizures on a daily basis.

I’m not saying don’t do research on something. When I was pregnant and figuring out what the risks were to continue my medication to my child and also the risks of breastfeeding her as well, I researched. Yes, I Googled. But then, I did what everyone should be doing. I went and asked my doctors. I consulted 3 different doctors: my neurologist, my obgyn, and my baby’s future pediatrician. Basically, 3 different people that had medical degrees. 2 of them had over 30 years of experience practicing medicine. I trusted them.

I’m in a few mommy groups on Facebook. And I continuously hear stories of so many babies born early or the mother having some problem during pregnancy or the baby spending some time in the NICU due to problems at birth. Guess who was there for all of that? Doctors. They are the ones who protected and cared for your child. They are the ones we literally trust with our lives when we give birth. We have to trust our doctor especially during labor when things can change in a second.

I needed a blood transfusion 2 days after I gave birth. My blood count dropped 2 days in a row even though I didn’t show it (I was completely asymptomatic). I didn’t like the idea of it. I didn’t want it. But I got it. All because my obgyn who knew my history of epilepsy thought it would be safer for me to get my blood count up. She didn’t want me to risk having a seizure with a newborn in the house. She didn’t want me to go home and have to come back to the hospital. And even though it wasn’t my first option of solutions, I did it because she was the one with a medical degree and I trusted her.

So after we go through all of this, why do we suddenly start questioning everything when vaccination time comes around? Why do people need delayed vaccination schedules or even worse, want to opt out of them completely? Why do people suddenly believe that this wonderful medical community that has literally helped them bring a life into this world in the safest way possible is now trying to harm their child?

I feel sorry for all of the children of those people who don’t believe in vaccinations. They are not only at risk of catching completely preventable diseases but there’s a chance that they will be socially outcasted for a decision they have no control over. I don’t want my child around someone who could risk her health. At least, once she’s vaccinated, I don’t have to worry as much. But how are these children who aren’t vaccinated going to travel? How are they going to be as safe as mine is when these diseases do make an appearance from another country? We are a global community in a world that is only becoming smaller.

I just wish these people who don’t believe in vaccinations knew how lucky they are. A country like India could do so much with the vaccination doses that are refused here. It’s pathetic that, with so much medicine at their fingertips, they take it all for granted.

I’m done. The anti-vaccination arguments are ridiculous. I just hope people gain some common sense and appreciate what they have before it’s too late.

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.

We Indians Need To Learn How To Be More Compassionate

I had a hard time writing about this topic: compassion. I just wasn’t sure what I could write about. I wasn’t even sure if I knew anything about this topic at all. I even looked up what compassion means so I could figure out what to write about. The problem is I tend to be more empathetic and can see that more clearly. But Webster’s said that empathy was not the same as compassion.

So, 3 days after the deadline, I finally realized what I could write about.

I’m a South Asian Indian born and raised in America. I come from a background where we tend to judge each other quicker than we show compassion. If something doesn’t go right or something bad happens, it somehow had to be that person’s fault. They did something that caused that bad thing to happen. I had a friend once tell me that when she told her mother about her miscarriage, her mother’s first words to her were “What did you do?”.

We, as a community, also don’t speak about so much that is happening around us. Things that require compassion are being hidden and causing emotional havoc in our lives, things like broken engagements, broken marriages, emotional abuse, physical abuse, miscarriages, infertility, depression, suicidal thoughts.

It upsets me that these are things that so many of us have gone through but yet, we still worry about telling the person next to us in fear that they will judge us. We aren’t able to share what we have really been through.

I have personally been through a few of these things. When I had, I completely disappeared from our community’s social scene. The only time I felt I deserved to be back in it is when I had done something indisputably good to make up for a few of the “bad” things I had done or been through. I couldn’t hold my head up around them until I had finally achieved something that our community could be proud of and say “Yes, I know that woman”.

Why should I feel ashamed for my circumstances in life? Why should I feel like everyone is talking about me behind my back? Why should I have to worry about being judged for making decisions to make my life better?

So my call is to the South Asian Indian community today. Be compassionate. Stop letting others feel like they will be judged for going through hard times in life. Not a single one of us is better than another. We will be stronger as a community if we help each other instead of tearing each other down. Share what you personally have gone through because I can guarantee you that the person next to you has gone through something that’s been life changing and difficult as well.

I was inspired to write this by #1000Speak. Compassion is something that I believe in but don’t see often enough.

Check out the other stories of compassion.

Undervalued and Unappreciated

Talent is a great thing. We all have talent in something and we’re lucky to be able to share that talent. But what about when your talent isn’t appreciated?

I don’t know if this is all groups of people but I feel like sometimes this happens especially in the Indian community. We just take other people’s talents for granted. And this shows up when something such as price is discussed. We just assume anyone could do whatever we want someone to do, all while making that person feel expendable. We then go on to insult that person and talk to them like we are doing them the favor of giving them an opportunity to work with us. 

I’ve seen this happen over and over again (and yes , it’s happen to me a few times as well). If the person was not within our own community, would we expect free work? Would we feel like we could just say whatever we wanted to them and they will do whatever we ask for? Would we even try to appreciate them for sharing their talent with us? 

A long time ago, I had an event and a family friend of ours mentioned to my mom that we should hire dancers for the event. For some reason, that family friend failed to comprehend that people actually hired me and my sister to do the same exact thing at their events. He took our talent for granted because he had seen it all his life. 

There are times when I believe doing something for free is warranted. One of those things is donating your talent to charity. Unfortunately, most of the time though, people are trying to make a profit off of your hard work. And usually, it’s not a request. It’s assumed that you will do it because they gave you an opportunity. 

I’m glad I’m at a point in my life where I understand the importance of respecting myself. If someone decides to undervalue my talent, I can walk away because no one is allowed to make me feel like I owe them something or like they are allowed to treat me like crap.

We need to start appreciating the talent that people share with us and actually valuing those people. We need to support those within our own community especially. No one deserves to be disrespected.

And a specific recommendation to the Indian community: If you would pay someone of a different race and treat them with respect, you should do the same for those within your race as well.