bossymarmalade: man peeling sugarcane (this our native land)
miss maggie ([personal profile] bossymarmalade) wrote2009-06-02 12:44 pm

requisition me a beat

I was really hesitant to write anything for the Asian Women Blog Carnival this time (to the point where I missed the submission date) after last carnival's post about my objection to white people trivializing my religion resulted in a cavalcade of people either:

a) detailing their Very Special Circumstances About Hinduism and asking me to give them a pass
b) telling me that I was being selfish/ignorant/reverse racist/narrow-minded

-- as well as one particularly baffling incident where a person private messaged me with a link to a dreadlocking comm (I know, I know) where a redhead with dreads showed off photos of her black kitten that she was going to name Kali. This person sent me the link because she thought I should see that for everyone who read my post and understood, there were still people who had "a hope that they share in a culture that they feel is richer and more raw and valid then their own". She gave me her e-mail address in case I wanted to discuss it with her.

I didn't. Oddly enough, I don't need random people sending me links to idiots to know that people still treat my religion/culture like crap.

Some of those people happen to be Indian.

I hate to talk about this publicly because inter-PoC discussions often get co-opted by racists (ask me how many times I've had to challenge people who say, "oh but black people had slavery in africa! oh but indian people have castes based on skin colour!"). But since the theme is intersectionality, I figure I might as well address it.

What you need to know about me is: I am of East Indian descent. Purely East Indian as far as I know, although shit, who can really tell for sure when your family's come across the deep water and jumbled together in the barracks and the villages of the British West Indies.

My family is Trinidadian and we are, at heart, all Hindu. I say "at heart" because no matter what version of Christianity or agnosticism some of us adopt, we retain our Hindu culture. Trinidad in particular has, in the diasporic tradition, maintained certain rituals and language that would be considered antiquated or peculiar by homelanders. That is our Hinduism, syncretic and anachronistic.

I had a talk with that friend from the last post who said she thought of me as black. She, a Canadian Muslim of Indo-Tanzanian descent, explained to me (thank goodness) that this was her initial impression of me when we first met as twelve year-olds, because I didn't act the way that she thought an Indian person should act, didn't dress that way, didn't speak that way. I was not like any Indian she knew about, therefore I must be black. And Christian.

For a long time, when we talked about Indian things, I would call them by my words and she, who can speak Hindi and Gujarati, would "correct" me. "Oh, you mean ____!"

"I guess so," I'd say, embarrassed by my country bookie mangling of proper Hindi.

It took me a long, long time to understand that my Hindi words were different because they were adapted to a place that wasn't India, creolized for the West Indian experience. It took me longer to understand that they were hard for me to access because my parents spent their lifetimes being shamed for knowing them. It's taken me up until a couple of years ago to identify my Hindi words as part of my nation language, as much a valid language form as Trinidad-accented English or the way my Canadian tongue pronounces "salmon" or "toque".

This is my best friend, and she never did any of this out of malice (same goes for my Punjabi Canadian co-worker, who said that she initially wondered what kind of Indian I was when we met -- I think her words were "not a real Indian"). There are plenty of other Indians who have been actively cruel. The Hindus at my parents' temple are standoffish with us diasporados, conducting services entirely in Sanskrit with no translations and staring at us when we go in to make offerings. Indian people in stores treat us differently, diffidently, scornful when we speak English.

I'm not saying this is the experience of every Indo-Caribbean person. But it's been my experience, consistently and painfully for the last twenty years. My Hinduism exists in a very specific intersection, and it's not one that non-colonized, non-diasporic people can parse easily. I understand that. What I don't understand is their inability to recognize that Hinduism doesn't always have to exist in the exact way you've seen/known it to, and that even though I squirt coloured water for Phagwa instead of throwing coloured powder for Holi, even though I call the dumplings in karhi "boulders" instead of whatever they're originally called, even though I wear an orhni and not a dupatta, I am still a Hindu. Even though my Hinduism includes elements of Catholicism and obeah. Even though I only speak English. Even though I don't look "right".

Now, if by chance you've read this far, I'm going ask you for something. Please, please don't use what I've said in arguments with Indian people, or to "confirm" that Indian people are rude or judgemental or culturally discriminatory or anything like that. These are my experiences. They are not applicable across the board. I wish I didn't have to make this disclaimer, but apparently I do -- in addition to my standard one that I am not doing Racism 101 here. Hell, I'm hardly even doing intra-PoC discourse here, because this is not for homelanders.

This is Diasporic Standing Room Only, bbs.
robanybody: (yeh raaste hain pyaar ke)

[personal profile] robanybody 2009-06-02 09:54 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this post, for always putting names to the vague thoughts and feelings that I will probably never be able to articulate. Our experiences are not the same, but I always appreciate your willingness to engage in discussion about these things, and I hope this one doesn't end in recriminations or misconceptions.

[personal profile] shveta_writes 2009-06-02 09:55 pm (UTC)(link)
What a great post. Thank you. :)
marej: (Default)

[personal profile] marej 2009-06-02 10:00 pm (UTC)(link)
thank you for writing this. and also thank you for writing. and and thank you for having it in you to post after the last time.

shabzilla: (Default)

[personal profile] shabzilla 2009-06-02 10:07 pm (UTC)(link)
This is precisely why I never have the balls to make posts about religion and my own cultural identity, there are just far too many people on the internet that have to shove their two pence up my nose.

