The White Hindu has moved

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 This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Trying too Hard: a dead give-away

I was watching a favorite TV show called Bones and something happened that made me think of my own life.

There was a character who was very into all things Chinese. (He was also illegally selling Chinese weapons, because it's a mystery show). He kept his ledger in Chinese and wore Chinese clothes, and his home was all decorated Chinese, etc. Well, the police take his ledger and one of them shows it to a Chinese anthropologist. He looks at the book and says, "The man who wrote this isn't Chinese, right?" They ask how he knew and he said that the characters were too carefully formed. The writer was trying too hard and the writing looked forced and stiff, not natural.

Trying too hard.

Now, I don't think that I have this problem with my Hindi. My handwriting isn't great in English and it's not great in Hindi either.

This is a page from my exercises in my Teach Yourself Hindi book :)

But what this TV show really made me think of is that I find myself in a large chasm in-between knowing nothing and knowing as much as someone born and raised in India.

I want to approach everything as an opportunity to learn, but I have to admit that it can be irritating when people assume I don't know anything. It's hard to be quiet and polite when someone is telling me, "Well, you know, Sanskrit is this ancient language and Hindi is closely related to it...blah blah blah." Yeah, I know. I've been exposed to Sanskrit since I was in the womb.

"It's traditional for us to do this..." "We call this thing, this..." I have trouble being talked down to and I don't like feeling like I'm being treated like an idiot. I know they are well meaning and want to help me understand.

And of course, sometimes, I really don't know! There are terms and traditions that I have not come across yet.

So I'm in that frustrating in-between place.

I wonder sometimes if I go too far in showing what I do know. For example, I went to my dance teacher's daughter's anangatrum (graduation ceremony for dance, see now I'm doing it to other people!) and I gave a gift of a murti and an auspicious amount of money.

I vaguely wonder (but I'm not stressed about it or anything) if knowing that a certain number is auspicious is seen as me "fitting in" or as me trying too hard. Does the move look natural or studied?

I find that I'm afraid that if I choose not to do something or follow some tradition, it will be seen as me not knowing about it rather than the regular choice that people make in their religions.

Therefore I follow a lot of things very traditionally just so I won't look ignorant.

(I know, I know, as usual I have to stop wondering what other people are thinking!)

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