The Good Indian Girl

As an Indian girl, I’ve been taught by society to always be “perfect”. We are required to fit a whole host of stereotypes. We are supposed to know how to cook, clean, raise children, and even hold down a job now. On top of it, no matter how modern we are, we are supposed to hold our heads down when it comes to speaking with our elders or voicing our own opinions. Sharing your thoughts or having a different point of view makes us the not so good Indian girl.

But seriously, how long can we do this for? I can’t. This past weekend, at the wedding I was attending, I ran into a man who decided to say that the groom was on his last night of freedom. And me being me decided to reply “freedom from what?” I didn’t understand that statement. The groom was just as lucky as the bride in entering this marriage. If he thought that he was losing his freedom, he should not be getting married. It wasn’t the most thoughtful statement to make and I wanted to let that man know that it was unacceptable.

Should I have just let him say whatever we wanted even if it was insulting to the whole institution of marriage? Should I have just kept quiet while he put down the bride in the sense that she was taking away the groom’s freedom?

Lately, I’ve been dealing with a barrage of opinions on how I am raising my kid. Now, her doctor has said that she is in perfect health. So, the opinions are just that….opinions. There is nothing wrong with my kid.. But regardless, I continuously hear these opinions over and over again. As a stay-at-home mom, that means that the people who share these opinions believe I am failing at my job.

So am I supposed to be the “good Indian girl” and not say anything back? Am I supposed to just keep my head down and let people insult me? Am I never supposed to stand up for myself as a parent?

It’s time that people realize that this stereotype needs to change. And those of us who adhere to this stereotype needs to start standing up for ourselves. If we keep trying to fit the mold, how can we expect anyone else to change their view of us?

I am tired of being the good Indian girl. I just want to be real.

LA Chicks

I was out at a dinner with a few girlfriends yesterday and one of them brought up the fact that she was being favorably compared against a typical LA girl. Meaning the person making the assessment was telling her that she seemed so much more down-to-earth and not as fake as the typical LA girl can be. I’m not sure if this comparison was based on a South Asian Indian LA girl or just LA girls in general.

I thought it was worth bringing up though because I was born and raised in LA. I’ve never lived anywhere else (except for 2 years in college until I realized I’d never be happy anywhere but home). Am I that typical LA girl? What does this typical LA girl look like? There is obviously some stereotype out there about us but I’m honestly not sure what it is.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about this mysterious girl. I’ve heard about this girl chasing men based on the things he has and not the type of person he is. I believe this girl also is not exactly the nicest to her fellow women. She’s self-centered and believes the world revolves around her but doesn’t realize that she tends to make it about herself. At least, that’s what I think.

If you know anything else about these LA chicks, please do share because I’m not a 100% sure who they are. It could be that if they are full of drama, I walked away from them on my own because I couldn’t handle it. It could be that it’s just a stereotype that someone created a long time ago and isn’t really a reality anymore.

I just feel a bit sad in the fact that I am categorized as an LA chick and that’s a bad thing. As far as I know, I don’t fit the stereotype. I also wish I wasn’t judged on where I was raised or how I dress or what you think you know about me.

Some of us are still pretty normal. I think.

Assumptions, Assumptions….

Another thing I encountered when I was in India was the idea that various people hold there about those who are living or raised in America aren’t as good as those in India. Before I go more into this, I just want to reiterate that these aren’t the thoughts of every single person. It is just a thought of several people I came across on this particular trip. I am fully aware that not everyone thinks like this.

My family visited this couple while we were there. In this visit, the husband proceeded to mention how things in America aren’t as good and this was better in India and that was better in India. The wife went ahead and mentioned that we were all forced to work in America and no one could just work because they enjoyed their job. Now while their statements may have some truth to them (but certainly not entirely true), I wondered why the comparisons had to even come up.

We compare things when we need to feel like we’re doing the better thing. It’s to assure us that we aren’t missing out on anything or the worse of the two things we are comparing.

It really felt like this couple was making comparisons about their lives in India with ours in America because there was some envy about the fact that we did come from America. The only way to feel better about the fact that they weren’t in America was to put it down. Nothing was as good for us as it was for them. It made me also wonder what they thought of me. Here they were making these comparisons while I, a product of America, was sitting right there. And as I had mentioned in a previous post, just because I don’t speak Hindi or Punjabi fluently doesn’t mean I don’t understand about 80% or more of what’s being said. And I really wasn’t thrilled hearing a few people who decided to put my hometown down because they either didn’t want to or couldn’t live there.

