Are You Indian?


Another shaggy hippie trying to bond with the exotic east (a brown guy). Usually I just walk on a bit faster after the initial “No”. This time though I’m corner – wedged next to a big table straining with bread, cheese and inexpensive wine.

Him: Pakistani?

Cerno: No. And there are some people who would consider that an insult.

At this point I had hoped the geography challenged will leave me alone. But no, the light brigade charges on dimly.

H: Then you MUST be Bangladeshi

C: No

A mystified look

H: What are you then?
C: Isn’t it obvious?

A blank face – its his turn to say “no”.

C: Human

I turn to the table and fish for a good cheese ignoring his awkward hems, hwas and buts.

Yes not too many years ago Cerno was less than compassionate. Particularly towards people who through word & deed demonstrated qualities of a FLWB (not much light and that too inconsistent).

Not anymore.

People view the world through the prejudices of their up-bring/life experience. That baggage can be stupid, warped, cruel or enlightened. Its up to me decide if my time and energy is worth being bothered about how they treat me. Within the parameters of self preservation of course. Generally a benevolent approach is the most efficient.

Humans, what ever their local trappings, are the same. Essentially afraid. Hounded by the realisation that life is uncertain. Worried that the unknown, the unseen, the unfamiliar will kill their illusion of a happy certainty. Observing the locals of 3 continents during many many commutes has drilled this realisation into me.

Perhaps I’m tired. Or my hide is thicker than I realise. Or I know the draining stupidity of being pissed off by other people’s ignorance. Most like a cocktail of the above.

Faced with the “Are You an Indian?” I simply deliver the usual about being born and raised in Sri Lanka followed by my global existence. Interesting positive discussions tend to follow.

How does it work for you? Are you Indian πŸ˜‰ ? You know where the comment box is.

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20 thoughts on “Are You Indian?

  1. I’ve never been convinced about anything that’s broadly termed. From personal experience its nearly always turned out to be an unpleasant inaccuracy. πŸ˜‰

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  2. I have been labeled with all sorts of nationalities, Indian, Kerala, Pakinstani (more times than I can count….I am still looking for the link), French, Aussi, Iranian. The actual explanation gets bad looks and its like I am pulling their legs.

    Each time I say I am a Sri Lankan born & bread with mixed up genes from the Dutch/German & Portuguese connections they just change the subject and life goes on.

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  3. It used to annoy me to no end but these days I really don’t care. There was this one occasion when this red neck asked if I was Indian and I patiently explained to him that I was Sri Lankan only to find out that he had no clue as to what or where Sri Lanka was. After another 5 minutes of explaining to him about the existence of a country called Sri Lanka he tells me “It’s all the same. You’re Indian!” Trying my best not to rupture a vein I tell him “If it’s all the same, you must be Canadian right?” The peeved look on his face was priceless! And the latest to the list – someone asked me if I was from China a couple of months back! WTF?!!

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  4. When I used to live in Sri Lanka and this was during my kiddy days I thought being indian was cooler…so during the first few months of coming to canada when ppl thought if I was Indian I thought wwow that was cool!

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  5. When I used to live in Sri Lanka and this was during my kiddy days I thought being indian was cooler..this was bcoz of the movies and music…so during the first few months of coming to canada when ppl thought if I was Indian I thought wow that was cool! But later I realized I couldn’t be more proud of being lankan than ever before and felt a sense of pride in me for being lankan….i became more lankan than I was ever before…i embraced being lankan even more..and when there were similar instances like wht uve experienced I just cant wait to give a slap on their faces by saying what they are actually missing…and hwo much better being lankan than indian was.

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  6. Here in Seychelles , people hate Indians…. they think they will capture their economy (alredy they are) and dominate like in morishes…… So they insult Indians when ever they can, they have a slang to call Indians,”Malba” its like calling a black guy “nigger”, some Indians live here came from Malabar coast of India i think…..They think Indians are filthy & smelly. But Indians here work hard, they are intelligent, they are not lazy like others so they become rich quickly……….

    But the problem is that some of them see Sri Lankans as Indians too, Some times they insult us, but if we say we are not Indians they don’t understand….. they say “But you look like an Indian”, some even call us “Sri Lankan Malba”…, I get pissed off sometimes……..

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  7. i get called indian all the time, and it really doesnt bother me. i mean, we’re all brown, its an easy mistake to make. and as for not knowing where sri lanka is, well I dont know all the little islands in the world either!
    ive been asked if im mexican or brazilian a couple times. i thought that was interesting. but the funniest was when someone thought i was british. haha.

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  8. I had a guy come up to me once saying “ah, you are Kenyan! You are my compatriot!!” and embrace me long and ferverently. It took sometime to struggle loose, mumble “Sri Lankan” and then flee the scene!

