Understanding Brown Girls

You can’t start a post about brown girls without referencing this Youtube video, right? iisuperwomanii‘s guide to brown girls is something I watched and laughed over when it came out 2 years ago – January 2011 – but recently revisited on a youtube binge that involved watching every single video released in the last year, and then some, by JusReign, Akamazing, and obviously, iisuperwomanii (These are my 3 favorite desi Youtube celebs…do you know others?).

The first thing she talks about in this Youtube response to JusReign’s Rant on Annoying Brown Girls is how us brown girls want lots of attention.

1. YES. GIVE ME ALL OF THE ATTENTION

We’re a little bit needy/clingy/attention-starved. Just a little. I love her references to the whole boy/girl inequality thing (WHICH IS SO TRUE, BY THE WAY. NOT JUST A STEREOTYPING ERROR) but I don’t agree with her logic that this inequality is the reason behind the neediness.

Inequality can lead to self-esteem issues when you’re a girl second-guessing everything you’re doing. Nothing seems to be good enough for the parents, so yeah, you start to wonder sometimes just how good you are. So when you’ve got a guy telling you that you’re beautiful and amazing and he loves spending time with you, you feel like FINALLY, you’re doing something right. And that’s a good feeling. I like that feeling 🙂

Plus, I don’t think that craving attention is necessarily a ‘brown girl’ thing. All girls want attention.

Okay fine. I do like the video (and admiring her hair in the video), but honestly…everything else she says can just apply to all girls. So we’re not going to talk about it anymore, but it was a good intro and it’s still a funny video! I love the way she delivers everything 🙂

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Prysmatique dishing the dirt on what she thinks about brown girls…and about being one –

OKAY so maybe I should talk about myself for a change. I haven’t done that in a while on this blog. Just have a public heart-to-heart-type-post.

 

Brown girls start drama too easily. All my life (post-7th grade life), I have tried to avoid hordes of brown girls. If you really put more than 2 or 3 of us in a group, it’s only a matter of time before shit goes down. I witnessed that firsthand and maybe I’m not letting go of the past, but that feeling of backtalking traitorous “best friends” is not something I want to relive again. So I’ll abide by my decision, thank you very much.

I’ve learned to avoid the packs of brown people. At NYU, they actually banded together and called themselves BROWNTOWN. They had a NAME. I don’t even know what to say about that…every time I try, I just cough and sputter in disbelief.

 

My parents need to stop talking about my marriage. I’m not getting married yet. I’m not planning on seeing anybody for anything THAT long-term. I’ve barely even had a boyfriend, barely explored my sexuality (That is to say…I am straight, but haven’t done much, sexually), and barely thought about my future in such a concrete way.

My parents, though, have done all of the thinking for me. As one of the (few remaining) unmarried/single girls in my generation, EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF MY FAMILY IS AFTER ME. My gosh it’s so bad that I once had a ring on the middle finger of my right hand and my aunt came up to me and gave me a knowing smile before asking, “So you’re practicing already, huh?”

FRUSTRATION. The ring just matched my outfit you silly fools. Just because I am now 21 (Going to be 22 in July zomg), everybody loves nudging, poking, and hinting at marriage when they talk to me. My own mom incessantly elbows me and asks “Oh, do you have a boy in mind?”

My god. They are so clueless, so old-fashioned, and so IRRITATING. Keep in mind that because I’m Brown, I’m not actually allowed to date. But somehow, still, I am supposed to have a boy in mind?

Weirdos.

 

If I don’t cook and clean, I am a failure and a disappointment. No mother will want her son to marry me…Oh how I laugh. Fine, it’s still a valid point that I should be clean and organized for the sake of having a good-looking house/room, but the fact that I am messier than my OCD mom is somehow cause enough for her to moan in despair about how my future mother-in-law will kick me outta the house if I don’t clean up my act. (Pun intended, and you see, even when she’s lecturing me about being clean, she brings marriage into the mix) And of course, an Indian wife who doesn’t cook and clean and coddle her husband is a useless wife, and I will be useless if I don’t start cooking some nice rajma and daal and chole and gobi aloo soon. [Those were the names of some Indian dishes, if you didn’t gather from context]

 

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I just wanted to write about how it feels like to be a Brown girl sometimes. It’s frustrating, especially when you’ve got parents that are far too stuck in older times for your own comfort.

