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The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Friday, June 4, 2010

Immitation and Flattery

Lately I've been reading a lot of language blogs, written by people who are becoming fluent in many languages. I'm going to talk about two of them today.

The first is Fluent in 3 Months. The writer, Benny, picks interesting linguistic challenges for himself every 3 months and the one I just finished reading is becoming Brazilian.

Not just to speak Portuguese fluently (and at the start he already knew it very well), but to speak it so well and behave so Brazilian that Brazilians would think he was a native.

This seemed a little shocking to me, a little like what I get accused of doing. "You can't ever be Indian, so why are you acting like it?"

I wondered if the Brazilians would be offended by what he was doing.

They were not. They were delighted and told him he was certainly "Brazilian at heart." When he started, Benny listed his reasons why he loves Brazilians and their culture and he said that he wanted to imitate them because he admired them. "I highly respect Brazilians, and even idolise them. Their way of living and enjoying life is something that Europeans and North Americans could learn a lot from...[B]ecoming Brazilian is an important attempt for me to try to understand the culture a little better; from the inside. Also, imitation is the best form of flattery! There is no culture that I have grown so fond of as I have with the Brazilian one, so I want to learn as much as I can about how they think, and how they live their lives. I’ll try to adapt my outward appearance and general behaviour to the Brazilian style."

Here is his list of what he loves about Brazilians.

This is a parallel to me in so many ways. I'll have to put together a list of what I love about Indians and Indian culture. It's hard to classify. I know that I love time spent in the Indian community and I miss it tremendously when I'm not around it!

Could I ever blend in? Well, as I said to K when she told me I looked "almost Indian" in my sari, maybe with some self-tanner. :)

The other inspiration that I've been taking from these language blogs is being unafraid.

They talk about being brave enough to speak a language you are learning and to not worry about embarrassing yourself. That's something I need help on with language (I still pass up great opportunities to test out my Hindi out of shyness and nervousness), but also in general life. That is a major part of what I have been trying to learn, to live without the fear of what people are thinking about me.

Great inspiration for that here:

Nobody's Judging You

Secret to Overcoming Shyness

Embarrassing Mistakes

Lastly, a great message from the owner of, a speech about the importance of passing on Indian culture to one's children when living in America.


  1. i think you shouldn't be afraid of of offending indians. most of them will not be offended. and as you said your interest and you being part of indian culture will be taken as a great compliment.

    more over indians don't get offended if you intrude in someone's life or culture or ritual. this itself is a cultural thing.

    do you have a circle of indian friends and acquaintances?


    ps: yes, you look very indian in sari. possibly bindi did the trick.

  2. Thanks, Basu! You're so kind.

    I've just moved to a new state so I don't have many friends of any kind yet. I hang out with Indians at Chinmaya and at dance class, but I haven't really started making friends yet. I know if I keep showing up and being there I'll start finding people to connect with.

    And, one of the readers of this blog lives near me and has invited me to dinner! I'm super thrilled for that :)