In the United States, being white is no fun. It means I can’t dance, jump high, or score the highest scores on the ACT. I can complain to my Asian friends of how boring I am and they’ll just laugh. I can go out to eat at ethnically diverse restaurants and feel diverse until I step outside and realize that everyone around me is also white and mostly boring. I know we do have many cultures in the US, but I find the white culture to be very subtle. We don’t wear our culture for everyone to see.
Coming to India has changed the way I look at my whiteness. Here being white is very different. It is beautiful! I get stared at all the time. People want to talk to me and take my picture (sometimes without asking). I often wonder how many Indian guys have told their friends that I’m their girlfriend. I also wonder how many family albums I’ll be in. They like asking where I’m from and welcoming me to India. Parents push their children up to me to shake my hand and say “hello”. They’re very proud that I can understand their child’s English.
I’ve gotten used to the staring, but at first it really bothered me. It even upset me. I’ve grown up with my mother always telling me “It’s rude to stare!” so to have everyone stare at me was very unnerving. It started in the airport when I first arrived and it made me very frustrated. Why couldn’t they understand that I’m a person just like them! I’m not some novel animal with no feelings!
Very gradually I came to a realization that there are over 1 BILLION people in India. Most of them will never leave India. They only see white people on movies and when a tourist comes through. They love different things just like I do. They want fair skin like I want dark skin. They want to learn about a different culture just like I do. They’re people with interests just like me.
I’ve also realized that people see me differently. Some people see me as a dollar sign and will charge me extra when I come to their shop. Beggars will follow me until they realize I won’t give to them. Some guys want me to be their girlfriend and maybe a passage to the US. And I blame these assumptions on the media. Yes, we do have a lot in the US and we generally make more money than an Indian person will. But not all of us are rich floozies who came to India to spend all of our money and have a fling. And these assumptions are what frustrate me the most. I’ve accepted the fact that most people are friendly and just want to chat, but when guys chase me down a river and then up a very, very steep hill after I have shown no interest, I get frustrated.
So here I am: a white girl in India. Call me what you like: foreigner, Westerner, Injee, etc, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am white and I am different.