Foreigners

But…you are a foreigner…

1:05 PM

I recently read a few posts on blogs I follow regularly that are all about one’s identity, being a foreign spouse married to a desi guy and what it implies or means.
All this actually made me remember a couple of conversations I had with random strangers since I had my daughter and how awkward they can be.

Conversation 1:
In Panchgani in the hotel while I was on the garden swing with Ishita.

Lady: Can I come and sit?
Me: Sure (I stop the swing to let her sit)
Lady: Is the baby yours?
Me: Yes she is (starting to see where this is all going as it’s not the first time)
Lady: But she is Indian and you look like a…uhm…foreigner
Me: Yes that’s because my husband is Indian
Lady: What’s her name?
Me: Ishita
Lady: Oh she has an Indian name too! then bending toward my daughter saying “yes you are Indian, like me, we are the best”
Me: uncomfortably silent starting to eye the woman a bit oddly because she is getting a bit out of line here.
Lady: talking back to me saying “What caste is your husband”
Me: I don’t know we never raised the topic because it doesn’t matter to us
Lady: What’s his last name where is he from?
Me: telling her (feeling exasperated)
Lady: mumbling away feeling uncomfy and suddenly leaves the swing.

Noticed that at no point this lady asked me where I was from, and went as far as saying to my face that Ishita was like HER and they were the BEST…hello tacky?

Conversation 2:

Random lady comes to me in the street:

Lady: Cute little baby, what’s her name?
Me: Ishita
Lady: But that’s an Indian name (looking me up and down several time)
Me: yes why?
Lady: But you are a foreigner! (Forgot to add that lady in question was speaking with a thick American accent)
Me: My Husband is Indian
lady looking very much relieved: Ah that’s ok then!

Geez and what if DH and I were both foreigners and still decided to give an Indian name to our daughter? Would that be NOT ok?

Conversation number 3:

Me and a friend are on the bandstand promenade in Bandra with Ishita waiting for our hubbies to bring the car so we can leave.

Lady carrying a baby in her arms: Is she yours?
Me: Yes (knowing this will go into awkward territory)
Lady: How old is she?
Me: One year old
Lady, looking at both of us very suspiciously: Are you sure?
Me: Yes (starting to be exasperated as the lady clearly doubt me, my maternity as well)
Lady: Does she eat solid food yet?
Me: Yes everything
Lady: But she can’t have teeth…and proceeding to go check my daughter’s mouth like a horse…I back one step and look at the lady in the eyes.
Lady then turn to my friend and ask in Hindi: Where is she from?
Me: I’m from Switzerland
Lady look at me like I interrupted a conversation I was not invited in…my friend repeats the answer, lady go on asking personal questions about MY life to my friend who is trying to get rid of the lady politely. Questions range from whether my husband is Indian, when we got married, where, what style of ceremony, and at one point the lady asking with an edge of worry if my daughter is really Indian. I step in a bit angry and say “Yes she is” the lady turns back to me and snap “Yes but you are not” in English, and turn back to my friend to continue the discussion asking her how come then I’m in India? Then lady say “You are lucky the baby has a very fair complexion…so beautiful” as if my daughter was HER baby in the first place! I was fuming but then our hubbies came with the car and we were both relieved that we were free of that horrid woman. My friend then apologized to me for not having been able to rid us of the lady sooner and that she could not believe how tacky the questions were turning one after the other.

These 3 conversations were the most extreme of all, the last one being downright disgusting. But I get that a lot, some people apparently can’t get the fact, I have a baby, gave birth in India, married an Indian guy and all. I can understand that, intercultural marriages are still a very new things, and trust me when asked respectfully and with a genuine interest and curiosity, I don’t mind, but these 3 ladies above all made it very clear that India was the best and that it was actually a relief that my daughter was Indian, while not caring one bit about who I was and went as far as making it obvious to my face as in the case of the lady in conversation number 1 and number 3.

I also understand that in India asking more personal questions to random strangers is ok, and I play the game, but then there is that line when we go into awkward that should be minded…clearly the case in all the above conversations.

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