I am a second generation Indian American woman (not to be confused with American Indian. As they say in GoodWill Hunting, we are the dots, not the feathers). I was born and raised in America and have been to India a couple times. Don’t get me wrong, I am very close to my heritage and culture, as my parents immigrated here when they were in their 20s. We are from Hyderabad, a city in southern India. Needless to say, you can’t tell any of this when you first look at me. In fact, most people think I just hopped of a boat from India yesterday and learned the Pledge of Allegiance today. As a result, I am asked some of the most ridiculous questions on a day-to-day basis. My goal is to put many of these questions to rest.
So, please, before you talk to another Indian, read these 6 things STOP saying to Indians:
1) Don’t you guys worship cows?!
For whatever reason, out of all of the fascinating aspects of Indian culture, World History classes around the country teach that cows are a sacred animal. Let’s get this straight: SACRED ANIMA
L. NOT WORSHIPED ANIMAL. Many religious ceremonies use cow dung and we respect these animals and you and find them on any random road in India, but this does not mean we bow down and pray to them! Of all of the idiotic questions I get about Indian culture, this has to be the most ignorant.
2) I thought you’re not allowed to eat meat?!
This is the question I get every time I reach for a chicken wing. In India, there is a caste system that is still in existence. Depending on your caste, you may or not be allowed to eat meat. Brahmins are part of the ‘priest’ caste which means they are the closest to God and cannot “contaminate” their bodies with meat. Ksathriyas are the ‘royal’ caste which means they can pretty much eat whatever they want, although many choose to not eat beef. Most other castes do not dictate vegetarianism (this is the most general explanation I can come up with to explain this, but Hinduism is the oldest religion so there are MANY deviations from this basic concept). But many families, like my own, have become Americanized once they arrived at the states. As such, both myself and my father eat all kinds of meat even though we are Brahmin. My sister and my mother are vegetarians. To each their own!
3) Why do you wear a dot on your forehead?!
It’s for decoration, ok? Let’s just leave it at that.
4) Do you like/eat/make curry?
Yes, we like curry. Yes, our moms make the best curry. Yes, we eat curry as our main source of protein. And yes, for whatever reason many Indian men smell like curry. This does not mean you can ask this question. Asking so is like me going up to a Caucasian person and asking “DO YOU LIKE HAMBURGERS? WHY DO ALL AMERICAN MEN SMELL LIKE HAMBURGERS? IS THAT ALL YOU GUYS EAT?!” Seriously, lay off the curry or we’ll never share it with you.
5) Do you speak Indian?
No, I do not. No one speaks Indian. Do you speak American? Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kanada, THESE are languages. INDIAN is NOT a language. Oh, and don’t ask me to “say something in Indian,” or you’ll have an Indian in your face.
6) Are you going to have an arranged marriage?!
While all of the other questions listed here are idiotic, this one does have some merit to it. Unfortunately, this question has always been posed with a preconceived notion that all Indian women will have an arranged marriage. While the majority of my family has been married through an arranged marriage, this concept is slowly fading in Indian culture, especially in the states. In fact, my own parents were married through a love marriage turned arranged marriage. Most Indian Americans are given the option of a love marriage first and if it doesn’t work out or they don’t feel like looking for someone, their parents will arrange their marriage. Personally, I can go find pretty much whoever I’d like to marry and if all else fails, my mother would love to arrange my marriage. I consider myself lucky in this respect because I never have to worry about ending up sad and alone with 28 cats (HAH!).
There you have it. Being Indian is AWESOME. Being asked these questions is NOT. Luckily, Indian people are quite forgiving and tolerate these idiotic questions. WHY? Because we believe in something called Karma and we’re just waiting for a cow to hit you in the forehead with a chicken wing and marry you.
Much love and smiles,