Why I stopped blogging about my life in India

11:55 AM

Some of you have been reading this blog almost since it's inception, it was once upon a time known under a different name, and had an entirely different focus.
Back in the early days of blogging, it was all about being personal, sharing snippets of one's life, and I started this blog because a friend of mine thought it would be amazing to share what my everyday life in India was all about.

A few years down the line, it attracted the attention of all those wondering what an intercultural relationship was all about. I got endless lectures on how I should be more Indian, more this, do less of that, and basically my whole identity became entirely linked to who my husband was.
People wanted to see pictures of me wearing a saree, wondered how I sounded speaking Hindi, asked me to blog about Indian food, Indian art... It reached a point at which I had to openely tell people to stop indianizing me.

But it never really stop, the expectations of what I should do with my life, solely based on the cultural background of my husband keeps going.

The hype needs to die

More importantly, I think we need to get over the "exotic factor" and fall into traps of women embracing a different culture. My blog has never been about the whole firangi going desi, but people sure hoped I would show more of that angle. 

For the sake of gender equality, let's stop that misguided glorification once and for all! Nobody really glorify a guy for embracing his wife's culture, or tie their identity to who their spouse is.
My husband's identity is his own, he isn't "The guy who embraced Swiss culture", nobody ask him if he likes cheese, wine or chocolate, or if he ever tried to yoddle. 
But people ask me on a near daily basis if I like Indian food, if I can cook it, if I like to wear a saree, or even why I don't stop painting watercolor and do Madhubani art, Warli art and if I have mastered the art of making a rangoli. 

There is nothing amazing or exceptional to it

Seriously, I think we are rendering a HUGE disservice to India and the world by deciding that foreigners living in India are exceptional people with out of this world skills. 

First because there is nothing massively challenging about the process that wouldn't happen to ANY expat in ANY culture that isn't their own. 
Nobody talks about the struggle of Indians getting the hang of living in Europe and adjusting (trust me it's a real thing), nobody give them a golden halo for having to deal with scrapping frost off their car in the morning, or having to learn any new customs and possibly a new language. 

Yet, a foreigner eats a masala dosa, and the world should stop spinning and accolade be given. Enough! 

I have been living in India for 16 years exactly as of this week. My early days struggles of not finding home food is no less exceptional as the ones of Indians not finding their favourite namkeens abroad. 

Oh and before you even start wondering, culture shock applies to everyone, not just when you move from one culture to a VERY different one. I have American friends who had the toughest time adjusting to Switzerland and had meltdown over the fact we don't have Hershey's kisses or even Marshmallow peeps for Easter. 
Nobody gave them a medal for having to celebrate Easter with different candies either. 

By glorifying the efforts and struggles of foreigners living in India, we are by default deciding India is a "lesser coutry" and buying into this ridiculous notion that the western world is superior. 

So stop thinking my celebrating Diwali is amazing and out of this world, or that my eating Pani Puri is a out of this world spectacle that deserve an Oscar or a Nobel prize. Because it's not, it's just one human being in a world of many, living a very adaptable life and making the best of what she has. 

This hype leads to a very unhealthy fetish

I don't think I have to even let you in on the fact that there are some really disturbing Google search result queries that lead some really creepy people to my blog over the years. Some not even bordering on the erotic white fetish. 
It also continues to attract questionable people to follow me on my blog's Facebook page. Just this weekend I had to ban one that kept harassing me via messenger. The guy deluded himself into thinking I was his girlfriend, sent me cheesy selfies and memes all more nauseating than the previous one. A message from my husband to please leave me alone was no deterrent, the guy was still trying to make his point that he was no damage good and I should give him a chance. 

He was the most persistent, but definitely not the only one to try to get my attention on my professional page. And I know that this lot do the round of intercultural family blogs, hopeful they'll get their chance at bagging a white trophy girlfriend if not wife. 
That having one will increase their social status in a way or another, all because, India is believed to be inferior to the West...

Ladies, do your bit too

The world have changed in 16 years, intercultural relationships are on the rise, and while I get it, showing off that you have adjusted to your spouse culture feels great, I'd rather see you build yourself up and show the world what a pretty amazing person you are without having to drag in saree wearing,  Indian cooking or taking traditional dance classes. 

Show the world how you just added new traits to your already amazing and rich cultural background. Because as much as India suffers from a colonial hangover and is under the idea that to be cool you need to hype the West, said West is under the impression their own culture is boring and not colorful enough without appropriating stuff from distant worlds. 

Celebrate your own crazy self, your tradition of wearing Christmas PJ on Christmas eve, roasting marshmallow at an outdoor picnic, building a snowman, your love of pumpkin spice everything and your local county fairs. They are colorful, they are unique, your culture is pretty awesome and freaking amazing too!

