Friday, August 12, 2011

Unaccepted...At Home!

Recently I was interviewed for the Independence day special issue of Open Magazine. Open Magazine is ....

The article was published this week and now appears online here.

I love the way it was written and the feeling in the article that the reader grasps as they go through. It's inspiring (not because I'm in it lol) but because it really got me thinking.

In the U.S., or at least my part of it (I'm from the East coast which is NOTHING like what you see in Hollywood films), many people will say "if you don't like it here, go home!" Mostly this is in regards to Mexicans because they are probably our biggest immigrant population there and they do tend to take advantage of a lot of the benefits available and then complain incessantly. Now, normally I don't care what the Mexicans are doing because I had very few involved in my life and the ones I did I knew were up to no good and, therefore, I avoided. I also distance myself from negativity as much as possible so when ppl start fussing, I find something else to do/somewhere else to go lol. (Even though India is taking a toll on me, I DO NOT want to become a negative person so I try to keep all the positive in and the negative out of my life as a rule.)

After reading that article it opened my eyes a lot. America is not unaccepting of Mexicans, or any other culture, as a whole. Americans on the other hand, just like Indians in the article, are less accepting of letting anyone and everyone in. I have never understood why until I moved to India and now, read this article. America is known as a melting pot. The whole reason we exist is because so many cultures, starting with the Spanish ironically, came to settle there and eventually, after much death and destruction, intermingled. America is a society of mixed races. Very few ppl can claim or prove to be of a pure race there, even if they don't like it or won't admit it. Survival meant mixing races a few hundred years ago. So even if it's small, you're extremely likely to be mixed if you're from there. So for Americans not to be accepting of other cultures is absurd in any manner.

I rarely saw anyone who outright hated any other race. Most everyone was fascinated by other cultures, especially the non-white cultures. They were everywhere, even in my small town. My best friend growing up was Vietnamese and my whole family loved having her and her family around. I know it sounds bad but, they were the hottest item on the area lol. We went to every yard sale they had and her and I started our own business together. All the neighbors loved to have us visit and they served us food and candy and such. Anyway, back on topic lol.

India is significantly more pure than America when it comes to race. I venture to say (it's only my estimate) that at least 98% of the ppl here are pure and can prove it for thousands of years back lol. Still, they are no different than Americans in being somewhat apprehensive to accept foreigners. This leads me to ask why are ppl like that?

Could it be that they fear the loss of their own culture? Do they just want to avoid having to explain their lifestyle and choices to someone who they think can't/won't understand? Maybe they feel inadequate and think (sometimes with good reason) that their jobs, lively hood, potential mates, etc will be taken from them by this strange, exotic newcomer.

Thankfully not everyone feels that way and many are welcoming and friendly. Unlike other white women I know I have not had the negative experiences that they have with moving here. Maybe I'm being more sheltered, that I don't know. I have generally felt a high level of acceptance amongst the community I live, the stores I frequent and the family I moved into. Even the online circles I'm travelling now have been quite accepting.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the topic, the article and the questions above. What do you think makes Indians (or Americans) apprehensive about accepting other cultures into their world?


  1. As an Indian.. i could bet on that we are the best host and very adaptive in the whole world and if someone do not believe ask mogul emperors, east India company, Portuguese and french traders.. and yes the latest in list Mr. Ajmal Kasab!! :) .. btw nice post Bhabhi!

  2. Himanshu- Thank you! I know in the last 6+ months I have not had any complaints with my treatment here. Nothing I wouldn't have seen elsewhere anyway. I only remember one incidence that my husband told me about and I didn't even realize it happened (the joys of not speaking the language lol). Someone said I had something on my forehead in a condescending way. I was wearing a bindi so I doubt I would have gotten his joke (as I still don't even though I know what he said and how lol). But things like that happen everywhere I've ever been so it's no big deal.

  3. If acceptance is immediate it comes across as superficial. Even with our own people we take time to warm up but when we do there's no looking back :)

  4. The US is a living proof example of a nation state still occupied by foreign people. The reason why america invites various ethic groups from different countries is the same reason why it arms itself to the teeth.

    This way, it can still occupy the 'americas' under the guise of diversifying its territories while giving the impression that the occupied lands belongs to everyone. From the US to South africa to australia, it has become a legacy.

