A few days ago, Andrea Miller of The Huffington Post posted a “humorous” piece called How to Date an Indian (Advice for the Non-Indian). Full of such gems as “most Indians are innately gracious, social creatures” (What are we, gazelles?) and “one more big bonus when it comes to dating an Indian: communication with cabbies,” it’s basically stereotypical b.s. about how bhangra, a dal recipe and proclaiming SRK the Greatest Actor of All Time will land you a Harvard-educated Hindustani hottie.
I briefly tried to convince myself it was satire. But it’s not written intelligently enough to really qualify, so I realized that Miller must be in earnest and was just trying to be witty. Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, it’s not.
Sure, I could write a satirical rebuttal about How to Date a White Person, with key tips like “learn to love mayo” and “white people love Journey” and “start shopping at Banana Republic,” but her unfunny generalizations aren’t really the crux of what troubles me. What really troubles me is Miller’s impetus for writing this: her idea that marrying an Indian man, a New Delhi native, somehow gives her the right to share these kinds of “insights.” That, somehow, who her spouse is makes what she’s saying “okay.”
Newsflash: It doesn’t.
You do not get a desi pass just because you married someone brown.
Entrance into a culture, into its social and psychological circles, requires more than a marriage certificate. It has to be earned… and it certainly shouldn’t be flaunted for paltry comedic value for a bunch of readers who don’t know you from a hole in the ground. Imagine, if you will, that Miller wrote a similar article because she had an Irish Catholic husband or an Israeli husband or a black American husband. Substitute the most egregiously overblown cultural generalizations. You think that would play? Moreover, do you think that the HuffPo would’ve printed the piece had it said “learn to cook greens and fried chicken” and “bone up on your Jay-Z”? But Indians, with our funny musical movies and henna tattoos and 7/11s…? No big thing, right? Hell, we’ll read Miller’s piece and break into song, with thirty background dancers on a hill in Switzerland!
It’s disconcerting to me that there’s this disconnect going on, and that nobody in the editorial office at the HuffPo and, of course, Miller herself, thought to say, “Hey, wait, maybe this is just not cool?”
Let me say it again: Marriage to a person does not give you free access to where they come from, their heritage, their history, and the masses of people who may make up their ethnic group. It’d be like me marrying somebody from Kentucky and then running around judging all of caucasian American culture by what I learned from his family gatherings. That’s just…dumb. And it was dumb of The Huffington Post to post such an ill-conceived piece.
By the way? Should anyone want to land my non-Ivy League, non-sexy Indian American self, here’s what you’ve got to know: John Abraham, Kajol, ’90s Bollywood soundtracks over bhangra, a good mattar paneer recipe, fluent Bengali…and how to spot Race Fail from a mile away.