Being Brown is difficult. Coming from parents clinging tightly to their roots and the way things were done when they were brought up in India is tough when you are born and raised here.

I would not call myself whitewashed, but I definitely have a different opinion on the strict ideology my parents have about marriage, the ideal husband or wife, and   duties assigned by gender.

I want my boy to help me out with the cooking once in a while. I want him to make ME coffee in the morning once in a while. I refuse to be like my mother, who caters to my father’s every need not because she loves him and wants to (Although there is definitely some of that), but because she believes that this attention and coddling is what is expected and becoming of a wife.

That’s what sickens me. That it’s an obligation. That it’s somehow shameful or disgraceful when your husband gets up off the couch to get himself a glass of water when you are sitting next to him. That you feel GUILTY that you didn’t offer water to him earlier or get up to get it for him. And that if you wanted water, you would again feel GUILTY if he got it for you and you could have gotten it for yourself.

I think that’s pretty messed up, and that’s their upbringing, not mine. Why are you guilty? He’s a grown ass adult. If he wants water, he can get it. If you want water, you can get it. If you want to get each other water, do it out of courtesy or love, not duty or obligation.

So yeah…if you managed to read this far into the post, I hope you understand me (and my opinion on being raised as an Indian-American) a little bit better 🙂

 

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Beginning My Novel

Getting started on a novel is probably the hardest part of writing. It is the same with most other pieces of work, of course, but with a novel being such a long and arduous undertaking, it is overwhelming to begin from scratch.

That is why I will not begin from scratch. I was floundering around, tossing ideas around and testing the waters. But I realized that the amount of research I would have to do in order to get a sense of my characters in all these outlandish plots was not feasible for a novel to be completed in a month.

So then I thought to myself that the one place I could look to for a wealth of knowledge was in my own past experiences. My own culture. Thank you, Rukmani, for making me see the error of my ways. I once asked you why you wrote in an Indian setting so often, and you told me quite simply, that it was because you were Indian. Something to that effect. At the time, I scoffed at my heritage and felt it to be too alienating to an American audience to write in that setting. However, now I realize that I would much rather write a novel in a familiar place because it will be better, than write something from a Point of View I cannot even begin to understand. It will be better.

I am trying to accept this. I am Indian. I was raised with very strong Indian values. I speak Hindi. Fluently. I am as much an Indian as I am American, though I was born on this soil and have lived here for many years. I have not forgotten that other country or its ways, and they come more naturally to me than trying to mimic the lives of families I have only seen from the outside and never experienced. I would have to live in a white girl’s shoes to do her story any justice.

So here we are, at a bit of a crossroads. I accept that my stories will be better when they call upon my roots rather than somebody else’s.

With that thought in mind, here is a beginning excerpt of my novel. I do not know if it will stay in the final draft or not, but the seeds of my story are here. It isn’t much; less than 400 words are posted here. But still, it is a start and I want to pursue the story that I see taking shape. Enjoy!

AS YET UNNAMED

Riya sat at the edge of her bed. Her dupatta covered her face and she was thoroughly nervous and unprepared for whatever the night held in store for her.

Any other day, she would have changed into comfortable clothes, rid her face of the layers of makeup, and crawled into the covers. But tonight, she didn’t know what to expect. She didn’t know if Arjun was even going to sleep on the bed with her. When they had agreed, they had never planned for this. In fact, she had pretended that the details didn’t exist, as if saying yes to their marriage because he seemed a decent enough man was enough for the deed to be done.

