I can see why you'd need another word for Indian in North America, but I don't have to like it.
One of the things that hits you when you leave India is that your identity is suddenly consumed by the fact that you're Indian. Having grown up in the country, my Indian-ness is not something I feel the need to justify, or even think about. It's just there, a part of me, like the shape of my wrist or the sound of my voice – when was the last time these intruded upon your consciousness?
You realise with a shock that for most people you meet, it takes a while to see you, because you're just an embodiment of whatever stereotype they're holding at that time. Many years spent abroad have inured me to this, I've come to accept and work with it. But while I understand and humour it from non-Indians, I don't forgive it in fellow Indians, no matter what passport they hold.
Another surprising thing you learn rather quickly is that the Indians born in other countries seem to be more prone than others to judge you by your passport. Most of those I've met – with some notable exceptions – have apparently never been anything but painfully conscious of their origins, making them defensive and strangely parochial. This is at first amusing, and then offensive, for those of us who know that India, more so than any other country, is what you make of it, and therefore has as many faces as there are people on the planet.
Wondering anxiously ("Am I being defensive as well?") why this word in particular makes me so angry, I found several possible reasons.
Of course the fact that I don't subscribe to the Hindi Supremacy makes the word annoying (please don't bother to say "national language"; I've heard it before). My bloody-minded dislike of being arbitrarily herded into any sort of group definitely has something to do with it. As also my tendency to instant fury at small-mindedness or tunnel vision, two traits that all labels exhibit.
Take the otherwise normal person who makes the startling comment that "being South Asian makes it even harder with respect to finding literary compatibility, especially if you want to date someone desi". Or that all "desi parents" are obsessive-compulsive about getting their daughters married. (Coming from a family that has never put any pressure on anybody, I resent this sweeping conclusion. Bollywood and Zee TV are bad enough, without thinking Indians endorsing the stupidity).
It's worth considering that the sentiments involved in the subject of a daughter's marriage are human ones, not merely Indian. This, finally, is The Reason – the reducing of everything to the word desi, a tiny little window edged with garish mirror-work and maybe also some badly carved elephants. As if that's all there is to the country, or indeed, the world.
Don't even get me started on gora.
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