by Tara* Kaushal
Probing pigeonholing from my experience as an educated urban Indian. Conceptual image by Sahil Mane Photography.
I'm brown skinned, and that, along with my features and fusion dressing style clearly mark me as being from the Indian subcontinent. I travel to the ‘First World' a fair bit, and spend a lot of time in Australia, where most of my family live. More often than not, when I have conversations with locals there—on the street, at the post office, paying for groceries—a standard, unanimous response when I tell them that I'm only visiting, that I live in India is “But your English is so good!”
I realise that this is not simply racism and arrogant Euro-/white-centricity—it is also curiosity and ignorance. Whatever it is, for the longest time, I didn't know whether to be all WTFed about it, or simply amused at their ignorance. And I certainly didn't know how to react—was I to justify this with “I studied literature/Worked with the BBC/Was a magazine editor” and/or “Where I come from, English speakers are the norm, honey”? How about: “Your English is not bad either.” Or should I have mentioned Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth…? And then storm off (not!) or smile or be condescending? How does one react to racial stereotyping?