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  9. Wow. Never thought I’d get this many comments πŸ™‚ but now (belated) realise that this is an obviously common experience. The creepy part of stereotypes is that cultural attributes become thought of a biological. Yes a silly idea in the first place. I would elaborate but its late… πŸ™‚

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  10. I always correct them if I’m asked. I have nothing against Indians (in general that is) and I also understand why the confusion may arise, but if I have a choice I tell them. This is mainly because with a lot of people being an ‘Indian’ carries a negative connotation, especially in the social scene. Yes that maybe just blatant stereotyping on their part but hey, I don’t wanna pay for anyone else’s sins.

    And yes, just like enTRpy the Canandian comparison is the best medicine for the “you are all the same” bull crap.

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  11. Oh dear! I guess it must be annoying to be called an Indian just because we all look brown! I have felt irritated when people ask me if I’m Pakistani, and sometimes in SL people thought I was Sri lankan! Yeah,that does feel strange, but then I figured it’s because we all look so similar in the sub continent,it must be hard to differentiate!

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  12. Rarely Indian for me. More often Hispanic as in Dominican or Carribean (i..e Trinidad).
    If they mistake me for a Indian or after explanation of Sri Lanka, they insist on saying not much difference, proceed to ask their ancestry (applicable in the US).
    if they say say
    Irish or Scot then say “Oh same as the English”
    English then say oh “Oh same as the French”
    German = “Oh the same as the Polish”
    Chinese = “Oh same as the Korean/Japanese”

    The point being you should know as much as about the other persons history/ancestry to place the Sri lankan/Indian difference in context relative to your aquaintence.
    Otherwise, you too are no better. i.e to you Chinese/Korean/Japanese means no difference.

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  13. Indyana hmm that got me thinking about what actually I found annoying.

    I think its not about being associated with a particular nationality. What seemed to annoy me was that people made a stereotype based decision about me – as an individual. Also I felt a close mindedness about their mindset which I didn’t instinctively like.

    sbarrkum, SpectralCentroid, and enTRpy has some good “here’s what your thinking feels like” come backs πŸ™‚ Which I think is more smarter that my old snideness.

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  14. Ha πŸ™‚ Someone (I can’t remember the name right now) once said that asking a person where they were from had an implicit question attached to it: “You’re going back right?”
    Personally, I’m an Indian and I don’t particularly mind people asking me the question unless they want to parlay that into a conversation: elephants, snakes, Ganesh, chakras, yoga, spicy food, and lately, jobs.
    Do. Not. Want.
    Especially at the corner deli, thanks.
    Spot on with the “stereotype based decision on me” comment. That’s precisely it for me.

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  15. Started reading this post thinking that it was a mere rant of racial discrimination. (A prejudgment in itself)

    But no. After reading the part which comes after “not anymore”, I was profoundly moved.

    Prejudices and stereotypes are the backbone of our thoughts. Some people call it experience. Some call it perspective. And others claim that prejudice is another name for analyitic thinking.

    Imagine this scenario. You walk towards a closed door and try to open it with a given set of keys. The keys don’t work.
    What do you do? Does your mind go through every possibility on how the Universe could have close this door, in chronological order, or does your mind race to a similar incident which happened not longer ago assume it here, and start looking for solutions.

    This understanding of the cognitive science has opened a new branch of artificial intelligence. Or so I’ve heard.

    So even though I would love to live without presumptions, I guess the human mind is programmmed that way. Mindfullness and constantly unlearning the things you’ve learnt might stabilize our minds, but a little wisdom always helps I guess with our busy lives.

    I was going to write a separate post on this, but I don’t think I’ll have the time….

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  16. R yes presumptions are tricky but in practical terms it boils down to how you react to other people’s presumptions.

    I’ve reached a liberating sense of “I don’t care”ness πŸ™‚ which is nice.

    Didn’t realise that this post would have a broader impact on a lot of people. Hope you were moved in a positive direction πŸ˜‰

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  17. Well! I am Indian and I know exactly what you mean. The ‘Indian’ stereotype getting unfairly attached to one can be fairly disconcerting. India is a huge place, with hugely different cultures, languages, temperaments and socioeconomic classes.I was quite amused to see during my memorable colombo sojourn how people would be surprised at the lack of ‘accent’ in my English…or my ability to have fun in a club or be ‘with it’ with the gang! I think there would be atleast another 99 million young people like me in India but the local Sri Lankan crowd never thought they existed.Now, after spending more than a year in Jakarta,Indonesia with a very mixed crowd its so obvious to me that the attaching of a stereotype sometimes helps connect at a superficial level( I like Amitabh Bachan too) but acts as a huge barrier to understanding one another more deeply.I must say though that Colombo is an awesome awesome city and I love it thoroughly.The people are just the coolest!!…Hmm…wonder if I am building a stereotype as I write…:)

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  18. πŸ˜€ that’s the first positive thing I’ve heard anyone say about Colombo πŸ™‚

    And you are right – visual biological stuff is equated as culture and identity. It’ll change eventually I suppose..

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