“That’s so Indian”
A statement that shaped my life. People who said this to me often used it as an insult- a way of telling me “be lesser of who you are” and when “friends” would introduce me they’d be on some “This is Lethica, she not a typical Indian don’t worry, she’s cool” I had lost my Indian identity before I even knew what it was. It made people comfortable to make remarks reducing my 500 million year old culture to spice jokes and that 2c accent that no South African Indian has. Why couldn’t I be Indian and cool? Why was my culture seen as a joke rather than something beautiful filled with rich tradition? I never had what was called the “typical Indian accent” and often had to fake laugh through conversations where that 2c accent was used to make a joke meanwhile in my head I knew that when Indian people speak their mother tongue languages the accents are perfect. As people of colour we use the way english is spoken to degrade each other- sometimes more than white people. Peers were baffled how i could be indian and not be good at math. I didn’t know what being a typical Indian meant. At home i was different because I was way more open-minded than my conservative culture allowed- I am queer, a feminist in a culture rooted in patriarchy, black lives matter activist but amongst my friends i was different because I didn’t have the accent, I could understand other South African languages, I dated outside my race and suddenly I was introduced as “this is Lethica, lol she’s not Indian” why was it so hard for people to accept that I could be Indian and all the things that i am at the same time? Why was it so hard to accept that I could be more than the spice jokes and Indian accent and still be Indian. I used to join along with my friends mocking Indians, entertain my history teacher who thought it funny to make an indian joke and look at me for agreement and gratification. Colourism- “I’d date a light Indian but not those navy blue ones” Dark is beautiful only if it’s black there’s no space for darkskin coloureds and Indians, we’re just not “exotic” enough- after all we’re still waiting for our apologies from the white people. I digress. Shame on me for thinking things like “Tisha you smell so nice, not like spice.” are compliments. It’s feels the same way when Americans come expecting lions on the streets only to be disappointed by the roads and skyscrapers. These are the consequences of only one truth about culture, about people and when they’re not who you thought they’d be- instead of accepting them, you label them differently.
-An immigrant in her own country.
“That’s so Indian”