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How does one respond? September 9, 2013

Posted by Sneha Khilay - Blue Tulip Training in Uncategorized.
  • Over the summer holidays, I caught up with some of my Indian friends.  A discussion that came up repeatedly was about comments made to us that invariably highlighted our differences. These questions and comments often had no ready answers and we found some to be quite bizarre.

    In no particular order here is the list of questions/comments and some responses that were given.

    1. Comment: ‘I think I must have been an Indian in my previous life’.

    Response: Have you been to India?

    Comment: No

    Response: Do you interact a lot with the Indian community in UK?

    Comment: Not really

    Response: So what makes you think you were Indian in your previous life?

    Comment: I don’t know, I just feel it, maybe because I love yoga.

    2. Comment: Do you know how to cook chicken tikka masala?

    Response: No it is not part of my diet, I am a vegetarian. I am not from that part of India where chicken masala is the regional dish.

    Comment: I so want to learn how to cook chicken tikka masala, are you sure you do not know how to cook it?

    3. Comment: I am not racist, my best friend/neighbour/colleague is an Indian.

    No Response

    4. Comment: You are assertive for an Indian woman, what do your parents say?

    Response: They think it is important for everyone to be respectful and assertive

    Comment: That is so unusual; I always thought Indian women were brought up to be submissive.

    5. Comment: Where do you live?

    Response: I live in Hertfordshire

    Comment: Oh really, I know a Mr Patel who lives in Hertfordshire, do you know him?

    Note: Hertfordshire has a population of over one million.

    Patel is ranked in the top ten of common surnames.

    It is so tempting to respond, yes I know him…..

    6. Comment: My Indian friend Shilpa is…….

    Is it necessary to have a prefix of ‘Indian’ every time a reference is made to Shilpa?

    7. Comment: I love Indian people; I wish I was an Indian…….

    How does one even respond to this comment?

    8. Comment: I love your earrings (or necklace or blouse etc) they are so ethnic.

    Question: Which ethnic group are you referring to?

    Note: The definition of the word Ethnic:  a) Of, relating to, or characteristic of a sizable group of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage. b) Being a member of a particular ethnic group, especially belonging to a national group by heritage or culture but residing outside its national boundaries. Source Online Dictionary

    9. Comment: I love Bollywood actresses. They look so glamorous and exotic. I would love to marry one.

    Response: I would love to marry George Clooney.

    10. Comment: Do you wear saris?

    Response: on special occasions

    Comment: How do you drive when you are wearing a sari?

    Response: The way I always drive

    11. Comment: Were you born in India?

    Response: No I was born in Africa

    Comment: Oh so you are an African

    Response: No I am Indian

    Comment: I thought you were born in Africa – does that not make you African?

    12. Comment: You speak very good English.

    Response: Thank you, so do you

    13. Comment: I would love to have an arranged marriage.

    Response: Have you tried dating agencies? Maybe I can ask my parents to introduce you to someone they know.

    14. Comment: What is your Christian name?

    Response: I don’t have a Christian name because I am not Christian

    Comment: yeah but England is a Christian country, so what is wrong in my asking you about your Christian name?

    15. Comment: Do you speak Indian?

    Response: I can speak three languages, including English.

    The national languages in India are Hindi and English.  There are around 30 official languages. According to the Economist (February 2012), there are around 438 languages spoken in India. It would be like me asking you ‘do you speak European?’.

    It is worth noting Oscar Wilde’s quote, ‘Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are’.



1. Jim Eaton - September 14, 2013

Thank you, Sneha, this is excellent. I am white American born in the USA, but third-cutlure because of my childhood/adolescent years in Bengal and Southeast Asia, so have experienced some variations of questions like these. Fascinating..

2. solat - September 20, 2013

It all seems a bit terse the answers given possibly could have been more helpful. Some people are genuinely inquisitive and have diffrent starting points on appecaition of cultural backgrounds or ethnic origins, different to their own. not sure if it is helpful to respond in this way.

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