Unfortunately, Indian families didn’t work that way, and Riya had endured nearly a month of festivities before she arrived to the bed this night. There were rose petals strewn across the bed, and they formed the alphabets A and R in the middle. The king sized bed had been outfitted with a beautiful and richly-colored coverlet of mahogany and varying shades of taupe. It was resplendent with pillows and surrounded by a gauzy veil of sheer beige lace. There were candles on the bedside tables and the windowsills, and whole atmosphere screamed of romance.

She knew Arjun’s two younger sisters, Sonali and Pooja, were behind the stunt. As his younger sisters, it was customary that they decorate the bridal chamber and welcome their sister-in-law into her new home. The wedding had passed by in a blur and the ongoing celebration and dances left Riya bubbling with excitement. It had felt like somebody else’s wedding at times, and the constant merriment had made her forget that she didn’t really know him. It had made her forget and for that, she was grateful.

That is, she was grateful most of the time. Right now, she heard the hushed giggles behind the door and she sat there, properly veiled in all her bridal finery, as a hanged woman awaiting her fate. Once he walked through that door, she did not know what would happen. She wasn’t sure what she wanted more – the considerate rejection or the farce of seduction.

Day 25: Pet Peeves

Day 25 — My biggest pet peeve that has nothing to do with blogging, being online, computers or anything else related to the Internet is…

I don’t like “backbiting” and gossip much. But that’s too harmful to be classified as a pet peeve according to Misha. So I shall dig around for another that irks me.

I really despise ethnic cliques. 

You know what I’m talking about. That gaggle of giggling girls talking in a foreign language. In America. When they know English.

It’s not just that they’re speaking in an isolating language. No, it’s worse because they act haughty and superior about it. You’re bilingual, I get it. YIPPEE I am so impressed, now get a room.

You know the “Brown” clique at NYU actually calls itself Browntown? That’s just disgusting. Ridiculous and disgusting and gross and revolting and all the other synonyms you can think of. That some ditzy girl wearing 2 lbs of makeup wobbles around in 5 inch heels on the precarious streets of NYC with her gaggle of fellow posse waving around a camera snapping pictures of her “browntown” in loud, girly, giggly voices. Ick. Get out of my way.  (On a separate note, I hate people who walk slowly on the street. Especially when I have only 8 minutes to walk from Union Square to Washington Square Park. Ugh really, bitch, get out of my way)

But yeah, I understand cliques are inevitable because you bond with those who you can relate to. But even then…I think if I was in a group of more than 3 Indians and it wasn’t because I was at a family party, I would go crazy. This sounds so un-patriotic of me. My parents would be so scandalized. I don’t understand why I hate it so much either, but I hate people who insist talking to me in Hindi when we both are raised here and clearly know and use English. AND PEOPLE WITH INDIAN ACCENTS. My gosh I really dislike the Indian accent.

This is like the tip of the iceberg. I could write a whole booklet on sidewalk etiquette. People walking slowly stay to the rightmost side of the right side of the street. People walking in the opposite direction stay to the left side of you at all times. If you’re too busy texting to look up and can tell your shadow is about to collide w/ somebody, move to the right. If everybody did that, the Chinatown sidewalk on a Saturday morning wouldn’t be such a jungle.

 

xoxo,
Pryanka

PS. Yes, I had an urge to really abuse the word “gaggle” in my post today.

 

List of rules and questions is here

Please take a moment to check out the other wonderful blogs participating in 30 days of Blogging Honesty with me!

Day 14: Keeping Secrets (Alternative Question)

Day 14 — Because my parents never found out, I remember getting away with _____ as a teenager…

Oh dear, there’s no way I’m revealing that kind of scandalous information on a public forum when my parents might encounter it some day in the future when they’ve learned the definition of blogging! You all shall have to read my answer to the alternative question now! Enjoy below (:

Your daughter tells you she is bringing home her boyfriend for dinner. When they arrive, she introduces you to a man who is not your same race. Sometime during dinner she announces that they have been married for the last six months. What bothers you more? The difference in race or being excluded from the wedding…

I think back on this question and I’m surprised by how much of my mother is in me. The fact that she’s been married for the last six months would come as crippling news. I do however, have to make a complaint – the question is not phrased to be culture friendly. Let’s list out what’s wrong with this scenario!

