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.

Where Do I Belong?

My family and I just got back from a 2 week trip to India. As you can imagine, I noticed so many things that I do want to talk about. Let’s start with this.

I was born and raised in America. My parents moved here before I was born but have done a great job teaching my about my heritage. I have a strong sense of cultural identity and am trying my best to make sure my kid learns as much as she can about her heritage as well.

On my trip, I did notice something interesting. Interesting might be the wrong word but it’s what I will use at the moment. I noticed that I’m not Indian in India. I’m American. The Indian people in India don’t consider me as one of them. (This is clearly a generalization. I’m sure there are people that consider me Indian.)

I can’t tell you how many times I heard people telling someone else that I am from America and I don’t understand or speak anything but English. The funny part was that I perfectly understood what that person was saying in whichever Indian language (Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi) was being used. Yes, my spoken Indian language might not be perfect but I can understand most everything being said in whichever language you choose.

Why is that assumption being made? I feel as though some of the people who made these assumptions know that I can understand most of these languages so why do they need to feel like they have to mention that I’m from America? Is it an insecurity issue? Am I a worse person because my first language is English?

I met up with a friend who moved from California to Delhi. She was telling me that when she has something to say, no one really listens because she’s the American girl. How does where we are from even relate to the knowledge we have?

It’s also funny because growing up here as a first generation South Asian Indian American meant I stood out. I was Indian, not American. I didn’t assimilate into the typical American ideal at all. Luckily, I grew up in Southern California which meant I wasn’t alone and there were ways for me to fit in with others who were in the same boat I was.

So now, if I’m Indian in America and American in India, I’m not quite sure where that leaves me. The only place I really fit into is this westernized Indian culture that has been created here in America. I get to be as Indian as I want to be without having to be any less American than anyone else.

I hope one day that the people in India who think I’m too American realize that I can understand every word they are saying about me.

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.