This great nation of ours consists of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Over time, each distinct ethnic group has formed various kinds of stigmas about them. Some are good, some aren’t, and others are just downright hilarious. Indians, for whatever reason, seem to have the funniest ones surrounding us. Instead of going through each and every one of them (there’s quite a few!), let’s tackle the five biggest misconceptions surrounding Indians:
5. We smell…bad!
Let’s begin this countdown with a well-enough known (but debatable) knock against us; the notion that we reek. I had first heard this watching Indian-Canadian comedian Russell Peter’s Red, White, and Brown. Since then, I’ve heard passing references to this and it began to make sense. I can’t make a blanket statement about all of my people, but I have to say that, in my observation, our cooking is the largest factor in determining our fragrance du jour. Indian cooking involves spices (a lot of them!). While we love our cuisine, as do many non-Indians, the cooking process isn’t the most pleasing to the nose. Couple that with the strength of the smell, and many of us are combating that scent all day long. Indians aren’t dirty people, not by a longshot. We go to great lengths to make ourselves as presentable as possible when we step out of our homes. But, like most people, our food is our downfall.
4. We’re cheap!
Ever watched videos of the YouTube comedian “JusReign”? His videos serve as a gospel of truths for Indians to show non-Indians exactly what life is like for us brown folks. Anyway, this one is drawing inspiration from him.
This one’s difficult to argue against. Having quite a bit of experience in retail, there’s no doubt that Indians don’t think a price tag in an American retailer is as black-and-white as “pay the price or leave.” I’ve had Indian customers ask for discounts on various items for a variety of reasons (once simply because we were both Indian). Still, while I’m certain most of us are actively looking to save a dollar here and there, it always seems that Indians go that extra step and do everything in their power to keep as much in their pocket as possible. I put this down to a cultural misunderstanding. In India, it’s commonplace to negotiate the price for almost everything. When our people come stateside, it appears that this concept of set pricing takes some time to ingrain. Make no mistake, though, Indians will flaunt their riches when they can.
3. We all have our future spouses set in-stone for us…by our parents.
This one is driven by the film The Namesake. Sure, it can be a bit of a more dramatic comparison, but it drives the point nonetheless. The film features the son of Indian immigrants faced with the pressure of marrying the woman his parents desire for him as opposed to the woman of his choice.
Arranged marriages are common all over the world, but for some odd reason, westerners pin this on Indians as if we are the only ones who dabble in the practice of predetermined marriages. The truth is that most Indian marriages aren’t arranged. But, let’s take a step back for just a second. Ever seen a Bollywood movie? Almost every single major film to come out of India features a love story of some sort. In almost every case, the hero and heroine did not know each other before the start of the movie’s storyline. These stories have to be coming from somewhere, right? Indians, too, seek to find happiness with a person to whom they feel closest and comfortable spending their lives with, not who their parents think would fit that role.
2. We buy food to use their containers afterward.
This is one that came up when watching videos of Indian comedian Paul Varghese. Like the one about our smell, this one didn’t hit home immediately. Let me explain this one: apparently, in order to save some money on plastic containers to pack and store food, Indians purchase food that preferably come in containers that can be reused time and again. In a way, this is true. We do use and reuse food containers, probably more so than others. However, to say that the container the food comes in plays a major role in the food we buy is a hyperbole (we’re just extremely resourceful). Regardless, I didn’t expect find a “Cool Whip” container in my mom’s spice cabinet. It wasn’t filled with Cool Whip.
1. We only work in and own Dunkin Donuts, convenience stores, 7-Elevens, gas stations, etc.
Who’s familiar with Apu Nahasapeemapetilon? He’s the iconic owner of “Kwik-E-Mart,” a convenience store in Springfield in the world of The Simpsons. He also “just happens” to be Indian. We see this everywhere! In TV shows, movies, cartoons, etc., Indians are the sole owners and operators of doughnut shops, convenience stores, and gas stations.
In reality, this is the vicious cycle of immigration. You see, long ago, these were the businesses that Indians set-up/ventured into when our people first landed on American shores. For someone coming to a foreign country trying to establish a job, a family, and a name, you go to wherever you can. What happens next is history. They work themselves up and take ownership of those stores, possibly buying up more, and using it as a gate for new immigrants to begin the cycle yet again. While not the most glamorous of positions, it’s pretty cool knowing that my community is filled with hard-working people such as these, ever seeking to give their children and future generations from their homeland a brighter future.