This is why from very early on, I never posted Indian recipe on this blog, or India themed arts and craft (outside Diwali rangoli). The world doesn't need another white Indian wife sharing her recipe of Dal Makhani, or a tutorial on how to pleat a saree. 
What the world needs more than ever now, is a reminder that no matter where in the world you live, your roots follow you, that just because you moved to another corner of the world and no matter who your spouse is, you are still a pretty freaking damn amazing person in your own right. 

There will always be people who will hate you for it. But just keep on doing your own thing regardless, because you earned that right the moment you were born.

This is who I am and who I want to celebrate : 

Hi, my name is Cynthia, I was born in Geneva Switzerland, I am an artist, and I love love love colorful art and home decor. 
I am a foodie, am insulin resistant, have dyscalculia, have a synesthetic mind, and an IQ of 129. I'm a rebel, beat my own drum, do my own thing, and Christmas cannot be celebrated without baking Milano cookies. I love cheese, and I eat meat, I don't like spinach. 
I live in Mumbai, India, and I have a cat, a dog, love to swim, and am a Star Wars fan. 

Oh and by the way, my husband is Indian, the side effect is that my life opened up to a whole lot of new things that have integrated with who I am. 

I now also celebrate Diwali and Holi, but I do not do puja because I am not religious. I can cook Indian food, but then I also cook Chinese, Japanese, Italian, American and Mexican dish too. I only wear ethnic wear on special occasion because my active lifestyle means I am more comfortable wearing shorts, or palazzo pants with a t-shirt, and I really really hate wearing a dupatta...I turn them into table runners because women should not be dictated what to do to preserve their own modesty. 

I am my own boss, and I created my own art and design brand....this is part of who I am, and more importantly, this is the part of who I am that I want being public. 

Who I married is none of your business. 

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  1. I think the blogging/media interest on "intercultural relationships" was a trend that ended in 2014-2015 or so. I believe it started around 2006/2007? I think everything that can be said on the subject has been said & it has definitely run its course.Yours is one of the few blogs which has remained and transitioned nicely into new topics!

    1. Yes I think it was at its peak between 2010 and 2012-13, after that it declined very rapidly and suddenly there was way too many blogs on the topic and way too little time to read them all. Plus everything had been said then.
      I remember really being annoyed by the whole "Look I can cook butter chicken" or "Indian ethnic wear is so elegant" that went around. Especially since it was also around the time Indian women in India were fighting against patriarchy, claiming their right to wear what they want, not be domestic goddesses and do away with dupattas, sindoor, bindi and other matrimony symbols marking them as wife.

      On one hand I was seeing women in my area rightfully rebel against being roti makers, demure, hiding their boobs and branding themselves as a man's property, and moving on to be empowered.

      And on the other, I saw a bunch of Western women married to Indian, most of them not living in India, embracing all those symbols of patriarchy, dressing up in salwaar suits that went out of fashion at least 5-6 years before who were educating the Western world about how beautiful it is to announce that you are married by applying sindoor, toe rings and wearing a mangal sutra. They went on and on about how Indian traditions are so rich, meaningful, and beautiful, not realising that Indian women now find them sexist and a hinderance.

      It is around 2013 that I really didn't want to have any part in this type of blogging community.

    2. I can relate to this so well. Most of the inter-cultural relationships with Indians that I've come across have been Western women married to Indian men and following exactly these stereotypes. Thankfully, they are not topics of interest any longer, and people are embracing who they are a bit more. I'm in the opposite relationship - Indian woman married to a European man, and we live in the US. I think my husband faced his share of ‘do you like spicy food?’ and ‘do you like Indian food’ questions, assuming that I am the one cooking for him and making Indian food everyday. He’s actually the one in charge of the kitchen in our home, and we eat a variety of cuisines. My European family did not try to make me adopt their culture at all. But they see India as ‘exotic’ and our clothes as ‘Indian princess’ wear, which makes me a bit comfortable. I’ll have to find a way to normalize this for my daughter and son while we are around them. We get a ton of books in French as gifts, centered around themes of Indian princesses, elephants, yoga and such. I know it’s them trying to be inclusive, but it’s sort of weird reading about yoga poses with French descriptions! I enjoy reading your posts because of your perspective, and also because of the topics you write about - they are actually interesting and relatable to me.

    3. I've seen this whole "let's indianize everything for the kids" pattern. As you said, it's done out of good intention but it's seriously annoying.

      Another thing that really annoys me to no end in India, is that when hubby and I got to places like a five star hotel, or a place that is quite touristy, I get greeted with a full blown elaborate "Namaste", fake reverence and exaggerated hand folding included while hubby only get's a "Hello and welcome". I usually reply with a hello, but I hate the fact that they decided that I'm a tourist by default and therefore deserve the whole shebang and "Real India experience".

