I never stop getting asked the same questions over and over about being Indian. I figured I could do a dynamic life-long post about the most common questions you get asked when traveling or living abroad in order to better prepare you to deal with the wide variety of topics hurled at you.
Q1. Are you really from India?
If I had a euro each time I have been asked this question, I would indeed be the richest foreign student in the history of time. There are usually two undertones in which this question is asked, a) the person who really is unaware of what people ‘down there’ look like or is horribly misled by stereotypes , b) the racial undertone where people are uncomfortable because you don’t fit their idea of what people from your region (race/ethnicity) should look like.
For people in the first category: Yes, I really am from India. Much like the 1000+ other ethnic groups that also originate and very much happily continue to breed in India. We’re not just a diverse bunch with our food and movies, we are a diverse as hell bunch in terms of our regions, dialects, cultures, religions, food habits and of-course looks. I’m sorry if I don’t fit the idea you have from watching ‘Miss Universe Pageants’ or cliché Hollywood movies that continue to focus on extremely stereotypical roles.
For the people in the second category: First of all, f*** you. I almost always know this category by the sheer stubborn-ness these people will continue to push you to say something that fits their idea of what Indians are supposed to look like. I’m not the god damn Asiatic lion that everyone in the world should know what I look like and immediately guess my breed as soon as I am spotted outside of the wilderness or zoo.
Q2. Why is your skin colour not as tan as X-Y-Z?
Continuing from the first question, part (b), this is the most annoying thing that makes me want to slap the person across their face right after they ask it. Its like the equivalent of me asking a white, brown-haired person with brown eyes in Germany, “Hey, why are you not blond and with blue eyes so you’re more pleasant on my eyes”? Not only is this extremely infuriating, but it goes a very long way to explain just how unaware you are that anyone outside of your race and type exists in the world. Let alone, be comfortable with that thought. Can you imagine asking a Latino, “Hey, buddy why is your skin like a caramel mocha when what I saw in movies it should really be honey gold?”.
More on this, in my earlier post: How to piss off an Indian
Q3. How do you people like live?
Continuing on the chain of thought where we are not a billion zoo animals all caged together, we do have ‘civil codes’ when existing in societies and this obviously varies a lot due to the extreme inequality prevalent in India, thanks to the hundreds of years of looting we were exposed to from times immemorial. Add to that, an eccentric mix of ethnicities which almost equal in number the whole continent of Africa, you find a country extremely challenging to govern and reform. We’re not perfect, but we’ll get there. Thanks for asking.
Q4. How can you afford to travel?
Umm, with money? We also have this thing called ‘currency’ down there. We gave up on the barter system just a small time ago because it got tiring exchanging cows with elephants and so on. Slumdog Millionaire whilst being an amazing film has made people believe ALL Indians live in extreme poverty and can certainly not afford to travel. Even though we have soul-crushing poverty prevalent all across, we also have the fastest growing economy in the world. Not to mention, India is home to 236,000 millionaires which is all set to double in the next 10 years. So well, yeah.
Q5. How/Why do you speak English?
How: With my mouth.
Hint: Use Google for something other than figuring out your relationship problems.
Q6. Which other languages do you speak?
There’s no one answer here I could give that fits everyone. Depending on where you grew up, your parents and your school this could vary from 1 language to even 10 or more. Just for perspective, we have 122 major languages and over a thousand minor ones.
Q7. Which language do you speak to each other in?
This is actually a pretty good question. I myself have no solid answer on how we function. Having grown up in North India, I can get by most places in the North with Hindi, and in the south with English. The people from the south would do the opposite with their regional language. This is why most of us speak a bare minimum of 2 native languages.
Q8.How do you make curry?
I’m sorry to break your heart my love, but there exists no such single dish as ‘curry’. We do have a hundred variants of the same depending on the meat, vegetable, spice or even region its made in.
You know the supermarket that sells you something suspicious called curry? Well, there ain’t no such thing. At best, it’s a mix of every regular Indian spice ever in no particular order. At worst, it’s just a marketing gimmick to trick you into thinking you will be able to make something Indian with that. Next time, don’t fall for the trap. Ask an Indian.
Q9. Do Indians still have arranged marriages?
Short answer- Yes. The next question is the one you really meant to ask.
Q10. Do arranged marriages work?
I think people, especially in the West are so brain-washed with the romantic idea of making relationships work that people often forget the long-term variable in every successful relationship continues to be love, trust, respect and commitment. It doesn’t matter if you met your future wife through your mom’s best friend, your close friend, your colleague, a dating app or whatever other way there maybe to get introduced to anyone. I have nothing bad or good to say about meeting some one through your parents or their network. It is getting extremely common in India to find your mate the ‘Western’ way, but it is also extremely common to opt-in for ‘parental’ influence. India has a divorce rate of 13 per 1000, whereas the same in UK is 500/1000. This has a lot to do with the role of women, family and the stigma attached with divorce as well, but it also goes a long-way to show how the idea of marriage is looked at very differently in India.
P.S. No offence.