1. Girls cannot have boyfriends, least of all announce he’s coming to dinner.
2. If a girl dates, her parents are not to find out about it
3. If a girl dates outside her own culture/religion/ethnicity, her parents are DEFINITELY not to find out about it
4. A girl lives with her parents until she gets married. So if she’s been married for 6 months, they haven’t been living together yet.

I would have to be a major failure as a parent if my daughter married somebody and I didn’t know. But the more I think about it….I do think that she should marry within her own ethnicity, so that part would bother me too. This is just, overall, a really stupid scenario though. If I pretend I am white though, I will say that I would be bothered most about not being a part of her wedding.

But I mean really, that is just NOT how relationships work! A marriage is a month-long celebration. What girl would willingly give that up and lie to her parents O.o It just makes no sense to me. There’s NO way this secret can be kept that long. Nope.

This question cracks me up. It’s structured to make everybody respond by saying how outraged they are by the hidden marriage, but I think that race does play a big part. I want somebody I can speak to in Hindi as well as English. I want somebody who will cook me an aloo ka parantha on Sunday mornings when I want to sleep in. I’m sure these things can be learned, but that level of comfort and integration wouldn’t be present in a marriage outside of our race.

Yeah, super unrealistic question. Hidden marriage bothers me more, but I am bothered by race too. If my daughter is going to take this drastic step, she should have the balls to introduce him to the family before she marries him so we can get to know the person behind the race barrier. If he loves her and she loves him, great. But Indian or not, I want him to be from a good family and I want them to have a proper wedding.

 

xoxo,
Pryanka

List of rules and questions is here

Please take a moment to check out the other wonderful blogs participating in 30 days of Blogging Honesty with me!

Day 09: Being Brown

Day 09 —When the cashier gives me this amount of money for change, I know it’s too much money to dump in the charity bucket…

I am sure I would be of a different opinion if I had found jobs where my salary was heavily supplemented by tips, but right now, I have a decided distaste for the tip&charity system.

I just don’t understand the reasoning. Let me get this straight. You run a grocery store. Your job as a cashier of that store is to sell me my groceries. More specifically, your job is to take my money, put it in your register, give me back my change, and print out a receipt. Maybe you will even bag my items for me. But now, you want me to leave you my change in a charity bucket to thank you for doing your job?

If I need to express my absolute gratitude that you have done the job you were hired to do, a simple “thank you” will suffice. Even if I worked on the other side, I would feel so pathetic taking people’s tossed coins from a charity bucket. I am not their charity case!

Next thing you know, every student will be required to bring the teacher a gift every day, to thank them for doing their jobs. Oh hey, I want to be a future lawyer. Whenever my client meets me, I simply MUST expect him or her to treat me to an exquisite dinner as a thank-you for doing the job that a lawyer is supposed to do – that is, litigate a case.

Is the entire notion of a tip sounding ridiculous to you yet? The amount of gratitude you feel shouldn’t be reflected by how little you value your own money, and by how freely you give it to others. I’m sorry, I’m not made of money either.

If an item costs $1.99, I’m taking back my goddamned penny. I have no problems being sweet and saying thank you, but I am absolutely infuriated when people expect me to pay them money for doing their job. I am not their employer, I owe them no financial obligation. Go fight for another pay raise or something.

/harsh.

My longstanding hatred of the ‘tip’ system in the US goes a long way back. I just don’t GET how people find it normal that they’re obligated to pay somebody money for doing a job that they’re hired to do. I mean, you wanted to be a cashier/teacher/lawyer, and you get paid to do it. I’m not about to congratulate you for doing what you’re supposed to do.