    4. Oh yes, the overdone Namaste! We've experienced this too. And these hotels are all "how did you find your stay with us, sir" only to my husband, while I'm next to him thinking, I was the one that did all the bookings, the payment and planning for this stay, but somehow it's his opinion that they care about!

  2. I can understand your anguish and I may have contributed to it inadvertently. I have been reading inter cultural blogs for some years and they have been a learning experience. As Bibi said, they were definitely a novelty a few years ago. As Indians, it is our earnest believe that nobody can ace India. Metaphorically yes, it may true. Nobody is better equipped other than us to make sense of the myriad social, cultural and historical maze that India is. Yet, people have come to India and made sense of it not just in recent past but since time immemorial. We believe that only we can survive the panipuri water, and not get sick. Nobody has the skills to eat with hand. If somebody can unravel these mysteries, it comes as a surprise. It is a tribute to that person's adaptability and intelligence. There is a Canadian lady who runs, believe it or not Marathi youtube channel. Talk about globalization. If somebody adopts our culture we feel elated, but our culture does not need any attestation.

    Then there is the story of the fabled west where everything is perfect. In olden days, everyone had that one NRI uncle who went abroad and became successful. What he did before he became successful was not known, it was not even polite to discuss such things, he never told definitely not the scraping the snow thing. He just came to India laden with expensive watches and electronic gadgets, to the envy of everyone. Thus, the myth persisted that life is easy there. Today we know otherwise because there is more free flow of information through internet. There is Indian guy who blogs from Japan about his live there, rent, work culture, visa and what not. Abroad is definitely not El Dolarado, the mythical city of gold.

    There are other aspects too, but it basically boils down to what we think of ourselves compared to others. That sense is slowing getting formed as India gets more confident. A few Olympic medals, a mission to Mars, a cricket world cup, things that we only dreamed for generations have come true. The next generation probably would not have any such dilemmas. Little empty headed but definately more confident/happier than us.

    1. Trust me, western cultureS and yes I added a capital S because they are plural and VERY diverse are as hard to navigate than Indian cultures.

      What I see hapening a bit too much in India though, is that people tend to take American sitcoms and movies at face value and think that watching these, mean they have figured out the whole Western world.

      Ask any European, and you will hear that we are SICK of being clubbed with the US, because we are very different culturally.
      In fact from one country to the next in Europe you will find different traditions, stories, food, festivals, and culture. What is appropriate in one part of Europe isn't in another. In general, the further North you get, the more formal people are, which for many Indians is interpreted as insensitive, cold, and rude.

      I think it's time for every culture to be at par, all western cultures are as diverse, and colorful as any given culture in India, and all of them are going to be a challenge to embrace if you are an outsider. But if we want a global and equal world, we should stop expecting women to change for their husband, and we should stop mistaking pride with chauvinism.

    2. Yes, I still remember the impact American sitcoms had when they suddenly emerged from nowhere on the cultural landscape of India in early 1990s. Before that there was only one government channel and TV was definitely considered middle class in India, less noise more substance. I have fond memories of those wonderful Indian serials. Now, suddenly, everyone was doing "Yo Yo", like the MTv VJs. Video Jockey, Strange name. I thought only horses had jockeys. This was a magical world where children did not study, but had complicated love life. School was a fun place, the intelligent people were looked down upon, strange. American parents were cool, hardly bothered about academics of their children. And those big houses, wonderful. Parents and children shared camaraderie. For some time I followed Bold the beautiful but lost track due to its convoluted storyline. This was a happy world compared to academic pressures and strict parenting in India. At that age, it was difficult to have a perspective. However, there were shows like Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue which brought out the realities of life in America but then I guess the magical serial has more appeal to the Indian public.

    3. That is what is the problem. People in India took these as face value, thinking that it is how real life happened for everyone. In reality, these sitcoms are a caricature of real life in the same way no one would expect Bollywood movies to be a representation of everyday life in India.

      What is really annoying as a European especially is that we are now clubbed with the American fantasy ideal of easy life, drive through, huge houses, big cars, and the like.
      In real life, it is true that the average American home is larger than in most other countries, but in Europe, the average family of 4 usually lives in a flat or house that is around 1000 square feet because in most of Europe, land comes as a premium, and it actually quite a densly populated continent.

      I still remember an American friend sharing a meme on Facebook about the "crazy stuff British do", she was super puzzled by the fact people seem to wash their dishes in a plastic tub placed in the sink.
      I told her that it wasn't really just a British thing, because lots of people in Europe do wash their dishes that way. Containing the dirty dishes in a soapy tub and still have a little space to rinse them under cold running water without compromising the hot soapy water in the tub.

      She was shocked to hear that double sinks wasn't more of a thing, or even a dishwasher because the average American kitchen is almost twice the size of the average European one.
      I also had American friends living in Switzerland, their number one complaint was that homes are so tiny, and yes, most could not cope with the kitchen because it is super compact.