Thanks for sharing ♥

[personal profile] ames 2009-06-02 10:08 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm so glad you posted. I know you don't write for my benefit, but for your own - but I read and read and read, and I take it in. I'll never fully understand, the same way that my straight friend A. will never understand why some things are offensive to me as a lesbian, but I can, and do, try. ♥

[personal profile] hatestrafficlights 2009-06-02 10:14 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh hay, I was just talking about how awesome you are in another post to someone :D.

Hinduism doesn't always have to exist in the exact way you've seen/known it to

*MONOCLE POP* BY JOVE!

*hugs* & ♥

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goss: (Trini - ent?)

[personal profile] goss 2009-06-02 10:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Lawd.

On the one hand, Westerners think my English is "broken" (my roommates in Toronto were convinced that I *must* have some other native language than English, since I spoke so poorly. :b) and on the other, so-called real Indians think my Hindi is "broken" as well (my cousins from India, who now live in T'dad, are *always* correcting the local hindi we use here).

*throws up hands*
ext_6167: (Default)

[identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com 2009-06-02 10:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Wonderful post, bb. Thank you for sharing this.

"a hope that they share in a culture that they feel is richer and more raw and valid then their own".

This needs to be a whole separate carnival. Of rage.

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dine: (heartcat - lanning)

[personal profile] dine 2009-06-02 10:23 pm (UTC)(link)
thank you for sharing. I'm glad you decided to write this, and hope people refrain from proving themselves idiots (again)
ext_219019: (Space Bat)

[identity profile] charliehey.livejournal.com 2009-06-02 10:26 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for posting this, and every other amazing, wonderful bit of yourself you let us read, because you are lovely. <333
bethbethbeth: (Art  Picasso Girl Mirror (bbb))

[personal profile] bethbethbeth 2009-06-02 10:34 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you for sharing this...it's a wonderful post.
spiralsheep: Flowers (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)

[personal profile] spiralsheep 2009-06-02 10:39 pm (UTC)(link)
:-)

::admires your fortitude::
livrelibre: DW barcode (Default)

[personal profile] livrelibre 2009-06-02 11:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for continuing to share.
bravecows: Shopfront of a coffeehouse (stock: n-n-n-nostalgia)

[personal profile] bravecows 2009-06-02 11:45 pm (UTC)(link)
I really struggle with authenticity -- it's just, there's so much guilt and regret there. And I don't think I have the strength yet to be able to proclaim my identity in defiance of everyone who wishes to dispute the fact. So I am grateful for this post; I take a lot of courage from it. This especially --

What I don't understand is their inability to recognize that Hinduism doesn't always have to exist in the exact way you've seen/known it to, and that even though I squirt coloured water for Phagwa instead of throwing coloured powder for Holi, even though I call the dumplings in karhi "boulders" instead of whatever they're originally called, even though I wear an orhni and not a dupatta, I am still a Hindu. Even though my Hinduism includes elements of Catholicism and obeah. Even though I only speak English. Even though I don't look "right".

Yes. This.

[personal profile] chootoy 2009-06-03 12:41 am (UTC)(link)
A strong, moving and as always, eye-opening post. Thank you!

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glockgal: (Default)

[personal profile] glockgal 2009-06-03 12:57 am (UTC)(link)
I always always wonder how much different our lives would have been if grew up in Toronto instead of Vancouver, like. Would we even be thinking about stuff like this, while surrounded by cousins and friends and food and streets and shops and music and celebrations all about being West Indian and Canadian? Or would it all just be so internalized that it wouldn't even be worth analysing?

daedala: line drawing of a picture of a bicycle by the awesome Vom Marlowe (Default)

[personal profile] daedala 2009-06-03 01:09 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for posting!
cereta: The Turtle, whose thought is slow but always kind (Tower 1)

[personal profile] cereta 2009-06-03 01:38 am (UTC)(link)
Your willingness to engage these topics is an example to us all.
la_vie_noire: (Anthy flower)

[personal profile] la_vie_noire 2009-06-03 02:10 am (UTC)(link)
Amazing. As always.
ange: (Default)

[personal profile] ange 2009-06-03 03:05 am (UTC)(link)
Beautiful post.
jonquil: (Default)

[personal profile] jonquil 2009-06-03 04:02 am (UTC)(link)
I won't even try to tell your story, far less use it in argument. But thank you for telling it.
frausorge: (folsom)

[personal profile] frausorge 2009-06-03 04:18 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for letting us read this.
crossedwires: toph punches katara to show her affection (Default)

[personal profile] crossedwires 2009-06-03 05:25 am (UTC)(link)
Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.
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[personal profile] littlerhymes 2009-06-03 06:37 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for such a thoughtful post. <3
willow: Brown Girl in front of Trinidan Flag (Tropical Girl - Trini Me)

[personal profile] willow 2009-06-03 12:38 pm (UTC)(link)
This explains, as I may have mentioned before, my father's experiences of using certain words in certain stores and people insisting he must have an Indian wife. And him going 'No, I"m Trinidadian. These are my words."

Seriously, even knowing some definitions. I still don't eat 'Garbonzo Beans'. I eat Channa. I will call it channa. I will ask, depending on the store, if they sell any that are all crispy like chips cause those are my favourite.

I can't speak for parts of me, not matching up to mainlands. I can speak to feeling like I'm losing pieces of myself the more I identify as black instead of as Trinidadian. Which is something I haven't figured out or come to terms with yet.

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