Remember how I blogged about how people stereotype people from a certain country and force you into boxes, previously here? Well, this week it happened to me. We have a new person in our office and this is how my conversations with her went.
She – “I used to work in HSBC. I was making cold calls to many clients in India for sales. I have never been to India nor do I know any Indians but I know about India from talking to these clients.”
– How is it that people have lived in a country with so many foreigners and Indians in particular and still have never interacted with any Indian until now?
Me – “What is your comment on this issue in your country?”
She – “No, we do not have that problem.”
– That is a blatant denial of certain key problems in your country. When, you can start criticizing other people’s countries, when you have just met them, I think you must be willing to look at the issues in your country as well critically. I encounter this attitude pretty often – my culture is superior to yours because ……. and you have those problems in India.
She – “Why India is so conservative? My clients told me ……….”
Me – “Yes, patriarchy is an issue in India but the particular issue you point out is present among east Asians too. East Asian women may have it better but that does not mean the issue you refer to is absent completely.”
She – “No, we do not have any such issues like that.”
Me – “Well, you cannot generalize. Everybody is not like that. It is much more complicated than that. India is very heterogeneous.”
She – “No, your family will be like that. My clients told me.”
– My getting very very irritated point. You do not know me. You do not know my family. You cannot tell me how people I know will be with certainty from what you gleaned from few sales conversations over the phone. AND you met me today.
She – “Do you know Indian language A or Indian language B? Where are you from?”
Me – “I know both.”
She – “That is not possible. You cannot know both. My clients told me it is difficult to know more than 1 Indian language.”
Me – *WTF moment* “Can you stop generalizing Indians.”
Looks like I am quick to get irritated [which I am] but I am running short on patience with such people considering how many of such ignorant people I run into, regularly. I am okay when people ask open questions but I dislike it when people insist this is how things and people are in a country, when they have never ever set foot on it. For East Asians, nationality and race seem to define a large part of who they are and many don’t bother developing their other identities. Thus, they often find it difficult to go beyond other people’s national identities.Note – Okay, sounds like I am stereotyping, but this attitude is quite common and I am always watching out and checking if they do not fit into this.
I am Indian. So what? I am so many other things too, so get over it. I don’t see it as an issue and do not bring that up every single time. Why is it so difficult to get to know me as a person, instead of trying to always define me by my nationality?