An Account Of Fear, Cat-Calls, And Crippling Insecurities

An Account Of Fear, Cat-Calls, And Crippling Insecurities

How being attacked strengthened my cultural identity

The last time I wrote a livid, heated article was at the end of senior year; a rant against the system, the country, and of course, high school. Most people told me that my writing was just a reflection of a phase I was going through, a phase of teenage rebellion, and well, I believed them. For a long time, I tried to convince myself that I was entirely content with the world I was living in and the person I was growing into. I enrolled myself into a great college, with an outstanding computer science program, joined an A Capella team, and discovered the power of jungle juice. I was content.

Then, Trump became president.

I was angry again. I pulled out my computer to type out a tirade of abuse targeted at the people of my country that voted for a misogynistic man who presumed that climate change was fake news. But then my fingers aggressively pressed the backspace button, as I told myself, "You're an adult now, you're happy, there is nothing for you to fight for". And so, like the hundreds and thousands of Americans that were coming to terms with this debacle, I had faith that we were stronger than one, xenophobic, orange haired man. It is the people that make up a nation, right? Maybe this would just make us stronger?

Then, a visiting scholar at our university was kidnapped, and murdered.

More specifically, it occurred right on the corner that I walk almost every day, near a bus stop that I've waited at a countless number of times. What could possibly justify a motive that took a girl's life away on soil that is not even what she calls home? For weeks, I was numb. Each time I saw a black car pull up next to the sidewalk, or I saw her face plastered on university walls, I trembled. I frantically searched up the killer's Facebook profile, swallowed vomit that made its way up my esophagus and prayed that whatever justice was left would be served. That's what humans tell each other when people die, right? That it's a much better world up there, with God?

In spite of how much it infuriated me, I didn't write about it either. I just buried it inside of me along with all of my buried insecurities, because I couldn't admit to myself that they were real. I blocked all of those feelings deep under my skin,

until one day, I was attacked.

It was on the way back from the grocery store, a route I took every three days, a route that I knew at the back of my mind. With two gallons of milk in one hand and a delicate carton of eggs and bread in another, the biggest fear in my mind was to get the eggs back in my apartment without them cracking open on the way there. Because that would mean that I would go home without eggs and that would make my roommates mad because we split the bill for groceries, even though I don't even eat half of------a silver sedan almost ran into me.

I tried to keep still, even though my pulse was racing. I look over my shoulder, and I see a light skinned man, thrusting his head out of his car window, yelling out obscene things like "put that fine a*s in my car", I cringed, and told myself to drain him out. But before I turn the curb, he circled back, speeded RIGHT past me, almost ran me over, and pulled up into my driveway, completely blocking my path.

I froze, my blood cold as ice.

I could see him smile - a condescending, entitling smile as he asked me things I wished I could un-hear. My entire existence crumbled, with every second he spent shooting verbal arrows at me. His ego grew larger as my presence turned bleaker.

What happened next was all a fuzzy memory of me frantically trying to dial 911, praying, and trying to run away all at the same time. The last thing I remember is sitting on the floor, behind my door, my groceries spilled on the floor next to me, shivering in shock. For almost a week, I was stuck in time. I shuddered each time I turned a corner, or I could felt a car slow down next to me, I was terrified. My life had come to a halt, a deafening stop, and our light skinned, silver sedan driving rogue, was still out there somewhere.

It was at this point in my life, that I realized that in case I was not angry at the world before, in case I convinced myself before, that because I moved back to America, because I was out of the dirty Indian streets, away from the conservative, narrow-minded Indian men, I would be happy, and finally free, I was wrong. Sitting there on the cold, hard ground of my apartment hallways, surrounded by cigarette butts and trapped smoke, I realized that this whole time, I had been in denial.

I thought about those few years I lived in India, and how I attributed everything to the society. When the man at my local Indian grocery store wrapped up my pads & tampons in an opaque, black bag, I thought that was my toughest battle. Or when my grandma told me not to forget my "dupatta" because my chest looked "too big" in that dress, I thought that would be my biggest fight. But in reality, those weren't fights. That was the effect, the aftermath of people responding to the actual problem. Those were people keeping their daughters safe, and their businesses from public shame.

I didn't realize, not until the light skinned man in the silver sedan looked at me like a starving hyena, that the problem transcended oceans, cultures, genders, races, and well, obviously, countries. It was a complex issue of superiority and a view that some lives mattered less than others.

I thought about how every second of my adult life in India, I thought that my troubles would be solved the second I left the country. But I look back now and realize that I was so, so naive.

