I consider myself a very open-minded and accepting person. I love learning about other cultures and about other religions. There is one group though that I've been rather closed-minded about in the past. Growing up they were never around. I had only heard stories. I knew my first full-blown exposure to them would be in college. Before I left for school, I asked a few people I respected about them. "They're drama," they said, "be careful." Or, "the guys like to get in fights," said another person. "Fights?!" I asked. "Yeah, knife fights," they said (were the Indians at UT hella shady in the late 90s or something? did they like to get stabby?). I know some of you that know me well are laughing right now. I'm talking about Indian kids in America.

To be honest, I unfairly grouped them all together when I was younger. I decided they were all into bhangra and superficial Indian culture and didn't really have an interest in India itself. That was really unfair of me. I think a little part of me will always wonder what it would have been like to get involved with the community in college. For some reason though, I just never identified with them. I didn't understand that people were able to be outwardly Indian and still balance their non-Indian sides. I saw a few people wanting to be around people with whom they felt a common connection.

I still didn't get it. I never felt like a minority. Sure, there were times growing up here and there and being teased but it never registered with me. It's interesting because I've talked to people that have also grown up in towns where their ethnicity is the extreme minority and people seem to either feel very welcome or very alienated. Either way, outside my house, I was just another one of the guys and inside my house I was Konkani and wanted to marinate on all things Indian. I didn't think I could be very Indian and very American at the same time. I identified with my Konkani culture strongly at home and didn't think about it much outside our house. The three have always been separate in my head. (interesting side question for you: "If you had to choose between calling yourself American or whatever ethnicity, culture, etc you identify with, which would you choose?" Without hesitation, I am American. I'm very proud of that and I hate when my parents make a separation between me and "Americans."

So why am I bringing up my past reservations here? Because I know I have unfairly judged in the past and I've grown a lot since then. I've come to India with an entirely open-minded. (I've also pinpointed what it is that bugs me about those few that do actually suck. I'll get to that in a bit). I'm hoping to meet at least a few of the Indian-Americans out here and I've done my best to erase my reservations. I'm excited to meet the folks out here. Really excited! The idea of hanging out with mostly Indian people still really weirds me out but I'm getting more used to it. Interestingly, locals weird me out much less than people from the states.

So let's get back to those few that suck. The last few days, I've been thinking about what it is that annoys me about certain Indian people I know. Revelation. I realized that it's a trait common to most people I don't care for back home. They all seem to live life with a sense of entitlement.

In the states, I'd be in a bar or a club and the Indian people I'm with or another group of Indian people, more often than not, would get into an argument with a server or a bartender or a valet driver. Acting like they were better than the workers. Acting like the worker was extremely subordinate. I'm starting to notice it here too. There is a HUGE class distinction between customer and server here. It really fucking bothers me. It might be the thing that's the hardest for me to accept. I worked at Carl's Junior when I was younger and to know that some service workers support their families through that work has stuck with me. I think about that every time I go out. I think it's important to remember that people are people and to not wholeheartedly buy into the whole customer/server power relationship. (By the way, if you're taking notes at home, a huge turn on to me is when ladies are super loving and respectful to service people.)

A little while before I left Chicago, I ran into my buddy Vivek at a party. He's been living in Mumbai for the last few years and just came back to the states recently. He says, "Hey Vaman. Remember what you said about the Indian kids in college?" I laughed nervously and thought, "Good god, that could be anything." He said, "You said you felt like a rebel. Like an outsider." But it's true. That is how I felt. I know now that it was mostly my own fault. I never tried to connect with them. I totally judged them all based on the few wack people I knew.

The great thing about life is that you can have realizations and evolve as a person. I know you can outwardly celebrate multiple cultures. I plan on giving people a second chance and treating people as individuals instead of labeled members of a group. Oh wait, unless I meet you and you're wearing a very unbuttoned vertical stripe shirt with overly moussed hair. Vivek has assured me that those dudes do not decide to work in India. I'm kidding, you guys are cool too.


Nina B said...

Very well said. The class disparities in India always rubbed me the wrong way, too. It was definitely noticeable in the restaurants, but I found it more pronounced in the homes of people with servants. They were often relegated to the shadows, treated as sub-humans, but they were the ones keeping the house together, clean, cooking the meals, taking care of the children. For such critical roles they play, it was disturbing to see how little respect they received.

Prem said...

I acted the same way growing up. Funny...or maybe strange is the word. I guess there are probably a fair amount of others that felt the same way but growing up in Jersey it seemed like every Indian was in the community and fit that mold. Now that I've met a few more Indians outside family and dated a few more Indian girls, my mind is opened-up to the community a bit more. I too though still find it hard to get past that "sense of entitlement". I'm not sure I've ever labeled it as entitlement myself (though I do see it from time to time), but I definitely see it as a "rat race" to see who is most successful here in America and that bothers me deeply. Especially since many people often define success based on their job, wealth, and material possessions. Keep writing! Take care.

Jimi said...

You don't even want to know about Nigerian Americans...
Good post Vams, you're insights are becoming my escape from studying for the bar.

Keep it up.

AJ said...

Thanks for the good read. I hope all is well. - Ayo

Vikrum said...

Indians suck at life, pretty much, is what I gathered from this post. O and Miles says whuttup.