That’s like somebody expecting me to give them a gold medal for remembering to breathe. Every single day. And being pissed if I skip a day. Please, that’s pathetic. I’ll keep my change to myself, and you can go on collecting charity from people who don’t see the world as I do. I earn my money same as you, and I don’t expect additional financial gains as tokens of gratitude.

I sound like a grouch. But really, I’m just extremely stingy with my money. I don’t spend wastefully, and I save what I can. In fact, this entire semester, I’ve been paying for coffee solely with the change I get back when buying other odds and ends. I have a giant stash of coins – it’s got to be worth a couple hundred bucks at this point. All of my change goes into that.

I am my own charity case as it is. And that is enough. I don’t leave change in charity jars, and I grudgingly give tips only because restaurants are now haughty enough not only to expect it, but also to mandate it. As if it’s a right and not a privilege. Argh.

xoxo,
Pryanka

List of rules and questions is here, if you want to participate. Sorry I haven’t commented on anything – been really busy the past two days!

Please take a moment to check out the other wonderful blogs participating in 30 days of Blogging Honesty with me!

Arranged Disaster – Part 1

He was just having fun with his friends when he first saw her. He had been riding down the dirt path on his bicycle, and he suddenly stopped, causing the posse behind him to complain as they slammed their own brakes. He got up, swaggered to the poor rickshaw driver, and snatched up an air pump.

No explanations, no questions. He grabbed the pump and walked back toward his bicycle, ignoring the protests of the unworthy man behind him.

“But sahib, my passenger is in a hurry, and I must repair my tires before they can go any farther.” He plead fervently, because if she found another rickshaw to take for the rest of her journey, he would lose the RS. 10, and with it, break his promise to his son. His son had been craving chocolate for weeks now, but every time, he had to come home ashamed, with just enough money to make ends meet, if that. There 10 rupees would leave him enough room to buy a piece of candy. The rickshaw driver sighed, defeated and helpless.

She averted her eyes, looking down at the ground. Her long hair hung down her back in a simple braid. Her face was free of makeup, and she had on plain solid colored garments. But there was something about the beauty of her village charm that stopped him – he stopped in his tracks, muttering an excuse about not having been in as much of a hurry as he had thought, and handed the pump back to the rickshaw driver.

He was in love. Love at first sight – it didn’t exist in that village. Marriages were arranged, keeping in mind family politics and society standings. But he didn’t even know her name. He just knew that he loved her. He waited until the rickshaw had been repaired, and then, hooting and hollering with his group, he chased after it. The girl did not look up. The unnamed beauty of his dreams tried her best to ignore what she knew was happening. Her cheeks burned, not with desire, but with embarrassment. She was glad her younger brother was not with her. “What would my parents say if they saw this? I should just die from the humiliation right now. The entire village will find out, and I will never step out of my house again. I’m doomed.”

All that, because of a glance. But the boy, too, was aggressive. He saw her everywhere after then, not that it was difficult to do in their small village. He was not stalking her, persay – he was merely protecting her from the evil eyes of all the other eligible men. She was his.

He followed her into the shop. He felt that she looked very adorable buying vegetables. Such a simple task it was, but she did it with such grace and beauty, casually pushing her long braided hair back as it slid forward, caressing her nape gently as it did so. Little by little, the girl was growing accustomed to him. She was beginning to enjoy the attention he gave her – she enjoyed being doted upon. Growing up as a female in that small village in India was not easy. To live there was to live in a time long gone from modern civilization. It was a simpler life, yes, but in some ways, a richer and more vibrant one. Hand pumps pumped water out for daily use, and showerheads were unheard of – the only practical way with which one could bathe him or herself was by using a bucket and a pail. The outfits too were different – unmarried young girls wore simple garments so as not to attract unwarranted attraction, and were discouraged from flaunting their body around the town. They stepped out to do household chores and other such respectable jobs: buying vegetables being one of them.