I thought that if I just understood why it was okay to stare, and why it was so important to be an engineer or a doctor, I would understand what it was to be Indian. But I realize now, that being Indian is so much more than the over-glorified spicy curry and the bright "salwaars". It is about camaraderie and a sense of community. My dad once told me that he was never taught "manners" in his school the way I was taught to say an endless stream of "please" and "thank you" because they were always grateful to each other, beyond verbal communication.

I always identified myself as an American, so I never understood this. I always believed in the American system of being independent, really living up to what writer Charles F Brown once said, "finding that delicate balance between freedom ‘to’ and freedom ‘from’". Because of this, I found Indian aunties nosey, the lack of personal space quite outrageous, and the uptight private school rules choking. But it wasn't until I sat there, alone, shivering, that I wished that someone would stare. I wished that someone would interfere, and ask me why I was unable to move.

I think that as children of immigrants, we are born into to two beautifully intertwined cultures, that make us who we are. Today, in 2017, when we are made consciously aware of the color of our skin, our identity is all we have. As an Indian-American, and having lived in both of these magnificent countries, I realized that although some issues are society specific, most are universal. Today, even after everything that has happened, I cannot be arrogant enough to say that I have understood in entirety the essence of being both Indian, and American.

However, I can say with certainty that I understand what it means to be human. As people, we don't wake up one day thinking that our deepest fears and gut-wrenching insecurities will find their way to the surface and turn our world upside down. We don't plan for terrible things to happen and throw us off course. That's why, when they do, we need to fight like hell, for something past all of the fear, contempt, and anger. We need to wear what we want, act how we please, and walk the streets with confidence and courage. We need to live so fiercely, that EVERY person in a silver sedan making it hard for us to walk our own streets knows that we haven't given up. And probably never will.

Cover Image Credit:

Popular Right Now

​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.

Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Donald Trump's Ilhan Omar Tweet Fuels Islamophobia In America

His tweet only encourages Islamophobia and potential violence against Muslims in the United States.


Rep. Ilhan Omar is a name that has sparked much controversy since her election to the House of Representatives in 2018. Omar was first widely praised for being the first Somali-American to serve in Congress as well as one of two Muslim women elected to Congress. She later faced backlash over her views on Israel and has been accused of being anti-Semitic. Most recently, Omar has faced controversy over her speech at a CAIR event, during which she stated that "some people did something" regarding the events of 9/11. Donald Trump responded to this statement on Twitter, posting a video repeating Omar's words over footage from 9/11.

Taking a look at the replies to this tweet is enough to understand just how Trump's response influences his supporters as well as others who may see the video. His tweet has inspired a storm of very blatant Islamophobia: among these replies are images of Ilhan Omar over a background of photos from 9/11, tweets associating Omar with ISIS, and condemnations of the Quran and Islam as a whole, using either out-of-context quotes or simply false information to support these claims. Whether or not you support Ilhan Omar, it is not difficult to see how harmful Trump's tweet can be to the Muslim community.

His tweet only encourages Islamophobia and potential violence against Muslims in the United States.

The statement taken from Omar's speech is also only a minute portion of the entire speech, which is available on YouTube. Omar's speech focused on the association of all Muslims with terrorism - the response to Trump's tweet, in effect, only proves her point. Her statement that "some people did something" was taken extremely out of context.

Omar's intent was to highlight how 9/11, in particular, created a very hostile environment for all Muslims in the United States.

Her point was that all Muslim Americans faced consequences for the actions of a few, only due to the fact that the perpetrators of 9/11 claimed to share the same religion. Personally, I understand some of the outrage at her statement about 9/11, but I do not feel that Omar intended to diminish the events of 9/11. I understand her statement as diminishing the perpetrators' roles in the Muslim community, emphasizing that they are only a small fraction of the group and do not represent all Muslims.

Regardless of your feelings towards Omar's statement, it is clear that her quote was still taken out of context, and that the wave of Islamophobia directed towards her and all Muslim Americans is unwarranted. She has not, in any way, supported the actions of terrorists, nor has she tried to justify any of their actions. In fact, she even says later in the same speech that Muslims should speak out against members of their own community, stating, "... as Muslims, we are called on to stand up for justice and to speak the truth, even if it is against ourselves, our parents, and our close relatives."

Ilhan Omar is not a terrorist, and she does not deserve to be likened to one.

Donald Trump's tweet was both distasteful and irresponsible on his part. He took one line out of an entire 20-minute speech and used it to condemn Ilhan Omar, and, in effect, attack the Muslim community as a whole. Whether he intended to do so or not does not matter. What matters is that his portrayal of Omar's words will have an effect on people's views of not only Omar, but all Muslims in America. He is instigating Islamophobia and possible violence against Muslim Americans, and in the role of President, he has the platform to have a widespread impact on the environment that Muslim Americans must live in.

Related Content

Facebook Comments