Why Am I Brown? South Asian Fiction and Pandering to Western Audiences

Jabeen Akhtar in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Welcome-to-Americastan-243x366I once took a guy I was dating to lunch at an Indian restaurant. I was trying to get him to go vegan, and there is no bigger hedonistic ritual for vegans than the weekend Indian lunch buffet, a guaranteed plethora of plant-based dishes that have been feeding Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists for centuries. We feast on curry, rice, naan, and sometimes that sketchy cubed melon, and sink into the stuffed plastic benches with heavy Bacchus bellies, hiccupping fiery chutney back into our throats (it hurts!) and forcing ourselves into Round 2 and 3 to get our money’s worth.

My date and I got in line, and his colorfully tatted arm handed me a warm plate. We stood behind a flock of sorority girls, patiently waddling toward the buffet items, passing over the meat but hovering above the vegetables. Even here, I was primed to ignore the standard korma dish, knowing it was heavy on dairy, and the spinach and paneer cheese. But as I scanned the steaming metal tins twice over, I grabbed my date’s plate away.

“Wait,” I said. “Nothing here’s vegan. This isn’t normal.”

“Well, maybe it is, and you just don’t know it, cause you’re from Pakistan,” he winked.

If I wasn’t so hungry and annoyed by the lack of buffet options, I might have thought my Caucasian date’s attempt at demonstrating he could distinguish between India and Pakistan was cute, even admirable. Instead, I started counting. Out of the 18 dishes offered, only one, the eggplant, was vegan.

More here.