A few weeks ago I was approached by a short-film director who had a few questions on what it was like being a Desi girl in America. There’s so much that could be said, and it took me a while to draft a good response. Since our stories are rarely told by the media there’s so many routes one could take when creating a film. Naturally, everyone’s experience differs based on one’s household. Whether or not your parents identify as liberal or conservative. My parents teeter somewhere in the middle but thankfully they’re more on the liberal side -> more freedom. Thought I would list some of the common themes we all seem to deal with growing up regardless of how ‘lax or parents are (or aren’t).
There’s growing up thinking that the white girls in school were so pretty but now realizing that they were just white and that western beauty standards played you. Even as an adult brown men will still continue to chase ordinary white women, and dismiss the beautiful brown women that look similar to their mothers. I.E. The Big Sick” (I refuse to watch). It’s refreshing to see brown men on T.V. but their white love interests bother me. Why does the idea of being with a brown girl repulse you? We are beautiful. A while back my friends and I went to a water park and I remember the guys gawking over the most ordinary looking life-guard. Kid you not, there was nothing special about her other than the fact that she was white.
There’s having bushy unibrows as a child and being made fun of constantly only to grow up and have your threaded brows idolized because white women decided that thick brows are now in. Countless glamour articles crediting thick brows to Cara Delevingne, and Lily Collins.
There’s listening to other brown people say things like “Getting our fob on”, “I’m so exotic”, “Call me Moe”, “My name is Amina but you can call me Amy so it’s easier”, “Bitch from Pakistan, waddup” and cringing in horror the entire time.
There’s the constant emphasis on marriage. So many of us are told that we can do whatever we want once we are married. Plenty of girls get married for their freedom only to end up with someone who restricts them even more. I don’t have a brother but I’m sure if I did his house-rules wouldn’t mimic mine. There’s your mother trying to domesticate you so that your in-laws like you later on. So much time spent on being wifey material. TF is wifey?! Why do we have to spend our lives crafting some image so that some backwards dude thinks you’re worth bringing home to Ammi. It saddens me to know that bringing home a good son-in-law would matter more to my mother than me bringing home my degrees (and school is important to us!)
There’s the idea of izaat. You need to protect the family reputation. Keep up the family image. Desi peple are similar to the upperclass whites. We go to the country club, throw elaborate events, have conservative parents, scheme like the characters in Gossip Girl. Everyone feels the need to upstage one another, show-off, and brag about how their child is the best in the city.
As for how we fit in with the western world it’s hard balancing act. I have a good number of non-brown friends and the only reason that works is because I fully immersed myself into their culture. I’ll go to parties with them, I dress like them, I talk like them. Since they accepted me based on the way I look, they now accept the culture I bring along with me. And that’s only because culture is cool now. White people love henna tattoos, chai lattes, and Bollywood dance classes. In Middle School I kept my culture on the low-low. If I was a fob with a thick accent none of my friends would come near me let alone listen to me talk about religion or how hard it is being Desi. As my mom says it’s “hard being an ABCD (American born confused Desi), you guys are so lost.” Our culture is so strong. We’ll never fully be white, nor will we fully be Desi because we were born here.