    In indian context, this is ADHARMA. It is a love-hate kind of thing. Love because of americas prosperity. Hate because of caste underlying's which is beyond your understanding.

  5. its a animal nature i guess...we tend to mark our territories...intruder makes us insecure and uncomfortable...

    but with time we do get comfortable when we realize that the intruder isn't harmful...and then they become part of us... :)

  6. Purba - That's a great point! I know I don't just let anyone into my life and make them my friend, regardless of their skin color....and that most definitely includes white people lol.

    Broadway - True, they say keep your friends close and your enemies closer for a reason. Caste is definitely something I will never understand and I haven't even made an effort as it does not apply to me and I'm choosing not to let it invade my life. My husbands family doesn't subscribe to the caste system so there is no reason for me to.

    SUB - very interesting viewpoint. I hadn't thought of myself as an intruder..but if you insist then I have indeed invaded Amritsar lol. At least I'm sure the local restaurant owners and shop keepers feel that way as much as I'm in there asking for things they don't usually have. I'm just hopeful one day they will know I'm serious enough to pay the over inflated prices lol. I'm going to keep this intruder scenario in mind.

  7. Personally, I used to feel a bit odd when americans, english used to travel to india. My interaction was limited to work environment and I found everyone trying to impress them or lick their ass. I so couldn't do all that and hence avoided mingling...that was my way of not doing something I didn't like...but now when am here, I know English people are really good and don't need any of what was done to fellow colleagues....

    I think its perspective, skin color, lifestyle and certainly how peers react to someone's presence. I am a bit too sensitive to my surroundings and how someone behaves...I think now when I go back to India, I would be able to understand foreigners more..than I did earlier :)

  8. @Chintan
    I'm in the marketing field. Our technical guy is a white dude. Our clientèle includes hiranandani, raheja etc. I actually drag him sometimes with me when I'm meeting new clients. My technical guy's presence gives me quick entry into the office thus giving me the opportunity to make an offer to the managers.

    The very first time, I asked my tech guy to accompany me. I explained to him that they give me preference because of his skin colour. He asked me if people in india really think like this... I said yes.

    In my case, I deal in european construction machines which are unseen or new in india. When the white accompanies me in the field, people realise that I have something new to offer. When he is not with me, I have to try extra hard just to win 15min with the project manager.

  9. @White Bhabi
    Caste system in the open is visible in the form of hierarchy and job descriptions/profiles. The crux of caste system is beyond this wall. The basis of caste is followed by everyone irrespective of caste or creed. You too follow caste in your personal life and you do not even know about it. It is just that we have a name for it.

  10. @Chintan - That's a great perspective! I can definitely relate because I am learning the same way you are....first hand lol.

    @Broadway - That's possible as well. Though mixing between castes and social classes is becoming very prevalent in the U.S. and other countries. I'm not sure I follow it as much as don't fit into it (anywhere). Everything about my family and life was/is mixed up and scattered across so many walks of life we wouldn't fit into just one. But, it's also possible I just really don't understand because I never based my life, my thoughts or my understanding of anything on my circumstances, finances, living arrangements, etc. I've had a very diversified life so it would be impossible for me to do so.

  11. Thank You Amit! I appreciate your supportive comments. I have not had any truly bad experiences here thus far and do feel accepted as I am. (Most of that could be my outlook towards life.) The neighbors make positive comments about me, even some my family barely knows come to them to make nice comments. I do sometimes feel as a guest and other times I feel as a member of the community. I really think that my being in a small, closer community may help. The family I married into has a good reputation here and are well respected, that may make a difference as well.

  12. Hey just got to your blog from Sharell's.. Sorry I don't know your name so I guess I would call u bhabhi... and thats the way I m sure will make u more acceptable as an Indian not just some other foreigner.  I would just say that if u've become more of an Indian in ur heart then don't bother about others.  In other's view ur skin color will always pull u our of the crowd.  Its the same for a brown skinned to be in a white dominant country (except US, Canada and Australia, NZ) where there are lot of immigrants. In other European country no matter how long a brown skinned living there, he/she will considered as outsider. May be when more and more foregners will coming to India and Indians well be use to of their presence between them they will be tretead as one of the,. Teill then be indian in ur heart, in ur ways and enjoy the spl VIP treatment u get here being a white.