Unexpected & Un-Indian

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked “are you going to get an arranged marriage?” or “do you have to marry an Indian man?” I could pay off my student loans.  Seriously.  No, seriously.

Unexpected & Un-IndianRecently I have gotten a job as a part-time writer, which I’m really excited about.  There is a girl in the office—the only girl. It’s nice to have someone to tell me that my haircut is cute or chitchat about whatever girls talk about (makeup and boobs). The conversations I have with her are usually pleasant until they go to Indianville and stereotypes are said based on my ethnicity.  You know, it’s the usual—assuming that I’m going to have an arranged marriage or suggesting that I run across the street to the vegetarian restaurant to look for a single Indian guy. That sort of thing.  That second one is a double stereotype FYI . One: assuming that just because I’m Indian, I’m looking for an Indian guy. And two: assuming that just because I’m single that I’m looking for a guy, period. Why can’t single women just be happy being single? Why is it that they need to belong to someone? Why is there a notion that the world will end if you don’t have a date or if you’re unattached or unmarried? Why is it that single women get the “aww-you-poor-pathetic-thing” look?  Or the “hurry-and-snag-an-Indian-guy-from-the restaurant-across-the-street-before-they’re-all-gone” look. Um, yeah, that last one may just apply to me.

People, have we not learned anything from “Sex and The City?”

Believe it or not, people say stereotypical things to me all the time. Oh yeah, I’m the face of the cliché Indian billboard. Check out my AD in your local town paper under mail order bride.

People see a brown face, brown eyes, and dark hair and immediately assume things about me. Stereotypes that people have been fed by television shows and history and the media are applied to me.  Of course not ALL people think this way and talk to me like I just stepped out of a 1920s black and white film.  I’m very grateful to have people in my life who understand that sometimes ( most of the time) I’m un-Indian, which means that I’m untraditional and not religious, and would rather be at home listening to Mariah Carey than participating in a puja. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect for my heritage. In no way am I ashamed of my background. I just kind of, sort of have this habit where I like to think for myself and make my own decisions.

However, sometimes I don’t think people understand that I’m an adult—I use the word ‘adult’ very lightly. I still have a lot of growing up to do, and some days I am as mature as a three-year-old. And I really should get this impulsive shopping/ buying-crap-that-I-really-don’t need-or will-probably-never-use under control. Oh and um, what’s a 401k? Ok—legally I am an adult. I can vote. I can drink. Because you know, that’s what being an adult is all about, right? I can make my own decisions. I can date or not date whomever I want regardless of their race or ethnicity, and still have cookies for dinner. Duh!

Let me break it down for you:

I don’t wear saris. I don’t know what to order at an Indian restaurant.  I can’t give you suggestions or recommendations for your upcoming trip to India. I don’t speak ‘Indian’ (Indian is not a language FYI, I am, however, fluent in the language ‘Gujarati’ Thank you very much).  No, I did not go to medical school. No, I did not study engineering. No, no, once again no, I am NOT going to have an arranged marriage. No, I have not watched  Slumdog Millionaire ( though I’m certain there are so many better Bollywood movies out there). No, I am not Hindu. No, I don’t speak Hindi. Yes, yes I am considered to be Asian.

I don’t want to follow a plan that has been laid out for me. I find that idea to even do so very dreary and settling. I want to do the unexpected. Instead of getting married I will probably most likely jump out of a plane.

I want to travel the world. I want to meet strangers. I want to write. I want to get pink streaks in my hair and put up a Christmas tree in July.  I want to go to as many Mariah Carey shows as possible in my lifetime. I want the option of having a lazy weekend. I want the option of not having a lazy weekend. I want to once and for all learn how to ice skate without holding on to railings! I want to do so many things in life that I will surprise myself. And I WANT to SURPRISE myself more than anything.

Stereotypes are everywhere. I can’t speak for all American Indian women but I can speak for myself. And I choose how I want to live my life despite the stereotypes out there.

 

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16 Comments
  1. Priya,
    I LOVE this. And I so love your writing style. I can totally relate to so many things you said: being unmarried, eating cookies for dinner, people assuming that I want to be married, eating cookies for dinner, not knowing what a 401K is… umm, eating cookies for dinner. Did I mention the cookies part? I really liked that part.
    I’m so looking forward to reading more of your blog. I’m putting you on my RSS feed now. (No pressure, though. Really. Okay, kind of a little pressure. But pressure is good, right?)

  2. This is such a great post. I’m British but living in India and I have to deal with the exact opposites of pretty much everything you’ve just written about. So we kind of have a lot in common, in a strange way. Keep writing!

  3. Priya, this is so well written and simply put, I love it. Also love your sarcasm hah : ) Can’t wait to read more of your posts!

  4. I am unbravegirl’s cousin. I LOVE your blog too. I want to know more about you, and read your awesome thoughts on this crazy world. I have one main stereotype that I fall prey to when I meet an Indian woman… that she can make an awesome cup of pan-prepared sweet black tea. I did not know the language thing. I think I knew about Hindi, but not much else.
    THANK YOU for breaking down the stereotype… I think you must post more pictures of yourself doing completely un-Indian things! LOL.
    You MUST keep writing… readers kinda lose interest if there isn’t fresh stuff to keep us on the edges of our seats!

    • Hey Jennifer! Thanks!
      I plan to put an about page up soon with pictures ( and fill out the other tabs too). I’m still figuring out this whole blog thing! Hmm, I don’t know about the pan-prepared sweet black tea… but I can put a tea bag in a mug filled with hot water. Does that count?
      India has so many languages that it’s impossible to keep up! Thanks again for the kind words!

  5. Ummm, the only reason I recommended that restaurant is because you are a vegetarian, and I never asked about your arranged marriage.

    I was also in the, “I hate marriage, I like being single stage” you will get passed that, and when you do we will go to that vegetarian restaurant and look for a nice Indian guy for you, LOL JK I get it. I wont talk to you about ANYTHING Indian every again. 🙂

    • Haha, didn’t mean to ‘attack you’ , just using you as an example. I’m not anti- Indian just Un- Indian. We’ll go to a Mexican restaurant after we hit up the vegetarian restaurant 🙂

  6. I am a fellow writing Indian American woman who is also not worried about being attached or unattached and I couldn’t have said It better. kudos to choosing a different field and wanting to LIVE life rather than watch it pass by. cheers.

  7. As an Indian, living in India for my entire life, I can surely say,
    Being non vegetarian, being rebel in home, Skipping puja for music is so “INDIAN”

  8. Hi Priya,

    I can totally relate to your post. I am an Indian born in Indonesia and never been to India. In some ways i am still an Indian but in many ways I am not.

    Being ask about arrange marriage? i passed that. I have been teased not to be left alone near any big tree because i would start dancing around it 😛

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