Saturday, September 13, 2014

Khotta paisa apnaa, ‘te baniyay nu ki doshh?

The literal translation for the name of this post is "Defaced money was your own, then why blame the shopkeeper?"  For my American readers, this phrase is equivalent to the American saying of 'Don't shoot the messenger.'

Basically what this Punjabi saying means is that if something is wrong with your stuff, then why are you blaming the person who pointed it out? I take this saying to apply to many aspects of life, not just items for sale in a store (if you only look at the literal meaning) but to your culture, your personality, your faults, etc. The concept of this phrase, as I interpret it, is that if you have a fault, then it's useless to be angry at the person who doesn't accept or honor that fault.

I've taken a lot of harsh comments on this blog because there are things in Indian culture I don't agree with. My most memorable was being called "disrespectful" for not honoring uncle ji after he tried to sabotage me, which could have led to my death. This wasn't the first time I've gotten a comment from someone who didn't agree with my views, nor the last.

I think a lot of my readers don't understand why I post the way I do. I think I also have not made myself as well-known as many might believe. Lord knows I post a LOT on this blog, but these posts only show a small fraction of my life. I am a very literal person with a trained way of thinking. That's right...I myself have some issues with those 'gray' areas that I mentioned in this blog post, at least in regard to rules and regulations in life. It is something I myself have had to learn to overcome and relax my own mind about since meeting my Punjabi spouse.

Yes, I am critical of some things Indians do. Sometimes the things I write are perceived as being critical when that was never my thoughts or intentions. It's important to me that you all understand I am equally as critical of American culture. When I see something screwed up, I call it screwed up regardless of who did it, where it came from, etc. There are many cultures in my life and I am equally as critical of those cultures, sometimes even more so than I am of Indian culture. You just don't see that here because this blog is about India and they have no place here. I don't have the audience for a post on Mexico, Germany, etc.

In keeping with the post title, I also think it's important that my Indian readers understand, you ARE just as critical of American culture and I'm almost dead sure I've never gotten angry with you over it. Yes, I've had a few of you I responded to with just as much aggression as your original comment had for me. But, if you were right about something, I agreed with you. I harbor no anger towards any disagreement, only angry or hateful tones. I do not deal well with aggression. That's a person point for me. 

So for every time you think a non-Indian has been critical of Indian culture, try to keep these comments in mind. Also keep in mind these things are said directly to our faces without any courtesy, respect, etc.
  1. The majority of my husband's family refused to meet me in the beginning because of their ideals of American culture. Things like "all white women leave" and crazy ideas about white women using poor young Indian men for sex and then leaving them broken and shattered afterward. WE are judged by Indians before they ever meet us on a regular basis! I'm not the only pardesi to write about being mistreated by their in-laws either. Browse the blogs, I don't want to single out anyone elses' pain in this post but I'm sure you've read and down-played our experiences without even realizing it.
  2. We are repeatedly told that we have no culture simply because it is not the same as Indian culture. Read: Southern Americans Have No Culture (Also check out the other posts I linked to on American culture)
  3. All western women are promiscuous (sometimes we're called sluts or whores or easy which all mean the same thing) I've also proved this is not true. There have been world wide studies that show Indian teens are more promiscuous than Americans. Face facts. Unmarried Indians have sex, watch porn, engage in dangerous sexual activities just like every other culture in the world. You just aren't as open about it. Times of India: 'Stop preaching, educate teens on sex'
  4. We are constantly looked upon as rich and scammed repeatedly. We are charged more money for taxi's, tourist attractions, and pretty much anything we do in India.
I don't need to go on, it's repetitive. We're looked down on in almost every way because we're not Indian and we're treated as such. It is made known to us at every angle, in a condescending way, that we are not Indian.

For references not from blogs or the the Times of India, here are some first-hand accounts of how Indians view "westerners." Not all of them are critical or rude, but as you can see, many have some very tainted views.

Quora: How do Indians feel about Westerners looking for spiritual fulfillment in India?

International Business Times: Western Women Should Not Wear the Sari

These are things Indians commonly say to and about Americans, most of which come only from their exposure to our media which is not an accurate representation of our  culture. 

I am not offended by a single thing Indians say about America. I only get upset when I am attacked personally by someone who doesn't even know me. That's when I get offended. You can argue with me, disagree, etc. and I won't get upset. I may debate you but you have not hurt my feelings one bit. You are entitled to your feelings, your thoughts, etc. based on your experiences just as I am entitled to mine. 

If it bothers you that I am sometimes critical of India (me or any other non-Indian blogger), keep in mind how Indians have treated us. We get our exposure to Indians directly from our interactions with them. Those of us who have had relationships of any kind with Indians speak from experience, not what we saw in Bollywood movies. For a reminder of my experiences in India, this is a good summary post of how I felt there. 

Sacrifices and Expectations

With all that being said, I think I have a pretty good set of commenters on this blog. I'm quite happy with the people who comment here because each brings a unique perspective and quite often I learn things. I rather enjoy new experiences and thoughts coming from my readers because without them, how could I continue my own learning? You've all be instrumental to my growth both a a person and in my relationship. Thank you. 

