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Sunday, January 17, 2010


The Indians that I know are completely mystified by my interest in their culture. No one seems to have a problem with it, though some have suggested (as previously mentioned) that I may be romanticizing it.

A collection of reactions:

I was running into a 7/11 because I needed to buy a pen to write a note for a person whose car I just hit. The Indian guy behind the counter was intrigued by my Om necklace and wanted to know if I knew what it was. Didn't have time to explain to him that I know exactly what it is.

During an Indian dance class my teacher started explaining the story of the dance, which is based on a story in mythology in which Shiva drinks an ocean of poison to protect the earth and his wife keeps him from swallowing it. It's a really famous story. My teacher was stunned that I knew it and couldn't seem to understand how it was possible that I did.

I used to work at a place where people take exams, such as the English as a Second Language exam. During a break in the exam I was chatting with an Indian girl. I asked where she was from and she said, "India." I asked where in India and she was skeptical that I would know the parts of India. She was from Gujurat and I surprised her by knowing exactly where that is. I told her I was trying to learn Hindi and she stared at me. Finally she said, "Why?"

That is pretty much the universal reaction. Why would I be interested? Why would I know these things? Why would I care? How could I know anything about their culture?

I don't know why. I wish people would stop asking that. I wish it would just be okay for me to follow my heart. Brings me back to the possibility that what I really need is probably to stop being so consumed with what other people think.


  1. Hi,
    Prajakta here. I think we(Hindu) find it odd because there is no concept as conversion. Whereas in Christianity & Muslim religion it was common to convert people to their faith. There were many Indian who got converted to Christianity by Britishers. They used to offer food to poor people & asked them to convert them to Christianity in return. Mughals in India also converted many Hindus to follow Islam. But no such thing existed in Hinduism. That's why people find it odd that someone else is following Hinduism. You are doing great. Just believe in yourself. :)

  2. Thanks, Prajakta! :) I know how strange I am, but it's nice to connect with people on the Internet. I am finding more people like me and also letting Indians know that people like me exist!

  3. I wonder how much of that astonishment comes from expecting Westerners to have no knowledge of the world. Here in Wale, in my small community, there is a Libyan couple. In Feb, after the uprising began in her country, I ran into one of the Libyans. I asked how she was and after her family and friends. She was STUNNED that I'd asked. She kept thanking me for asking after her loved ones. A few months later I met her husband and he said 'Oh! You're the woman who knows about Libya!' Which baffles me. Are other people not listening to news? Do people just not pay attention? I am awesome with geography, which belies the American stereotype. So..... maybe you're surprising them, rather than confounding them.

  4. Wow, we have quite a reputation for ignorance!