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How To Be Indian For Dummies

A definitive guide to letting go of your semi-racist self.

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How To Be Indian For Dummies
Arushi Sachan

Have you ever made fun of someone for smelling like curry? What about asking someone if they speak Indian? How about participating in some "friendly teasing" of someone or their parents for having an accent different from yours?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, this article is for you because it's time you learned something about what being Indian really means.

1. Obtain Strong Smelling Food

Of course, the staple of being brown-- the quintessential rice and curry.

PSA: Yes, Indian cooking is known for its assortment of spices used and its colorful nature; included in the job description of looking and tasting extraordinary is having an extraordinary scent. We understand that the aromas of basmati rice or various curries on the stove may not be appealing to you, but there's no need to act rude about it. Just like any other culture's cooking, Indian food takes a lot of time and hard work to prepare, so please be respectful of that and keep insulting opinions to yourself. If you like the smell though, feel more than welcome to pass your compliments onto the chef.

2. Learn To Speak "Indian"

I'm so glad you're trying to take an initiative to learn more about our culture and learn our language! It's only fair that I do the same for you. Do you have any recommendations for a tutor to teach me how to speak American?

For real, though. Indian is not a language, people. It's about time that that became a commonly known fact. India's national language is Hindi. Not Hindu— that's a follower of a certain type of religion— Hindi. However, most people in India speak Hindi as a second, or even third, language. There are 22 recognized languages in India, varying by region and dialect. We realize it's too much to ask people to learn all of them, or even to known all of their names; just please, stop asking us if we speak Indian. It's not ok.

3. Get Strict, Overbearing Parents

Ahhh, who doesn't love a good tiger mom <3

First of all, I'd like to point out that while some Indian parents may be strict, that doesn't reflect on everyone! There are several Indian parents I know of who follow a much more permissive parenting style then their Caucasian, Hispanic, or African American counterparts; it is true that there are strict Indian parents, but there are also strict parents for all other races. There is no "perfect parent"— every parent has flaws, but they shouldn't be determined based on race.

Second of all, I'd like to point out that being strict is not necessarily a bad thing. My parents, for example, are about as Indian as two people can get. And, I'm not going to lie, they are pretty strict. But they are also SO loving—beyond compare— and I really appreciate them, not just in spite of their strictness, but because of it.

4. Become Vegetarian

Wait, so you mean all Indians are not vegetarian?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. There are many reasons for an individual to be vegetarian, and being Indian is not one of them, as there are many Indians with less strict dietary guidelines, and even more that are allowed to eat anything they wish to.

One reason that some Indians are vegetarian is that they are following religious guidelines; some Hindus choose to be vegetarian out of respect for the lives of the animals. Other Hindus choose not to eat only beef; a few choose to eat anything they wish to. Even more than for religious reasons, vegetarianism is a cultural choice for most, often passed down through generations. There are also a large Islamic population in India, estimated to be as large is one-sixth of the total population of the country. Muslims are not vegetarians; our dietary restrictions are limited to eating halal meats and avoiding pork. There are also many other religions that do not enforce vegetarianism.

Being a vegetarian can also be due to health concerns or allergies. In other words, there is are infinite possibilities as to why an individual is or is not vegetarian, so don't assume that all Indians don't eat meat. In the end, it's up to personal choice.

5. The Final Step—Get the Iconic Accent

Roll your R's, ladies!

Or maybe just don't. Just because someone doesn't speak like you or look like you does not mean that they are in any way less superior. Both of my parents, along with countless other Indians I know, have moderate to strong Indian accents-- but that doesn't make them any less of the intelligent people I know them to be. Despite not speaking perfect English, most of those people have graduated from prestigious colleges and are now working in coveted professions, including my parents. So the next time the cashier at Kroger laughs at my dad's pronunciation of mayonnaise, maybe it would be wise not to laugh too hard, because there's nothing to laugh at— maybe to applaud, considering the difficulty he went through to move here and give our family a better life (like countless of other immigrant families) and the success he found— but definitely nothing to laugh about.

That accent, that aromatic cooking, that bright "outlandish" clothing that's oh-so-amusing to the people who don't understand it is something to be proud of, not ashamed. It showcases the beautiful culture that my parents were immersed in for the majority of their lives, and the one that I was lucky enough to be born into. So, to all the brown ladies (and gentlemen) out there: Roll your R's and be proud!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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