I am aware that things are different between living in America and living in India. I was born and raised here so to live in India just doesn’t seem like something I personally could ever do. But I have met people who have been able to move there and really love it as well as those having been born there and never wanting to move away. India is also still growing as an independent nation (with only 60 years or so of being an independent country under its belt) so comparing everything to America (with over 200 years of independence) is also not the wisest thing to do. It’ll take time for both countries to be comparable. I am hoping that, one day, they will be.

I believe I had mentioned before the Bollywood movie Pardes. They keep mentioning in it how all of the bad habits the bad guy in the movie had picked up was because he was living in America. It generalized and stereotyped those of us who were raised here and really showed us in an inaccurate and horrible light. Pardes is 17 years old. So you can imagine my surprise that there are still people who share the same ideas now.

I’m hoping there will be a time where we are not judged by where we were raised. I’m hoping we can get to a point where we try to understand that a person’s background is just a part of them but we don’t define them by that background only. I’m hoping that eventually people will stop judging me based on the fact that my parents left India for better opportunities for themselves and their children.

Yes, I am American. Stop forgetting that I am also Indian. I will never stop being Indian. Understand that.

Preconceived Notions

I met someone who married someone I knew and she moved to LA to be with her husband. I thought it was possible that I met a new friend. I invited her a few times to hang out and get to know some of my friends (who I’d like to think are pretty cool).

She wasn’t able to make it out any of those times which was fine. But then, I had a conversation with her that really upset me. She basically said that all people in LA are fake and there aren’t like the people where she was from.

First of all, I’d like to believe that not all people in LA are fake. Yes, I think there are a lot of fake people. I think there are a lot of people who try way too hard to impress others. But, I know for a fact that there are genuine, down-to-earth people who really care about others in LA as well.

It disturbed me that she took a bias and held it against the general public that makes up LA. I’m sure that people are different than where she was from. And I know that moving from one place to another, especially when you’re leaving your family and friends behind for the unknown is difficult. I really don’t like generalizations though. Especially negative generalizations. I wish that that girl had taken the time to get to know a few people before she assumed. It’s always possible that she just hadn’t met the people she would click with. LA is a big city. It takes time to figure out who you are in a place like this.

It basically goes back to the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Don’t judge this city by its stereotype. There are those of us who aren’t fake. There are those of us who really try to be genuine and be honest with people.

Give it a chance. Otherwise, I’d say you will be surrounded by fake people for life.

Who’s Cooking Tonight?

Last night, my husband made a full-fledged Indian dinner from scratch. Like from scratch from scratch. I don’t even know how to do that (not to say I’ve ever been a master at cooking or that I couldn’t learn how to). It was a pretty impressive sight. I’m definitely one of the lucky ones.

It’s a slightly odd feeling as well. I’ve grown up in a household where my dad can cook really well too so I’m not sure why this is the case. It’s odd just because I’ve grown up in a culture where it’s the woman’s job to cook and clean and take care of the family and house and it’s the man’s job to financially support and help out. These stereotypes are starting to be challenged and it leaves a gray area for us to figure out what we are supposed to be doing.

As a couple, we went 50/50 on almost everything. Initially, this did throw me off. Doesn’t the guy pay for everything? Here I was, this self-proclaimed independent woman and I was stuck in a stereotype of how it should be. In reality, 50/50 is the way an self-proclaimed independent woman should be approaching any situation. Once I reached that realization, it was easier to adjust. I also believe that that helped us respect each other more because we held our own.

Now, living in the same household, all of the duties are still supposed to be split 50/50. I can’t say that is always the case. Sometimes, I think my husband carries more than his weight. And knowing that makes me feel like I’m not doing my job. I’m still trying to figure out how to become the typical Indian wife where I do cook and clean and take care of everything. Due to the fact that responsibilities are being pretty equally distributed (at least in theory), I do manage to get confused about what my role is.

Trying to reconcile who I am to who I want to be to where we are in this world isn’t easy. Trying to reconcile being Indian to being American to being an independent woman isn’t easy. Trying to understand that there might be responsibilities that are stereotypically a woman’s job that the man does better and vice versa is a whole other challenge. You grow up with all of these ideal thoughts about what the world should be but being within your culture will still have an effect on you. I just didn’t realize how much. Breaking down the stereotypes is a challenge that we face head on in this generation all the time.

I’m proud that we are the way we are.  It gives our children a chance to have a more modern belief system intertwined with the parts of our culture that make sense to us. It also allows us to really do what we enjoy since we are not limited by pre-defined roles. I look forward to seeing how everything settles down in our lives and to see what our roles end up being like.