An analysis of the perceived problems of Indian females today
“I told my parents I was staying with my sister when I was actually staying with my boyfriend.”
“I spent my money on gas and stuff for school when I really enjoyed a Francesca’s sale last weekend.”
“No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”
Want to guess which one of those was a #browngirl lie? I will make it easy for you. It’s the last one. That same girl said to me, “Yes, I have had a crush. I had a crush on a boy in a high school, but I never told him.” I asked the same questions of two white girls and two brown girls and compared their answers. Girls of similar ages obviously face similar experiences, but I have come to the conclusion that girls of my color share even more things no one else really understands.
Indian culture is known for emphasizing the importance of family. Children are taught from day one that respect for elders is of highest priority. Your parents ask you everything. So if they do not ask you something, they probably already know. However, growing up as an Indian in America puts a different spin on the American culture. Most Indian parents are heavily involved in their children’s lives and still hold influence and power over their children. There is a strong sense of expectation from Indian parents in regards to curfew, relationships, academics, marriage. This is not always the case for other American children. Most claim adulthood in America at age 18, when parents loosen the reigns. In general, brown girls my age approach life differently than most because of their parents. Many are accustomed to making things up or just saying nothing at all to avoid telling lies. One of my friends says, “I believe there is no way [my parents would] be able to understand things I personally believe fall within the bounds of my moral code, so I just don’t tell them about any crushes, dates, guy friends, and youthful fun because they would consider it all debauchery.”
I have grown up in America, land of the free and home of the brave, but from day one I am told by my elders there are certain freedoms I cannot have. I grow up in an environment where family, friends and even professors here advise me, “Your parents care about you. They love you, but you do not always have to listen to them. Do what you want.” Tell that to my friend Sarah, and she will run with it. [She has run with it.] But it is not the same for me. Nor is it the same for my Indian roommate. We have grown up to not only respect our parents. We have grown up to want to respect our parents. We care deeply about their opinion and their approval. One of my closest friends says, “Sometimes I wonder how my mom and I managed for so long without being each other’s friends, as we are starting to become. I think it’s because she is inherently, naturally, primally good at being a fierce mother. Good at pushing her kids, as well as protecting and providing for them. Every day she teaches me how I should raise my own kids.” That sense of understanding is mature but seen in most Indian girls my age. We hate our mothers for telling us, “You’re going to wear this dress instead,” or “You cannot talk to him anymore.” Yet, there is an understanding that our moms just ‘don’t get us.’ So of course, we are still young and rebellious every once in a while. We sneak out in pants that reveal short skirts underneath, or we tell our parents we are working on a group project with the boy that keeps coming over. We lie or keep our mouths shut when they ask us questions we do not have the right or most acceptable answers to.
I recall several times during my childhood when I thought to myself, “I am never going to treat my children this way. I am going to be more liberal and understanding.” However, as I grow older and start to understand the motives for what I once thought were arbitrary and petty rules, I see that I am growing to be quite like my own parents. I see that I need to fulfill both an American and an Indian role, and I am proud of that. I see where I need to assert my ground with my parents so that I can grow, yet I am mindful and honor their perspective. It is fun to rant with my roommate and friends about #browngirlprobs, but at the end of the day I would not trade my loving parents and crazy childhood for anything. I would never give up my Parle-G biscuits and tea, my sparklers on Diwali, my brother and sister calling me Didi, or my boring Bharatnatyam dance classes. Who would I be today without ’em?