Regardless of what people have to say, I think I’m quite an average person when it comes to using my GrayMatter for most purposes. It never really occurs to me how so many people treat me as a one would a baby by the sole virtue(s) that I have a LadyBrain, or failing that, the colour of my skin (which apparently declares my IQ). And even if it did strike me at some point that people really do speak from between their thighs with their heads jammed so far up their arses, I’ve become extremely adept at ignoring reality — a Lady doesn’t develop eight inches of thicker skin to fight trolls by just sitting around and dreaming about it, mind you.
Despite what Foucault had to say about exhibitionism and its polemics, I’m still going to go ahead and tip the contents of my inbox out so you can see for yourself what all my legitimate claims whining is all about. Now, most of my trolls in addition to never having met a dictionary or a proofreader also have never met logic or common sense. When I write about India or about my culture, a small flickering light seems to go off in their brains that say, “OOOOh I know Kamasutra! Snake-charmers! Slumdog Millionaire! Indian Porn! Elephants on the street! People riding on tigers to work! OOOOOh and little children going potty on the road!” and then the curtain falls, for a very, very long time. So when I’m talking about my own *subjective* reality that I live every freaking day of my life; something doesn’t sit quite right in the minds of TrollPeople. Just because they think of India as a congruent mass of puritanical Hindus (or not) or because the way it is portrayed in media, they make the tiniest of tiny boxes and squeeze us shut into it.
In conversation, whenever the term ‘India’ or ‘Indian culture’ comes up, more often than not, more people than I’d dare to acknowledge seem to be thinking, “Don’t our call centers always have some Indian thing talking in an American accent? And don’t they eat that pepper thing too?”. Laugh all you want, people have asked me quite a few times now that how come my ‘American’ is so fluent to which I always make monkey noises in fits of mildest irritation. At least in the version in my head I do. In reality, I’m too stumped to really say anything beyond, “Don’t you mean English?”. This is always invariably the exact moment Rex Harrison starts bleating in my head, “Why can’t the English teach learn to speak?” (don’t judge me. I’ll always have a soft spot for Shaw reproductions no matter how garish they are) meanwhile I may have possibly murmured something unintelligible to the annoying person in question. People are also very disappointed that I don’t have the exaggerated accent that most soaps mandate an Indian character to have. The most disappointing was when I helped a lady last week by speaking French as her English was horrendously poor she remarked, “Je savais pas qu’il y pourrait les indiens qui peuvent parler le français bien courrament plutôt quand vos langues sont même assez mal-développés”¹. Somehow that was supposed to make me smile. I’d like it if I was allowed to negotiate my stance about how I feel about living and grappling with the colonial identity instead of mocking it the next time. I’m not saying I blame people for being privileged or ignorant (let’s face it, some people just don’t want to care) but rather that I understand how this single set of images has been perpetuated by Western media and especially by Indian media. Take this recent ad film for example; this is proof of the colonised fervor that still runs amok in our veins.
[This add starts off with the woman speaking words in Hindi and English meshed up together wherein she talks about how people used to make fun of her. Now that she knows ‘proper’ English, her pride and confidence is restored]
And in the rarest of rare conversations, when I seemed to have crossed the language barrier or rather fail to entertain them with gags of ill-pronounced English, the conversation then goes on to the “But-you-are-a-woman-therefore-you-infer-only-from-your-feelings debate”. By this time, I just want to smack the said Ignoramus with ‘A vindication of rights of woman’ by Wollstonecraft or ‘Sense and sensibility’ by Austen or with ‘Rudali’ by Mahashveta Devi that will end this ridiculous argument once and for all. I really have exhausted all options that I can do to make the person (most often a Dude) believe that what I’m saying can be backed with feelings as well as facts only to be ridiculed. The only thing left to do is completely stop talking. For a while anyway. And that’s in ReaLife! When I turn to my e-world, I see the same DudeCouncil silencing me and my voice.
If you think I’m over-reacting, let’s sort through all my sordid TrollMail together shall we?
- This is a special note from Jacqueline — Maybe when ur parents or som1 equally disillusioned told u that u were funny, u didn’t understand their sarcasm. Nothing that u write is funny. Also, u sound like either a lesbian or a tranie. Get spayed soon k?
- Ramma — Shame on you, you whore, c*nt of the highest order! Sullying our name like this. You shouldn’t live in India if you think it’s so bad. If I ever see you, I swear to God I will knock you down.
- A typical letter from the hordes of housewives I’ve seem to have angered — Is this what our values lead you to believe? Tainting the name of our culture! Chi Chi! Calling the Ramayan misogynist must make the devil in your heart very happy.
- Frosty — You do realise, nothing about yo is indiam? Indians aren;t like this at all. you are crazy and deluded.
All of these complaints and many, many more seem to be attacking the idea of the ‘one’ notion they had of India, Indian culture, what constitutes ‘humour’ or ‘ideal nationalism’. Who defines this ideal? And at whose cost? These questions echo in the air around me as they have and always go unanswered. People just can’t seem to understand that multiple truths generally co-exist that eventually create history. And people say meta-narratives are dead. Or is this just me telling you to fuck off politely from my blog? YOU decide.
1- “I didn’t know that there could be Indians who could speak French so fluently when most of your languages are so poorly developed”. Exact quote. The only thing missing is my open mouth that wouldn’t shut for a whole hour after this.