Just always try to remember that when a non-Indian points out something in Indian culture they do not agree with, don't get angry with them for having the experience or noticing a problem. You're hurting yourself with the anger more than the blogger. Anger eats you up inside and rarely brings any stress to anyone else. Find a way to make peace within yourself and let it go. The blogger does not have an individual problem with you directly, only the bad aspect they have run across in the Indians they know. :)


  1. I have been enriched by reading this blogs but i sometimes feel that westerners often misinterpret Indian culture which is layered and complicated. A westerner view is many a times naive perhaps they don't understand many things like the natural bond between Indian parents and children which many westerners have dubbed as selfish because the parents want their children to look after them in their old age. Similarly arranged marriage becomes forced marriage. Finally their are commentators who want to establish the superiority of western culture. I'm most irritated when Indian parents are called selfish. If a parent expect something from children is it being selfish?? Similarly children also feel responsible towards their parents.

  2. Hooray! glad you wrote this! Speaking of brown eggs, my Rajasthani husband refuses to touch them. He thinks they are poison. I still can't convince him they are the same inside as any other egg.
    As for "grey" areas: having worked in the Indian education system, as a teacher/teacher-trainer, there is a lot that goes on in the country both institutionally and at home that encourages or compels Indians to be conformist and not question, especially when it comes to authority. Cultures form, evolve, change over centuries due to a complex mix of historical events, climate and available resources, and just random chance. I taught a group of very highly educated, 22-25 year olds, who basically came from the upper echelons of Indian society (all parts of the country) and most of them struggled with writing essays that required independent critical thinking skills. And it was not an English language issue.
    As for working with a lot of Indians at your job, APPI, be wary. I would bet that most of them are nowhere near qualified to be doing what they claim they can do. The H1-B visa program is a travesty and needs to be abolished asap. Indian education is for the most part a sham. And with all due respect to your husband, all his degrees don't mean much. You can buy a piece of paper in India, no problem. I worked with a woman in Delhi who had 21 "degrees" and certificates. I also know of 2 cases of medical doctors who bought their medical degrees, and had no business practicing medicine, as well as of a 3rd doctor who was dubiously trained and killed a pregnant foreigner, and her unborn baby, as she was going in labor. He administered a lethal dose of an epidural. Her husband is from Rajasthan. She has another son as well, now without his mother. Her family came from her country to try to seek justice; no effect whatsoever. They were laughed at by the Indian police and the hospital staff.

    Apple, your comment about 'westerners not understanding the bond between Indian parents/children" is ridiculous. You have inadvertently revealed yet another Indian bigotry towards westerners: that we have no relationships with our parents, that we don't care about them. The big difference is that in most western countries people who take care of their parents do it because they want to, not because they have to. Whereas in India, there are plenty of Indians who despise their family, but they stay with their parents/take care of them because there are no other options. It's either a financial necessity to stay together and/or there would be too much social ostracism. Same for "arranged" marriages. Indian women are punished for making their own choices and controlling their own sexuality. You are so deeply a part of your culture that you lack objectivity. I doubt that you have lived outside of India for an extended time, and obviously you are not a woman.

  3. This is another instance of western bigoted thinking. I am amazed that westerners r such authorities on Indian culture. They speak in absolute terms. Thousands of arranged marriages take place in india, are they all forced. Do u know what is ridiculous Making assumptions about an entire country based on few instances. All Indians doctors bad because there are few cheats. All arranged marriages forced because of few instances of honour killings in some communities. At least we don't have such practices in our community. I don't know whether my in laws used a gun to threaten my wife into marrying me. Modern arranged marriages definitely not forced.

    Also I never made any comment on parent children relationship in the west. That was never my sincere desire. I apologise if I gave that impression. I have nothing against them. I know plenty of indian people who don't have forced relationship with their parents including me.

    How would u feel if I say all Americans are gun toting crazy people due to frequent shooting incidents. India is incredibly diverse how can u generalise. All cultures are fluid and ever changing. There is nothing absolute in this world. What we have is cultural difference.

  4. One point I can agree with here is that I was naive about Indian culture. I think I've written that a few times. Before my husband my exposure was to one NRI Gujrati family who were good family friends. Beyond that it was limited. I knew virtually nothing of Indian culture and I hadn't even heard of Punjabi's before him. I have not problem admitting I was naive and there is still much I don't know.

    I don't think we always misinterpret Indian culture though. Most of us bloggers are having these things explained to us by our Indian families. We're not getting the info from Google or random strangers with just as little experience as we have. We get out ideas, our knowledge, etc. directly from Indians.

    BUT, just like every other culture in the world, every Indian is different and each will have a different view of their own culture, history and such. Each human is an individual who has different experiences in life and a different view of the world.

    What we discuss on these blogs are things we see that are common amongst the Indians we know. I don't think I've ever referred to Indian parents as selfish for wanting their kids to look after them, you may have heard this from someone else. In my culture here in the US, we take care of our parents as well. I couldn't fault my husband or his parents for wanting the same kind of love and attention later on in life. I also have a kind of fondness for arranged marriages. I have learned to understand the value of them in those instances where they are done right and not forced (because we all know that some still are forced).