      Ironically, even in India, most of the flats I lived in had a bigger kitchen than most of a kitchens I have seen in Switzerland. But they are so badly planned that they have at the most half the storage capability. As a comparison, hubby and I stayed in a flat in Zurich, it was a semi-open plan kitchen, with a bar counter. All in all, that kitchen was 60 square feet big. The current kitchen we have here in Mumbai is 85 square feet without counting the utility balcony.

      In Zurich, the 60 square feet kitchen had twice the amount of cabinets, one sink with one draining platform, a built in hob with chimney, a built in fridge, built in convection oven, a dishwasher, and a broom closet big enough to store a full size vacuum cleaner and about 2-3 brooms, plus all the dusters, and cleaning products. The inside of the bar counter doubled as a prepping area for food and there was a microwave oven sitting on the counter next to a decent sized window.

      Kitchen here in Mumbai, which is, let me remind you 25 square ft bigger, I can't have a built in oven, the fridge take a massive amount of space, there is no space for a dishwasher inside the kitchen (ours sit on the utility balcony), no broom closet (everything is exposed to the elements on the utility balcony), the 2 burner stove we have takes more space than the 4 burner stove in Zurich, the sink has no draining platform and there is no room to drain the dishes, of all the cabinets we have 2/3 is occupied by just the very basic pots and pans and tableware, and we are cramming all the pantry food in 3 tiny cabinets. The microwave oven sits in a shelf that is too big for it but can't be used for anything else, and the tiny bit of counter space left is crowded with appliances that all fight for the one plug point the architects installed in the kitchen.

      Complaints of most European living in India is that even though the kitchens are big, and in more modern apartment, have fancy cabinet doors, they are planned so badly that you can't store much or even work efficiently in one, everything takes twice the time because of the totally illogical floor plan and storage.

    4. The difference between Americans and Europeans is very evident when you watch them in Delhi Metro. Europeans are absolutely quiet, often subdued, just quiet conversation in French/Italian/Spanish, while Americans are talkative, ”You hoo””, they scream. Americans like Indians are bit more loud. Americans are the Punjabis of the western world. They are both similar in conspicuous consumption.

    5. Ha ha I think you nailed it! But interestingly, Americans are also far more conservative than Europeans for a lot of things, despite their being quite extroverted and loud.

      Then there are things like gender specific colors and outfits and toys that are still not as defined in Europe as it is in the US.

  3. Hi Cynthia,

    I have been a regular reader of your posts for a very long time. And I remember your blog in its earlier avataar. I have been blogging since 2004, fairly regularly. And, unlike your blog, the type of content has remained pretty much the same.

    Some 15 to 20 years ago, blogs were the rage because they were, arguably, the first social media. Later many others, like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, came by.

    There was a time when intercultural relationships (inter-religious, inter-state, inter-national) were rare.

    When someone adopts a different culture and adapts to it very well, it's natural that it evokes a certain amount of interest. However, in India, the reaction that the interest triggers is often too obvious and too vocal, to the extent of it being too jarring.

    Indeed, the west is not a synonym of superior and India is not a synonym for inferior. Every culture in the world is unique; and we need to accept it for what it is.

    I think we all just need to be ourselves, be in whatever state we are comfortable in. I don't think it's anybody's right to judge someone on the basis of what dress they wear, or what they eat, what books they read, what language they speak, how they celebrate (if at all) any festival, or to whom they are married to, etc etc.

    One should never force anyone to do anything. It's simply wrong. Let everyone be who they would like themselves to be. We should accept and respect the personal choices of each individual. That's what I do.

    1. I still remember how we were discussing Social medias when we met at the Unlock Bangalore discussion panel. How we thought they would never really succeed in connecting people the way blog do.

      With the whole "Pay to play" attitude Facebook has, I think we are going to see people migrate to other medias and probably a return toward personal blogs.

  4. Anonymous4:22 PM

    Loved this post of yours! I can relate to a certain degree, since I also moved here from Europe. And although I too am orginally from India, I still got the firangi treatment initially as I was born and raised in Europe, so I was more European than Indian.
    The interference in my life and the way I did things under my roof is what got to me initially. Sadly, most of this came from the closest members of family. Perhaps they thinks its their right?!?! Anyway I have learnt over the years to ignore everyone's comments, not disclose too much about what goes on in my life and to do exactly how I please whether the like it or not.
    Anyway, I am so glad i have found someone else who I can relate to and will be following your blog from now for inspiration.
    Take care xx

    1. Hi! Glad you found my littler corner of the internet :-)

      Yep, ignoring and doing as you please is the way to survive the family, relatives and even nosy neighbourhood aunties around here.
      I get a lot less of that invasion of privacy and rude comments in Mumbai than I was getting in Bangalore, people in Mumbai are too busy with their own lives to bother, and the vibe going around is way more casual.


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