So, Do You Speak Indian?

my card
Myself as a baby in India, ready to get pulled in a rickshaw.

For my entire life, I have been asked that question, among several other inquiries, including, “Does your family worship cows?” and “Do you ever wear that dot on your head?”

I guess I should explain that I receive these questions after I share that my mom is from India, which results in not only questions but puzzled faces, mainly because I’m considered Caucasian and so is my mom. Most people guess that she’s from England or Germany when they hear her accent, but nope!

Although to me it’s perfectly normal to have a parent from a different country than the one I grew up in, it’s absolutely crazy and incomprehensible to some people. Dealing with other peoples’ questions has taught me how privileged I’ve been to have grown up in a multi-cultural family and it’s something I don’t take for granted. So, let me answer some of the crazy questions I get once and for all.
 
SO, DO YOU SPEAK INDIAN?

No, I don’t speak Indian. In fact, NOBODY speaks Indian. INDIAN is a nationality, not a language. People in India speak English, Hindi, Telegu, Urdu, Malayalam, and many other languages depending on where they live. Hindi is the national language that most people speak, and then each province or state has its own language. Many people, like my mom and her family, also speak English. 

DOES YOUR FAMILY WORSHIP COWS?

Nope, my entire family is Roman Catholic (or at least my blood relatives). That’s great that you understand that cows are sacred in India due to the dominant Hindu religion, though.

DO YOU EVER WEAR THAT DOT ON YOUR HEAD?

You must be referring to the “bindi”. Again, no – it’s typically part of the Hindu religion or also worn along with traditional Indian fashion, like saris or salwars. While I like to collect bindis, I was brought up in t-shirts and jeans near Lake Michigan.

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO INDIA?

This is the one question that I really like to discuss, and ultimately brings me to the point of this blog. Yes, I’ve been to India about six times up until I was about 12 or 13 years old when it began to be harder for me to miss school for several months at a time to visit family. Nonetheless, I have so many memories of airport scrambles to and from India, taking anti-malaria pills crushed up with honey each week, Sunday church, Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays, several precautionary malaria injections the week before departing from O’Hare, and being surrounded by family I barely knew.

I kind of consider myself a human melting pot, I guess. Everybody has different stories, and the more people I meet, the more I realize how culturally-diverse people are. And what is typical and boring to one person is fascinating to another. If only everyone realized this! Don’t be that ignorant person who asks if someone speaks Indian. Get out, explore, and open up your world to the rest of the world.

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