    I won't even try to say that I don't feel American culture is superior to Indian culture in some ways. But that's the key point - SOME WAYS. There are ways I feel Indian culture is superior and I've blogged about that here as well. I feel like we can learn from each other. There are things I have changed in my own culture to adapt to Punjabi culture because I think it's better. There are other things I've nudged my husband to change about his culture to adapt to American culture for the same reason. No one culture is best, we need to value the strengths in each culture and work together to end the atrocities in both cultures. We can't be ignorant, blind or too forgiving of anyone's bad behavior. If so that behavior will only continue.

  5. I'm learning and seeing quite a bit of what you say while helping my husband look for a job. I refuse to let him lie on his resume, etc. because of my own conformist thinking when it comes to those regulations. This has proved problematic and difficult for him but every time something good happens because he stuck to the rules, he loves it. So it's been a learning experience for both of us.

    I've also seen a lot of Indians here working jobs they're clearly not qualified for and it's upsetting. I know those are the ones who had doctored resume's. Not all of them are like that but I see plenty who are. I've also seen a few of the women working here who misused the visa system to get their husband's here and get them jobs in places they aren't qualified for. There are quite a few companies here that require 5-10 years of experience and all of a sudden the spot is filled by an immigrant who's been here less than 6 months and isn't a day over 25. are we to believe he really has that experience if he's not even old enough to have it?

    Thankfully it's not every Indian. I know a few that do have the qualifications but they all started out in crappy jobs and worked their way up. I have great respect for their honesty in the process.

    I'm not offended by your comment about my husband's degrees. I've seen how prospective employers all look at them. They don't hold weight here at all. And while I know he legitimately obtained those degrees, I also know he didn't take school as seriously as he should have. Like most college kids the world over, he was more interested in having fun and enjoying the environment than he was in focusing on his work.

  6. @aapi

    You are doing a wonderful job with this blog. This why I come to this blog. I don't think anybody has problems with u. The fact is that many of the Indians have little idea about their culture because Indian culture is complicated even for an Indian.

    I am sorry for what happened in your last post where the atmosphere was vitiated. Have u seen the language being used. "Look here", "you said.....", "give me evidence". Is this a trial?? Is this a battlefield?? This has happened on cyn's blog earlier also. What was the reason for such aggression. Did I say anything derogatory about western culture. When I pointed out what was rudeness, it was followed by even more rudeness. We are all responsible adults and a certain level of decency must be maintained. Let this blog remain a platform for exchanging ideas and crossing swords.

  7. Actually, your writings are quite insightful and the criticism is taken as well-intentioned because it comes from love (or at least that's what I perceive it to be). Unlike, say, some of your compatriots who comment. About stereotyping, well, that's always going to be the case. None of us Indians should ever think that just because there are Katherine Mayo type of Americans still around, it means that all American women are shrieking harpies. And that goes for the other side too. A nation of supposed conformists certainly manage to argue a lot among themselves. And that's a good thing. Even if it means that it takes longer for things to get done.

  8. Thank you. That's a great compliment to get. :)

  9. Hi! I have just come across your blog! I really enjoyed this post and you have dealt with criticism so well. Even in my Nepali intercultural relationship I have come across a few judgements as I am obviously a western girl - funnily enough tough it was all from his family who are living in western countries!

    Keep your positive outlook on receiving criticism and keep posting such nice posts!

    Lots of love
    Hanna xxx

  10. Thank you for your comment! I find it funny how most desi's group all non-desi countries together under the category of westerners. As if we could all be the same lol.

  11. This is great and so well-said. For all those who bitch about "white privilege", I feel so bloody privileged for being looked at and called as a prostitute, rich, lazy, not monogamous, bitch, no family values, disrespectful, name it. Not to mention downright exoticised for the skin color I was born with and openly called a "porcelain doll" and my body picked apart by random strangers as if I'm under a microscope. And not just that, but my every move is commented on, from the way I eat my food to my makeup and dress, the way I walk also. It makes me feel so great about myself (NOT).
    This happens not just in India but all over the world, like even when I go into an Indian grocer abroad, my bum is discussed right in front of me. If I ask where the chilli powder is, "I am loose".
    And sometimes even after people have spoken to you and know you, they can reduce me to this. And love it when I get automatically dismissed as a "whore".
    (I am being sarcastic
    I can rant

  12. I know just how you feel. I really don't like the way some of hubbies friends have portrayed me as being white and American and thus rich. He's had friends ask him if I could get them expensive items from America and when he tried to explain to them that people here don't go around buying 3 or 4 $700 phones to ship to India, they got pissed and asked him 'then what benefit is it' to us for you to be married to a white woman? As if that's the only reason any Indian would ever marry a white woman! I don't recall anyone ever saying let me marry a wealthy westerner so I can buy things for my friends. It was absurd!

  13. Apple,
    You gave me your opinion of myself & I gave you my opinion of yourself.
    Don't like that? Too bad. At least I'm honest.
    If you can't handle other people's opinions of you or your culture - perhaps you shouldn't offer yours either.
    Fair warning.