Signs You Grew Up In An Indian Household

So, scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, I stumbled on this article from ThoughtCatalog. Bijal Patel, from what I can gather is a second generation Indian living in the States, probably the first gen to actually be born there. I dunno, I’m assuming. But growing up in a household with Caribbean-based, Indian-descended parents, I thought why the hell not? Technically, I have lived in and continue to live in an Indian household. And lo and behold, from Ms. Patel’s list, at least 10 and a half things are true for me. I say “a half”, and I will explain it. But the purpose of this post comes from thinking about it a little more than I usually would. As I said, I do technically come from an Indian Household and am both a third generation and fourth generation to be born in Trinidad. Third from my father – the youngest of 14 – and fourth from my mother – eldest of three. I could continue in this train, but quite frankly I’d get confused and this is not the purpose of this post.

Right. So. Taking the similarities from Ms. Patel’s list you get the following.

1. More people lived in your house than you knew what to do with.

This is true, and it became worse around birthdays and holidays. From as far back as I could remember, until I was in form three, so about 13 years old, we lived with my grandmother, my uncle and his family, my aunt before she got married, and later when my other uncle got divorced he took his sister’s old space. So on an everyday basis, it was always full of people, (which I didn’t like) but with lots of room between them (which was a respite for me). When the holidays came around, I came out long enough to say hi to everyone and retreated not so subtly to our mini-apartment and sat  in front of the TV. PEOPLE take a lot out of me. Luckily it was always over pretty soon and everyone went home to their houses and hardly stayed the night.

2. Your name was often mispronounced.

Not so much mispronounced, but misspelled. The cousins all had a mix of Indian and English (I say English, but-) names. So saying them was never an issue. But  because my name was (at the time) so very uncommon, spelling it was difficult for people.

3. Your parents never used the dishwasher to wash dishes.

In Trinidad this is an island-wide practice, not Indian alone. I used to think this was bad, but some of my best thoughts, philosophies and games have come from the time spent washing dishes.

4. You never used the dryer for clothes.

Here’s the half that I counted before. Because we use the dryer and hang up our clothes to dry. I also got my parents to buy a concrete tub so I could handwash my clothes. I don’t fully trust the delicate setting for my softer clothes and would rather I get the stains out myself.

5. Swiffer? Mop? Try old, raggedy clothing.

This is also true. But I wonder if this had anything to do with a preference for rags over the mop, or the general laziness of our household to go outside and look for the mop to clean up any mess.

6. You always brushed your teeth before breakfast

This was probably because my mother’s thing against germs had gotten to me though. But I do know that my great-grandmother, who raised her, was an old Indian woman, so she would have grown my mother up in some very Indian ways. Whether my mother stuck to them or not is another story. (She didn’t. Mostly.) Some things had to stick though, and I’m guessing this was one of them.

7. You willingly put oil in your hair

Not willingly, and not always oil, but my hair demands it. Much to my chagrin. Seriously, in this household, we pride ourselves in not being Indian – or being not-Indian, whichever – and we just rock our ability to detach ourselves from the chutney, rum, Bryan Adams, Sharoukh Khan, Rohit whoever, Bollywood, dance – things. But sometimes our ancestry catches us. My hair is one such example. It’s like it feels the need to be neat only when greased up, or oiled down. Luckily, I could get way with it for a day or two, but no more. Tomorrow, I’ll have to go through this process again. And it has to be oil, too. Cream moisturisers just won’t do.

8. Your doctor visits were minimal.

Again, not sure of this is an Indian thing or a Household thing. With the exception of necessary medicals for school and work and whatnot, my siblings and father will not go. My mother on the other hand will take advantage of the family’s medical plan and go and get what she needs.

9. Your family would often tell you that you were “too dark.”

Well, not really. As I said, we pride ourselves on being not-Indian, but the issue of skin colour and status among Indians do tend to crop up from time to time. My mother’s family didn’t want her to marry my father despite his ability to provide what little he could for her – and he was willing – because he was too dark. But to thumb my nose at them, she did and he does – got a steady, big time one too, has for years. So where is your status symbol now?

But once more, Indian culture comes up. There was this one incident between my friend and me during our first year at University together. We had been in the same class since form 5 and were now doing the same thing at Uni. Her aunt or somebody had seen us together and she had warned my friend against me, for fear that I’d drag her down or steal her chances or whatever, because I was too dark. Because I was too dark, the woman thought I couldn’t be trusted around my friend.

I had nothing against the woman or my friend, mainly because she didn’t know me, and my friend – she’s my friend. I’m extremely loyal to my friends. If I thought I was hurting them, I’d back off. Hurting my friends is the last thing on my mind.

But I did feel disturbed about the whole deal. How messed up is this whole issue of skin colour that people would need to be warned against others simply for pigmentation’s sake? I understand some parts as to why, but it still befuddles me.

10. You would bathe using a step stool and a bucket.

I love showers. They’re refreshing, invigorating, and calming all at once. But there’s something purposeful and efficient about bathing like this. I’d done it as a child and have started back like this. It still works.

11. You recycled before it was cool.

Again, not sure if Trinidadian or exclusively Trini-Indian.

12. There was a stash of Taco Bell hot sauce in your house.

Well, not Taco Bell, since we don’t have that here (yet *-°) and not exclusively hot sauce. Sometimes ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, whatever, wherever we could get it. And this could also be an all- Trini thing too…..

13. You referred to any elder as “Uncle” or “Auntie.”

Well, yes, this is an Indian thing. In Trinidad, like it doesn’t matter race, colour, whatever. It’s just a matter of relationship, age and gender. And sometimes not even relationship. The old taxi driver that you will never see once he stops for a fare is an uncle. The old tantie taking forever crossing the road will be out of your mind as soon as you cross the next junction.

14. Your friends’ interest in “going out for Indian food” left you nonplussed.

Not going-out, but getting invited for prayers and food.

If, like me, you live in an Indian-predominant village, it’s “prayers food”. every major event means prayers food. Paratha, anchar, pumpkin, channa, kharhi, pholourie, barfi (Which I will demolish by myself if given the chance), kachourie, bhaiganie, whatever you could think of, it will be there and there will be plenty of it. To hear all my friends get excited around Divali because of the promise of food just gets me sick, knowing that that same week, we’ll be invited for at least 6 different prayers and that the curry overload will be too much for the fridge and our stomachs.

So now you know that there are some International things that show the Indian in your family.

So winding down from someone else’s observations, I want to start on my own things.

From what Bijal and I can show in these posts of ours is that the Indian influence is strong in us. There are some things we can try to ignore but these things are all in us, whether we want them or not, whether we’re aware if it or not.

And as for me coming from a Caribbean-based family, and having the ability to stop and think and analyse there are so many things that the Indian has been able to keep and maintain and pass on for generations, no matter where our ancestors came from, or where our descendants are going.

And I wonder, if we’re so lucky to have it just so, what would have happened if others introduced to the Caribbean had been allowed to keep their own cultures. What would have been maintained willingly? What would survive? And what would the consequences be afterwards?


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