Friday, June 02, 2006


Dear white people I work with,

I realise that I am one of the few Indians you encounter in your day-to-day life apart from the waiters at the local balti (who are probably Bangladeshi by the way), but I really need to clarify a few things.

1.I do not know why Indian Call Centre operators call you up 10 times a day offering you new and fantastic cell phone deals. I do not know why your bank’s back office operations in Madras have your telephone number from three houses ago. And before you crib about the fact that they cannot pronounce your name correctly, try saying Kannika Parameshwari or Somayajulu or Veerabadran.

2.Please stop asking me about female infanticide/ human sacrifices/ elephant headed Gods and poverty. I have told you all I can as best as I can. Once more, and I will be asking you about the sad state of your overly promiscuous 12 year olds who are snorting coke in class (teachers tried to wake up a ‘sleeping’ student in class only to realise that she had od-d on cocaine) and delivering babies in their bedrooms (‘I dint know I was pregnant till the baby came out. Thought it was indigestion.’ Of course you did dear).

3.I understand that your country is yet to discover that apart from black and white other colours do exist. But stop twittering every time I come to work in red or orange about ‘How it does suit you people.’ I assume by ‘you people’ you are referring to those of us that are aware of other colours. Also, please do not assume that since I display a knowledge of other 'exotic' colours it is appropriate to give me a gigantic gold bag for Christmas. It is not.

4.Yes. Ha ha. People sing and dance at regular intervals in Bollywood movies. The rest of the nation does not follow suit.

5.My grasp of the English language is far superior to yours. So please, stop whispering to one another and checking my copy. Someone who says ‘Crikey is bloody hot today innit’ probably thinks a semi colon is situated in the human body and will be unable to confirm whether it should be in a sentence or not.


The blue kurti wearing copywriter who was almost offered as a human sacrifice to a 23 aardvark headed God.


Chilla-Bong said...

A very good post.Why does each Indian abroad is supposed to behave like a model ambassador or an information kiosk about India? I don't remember asking any of the Brits or Yuppies or so to speak any visiting Bangladeshis in India to explain any one of their national habits.Sometimes they just seem to creep into your skin.

Shuggie said...


Mali&Madhu said...

I have used these with great effect. Sometimes people don't realize for months on end that their leg was being pulled. I hope you can put this to good use.

Next time you get asked an annoying Indian question, answer it like on, it's funny!
Q. What does that red dot on women's forehead mean?
A. Well, in ancient times, Indian men used to practice archery
skills by target practicing by aiming at their wife's red dot. In
fact, that is one of the reasons why they had many wives. You see,
once they mastered the art of archery and hit the target....

Q. You're from India, aren't you? I have read so much about the
country. All the wonderful places, the forests, the snake charmers,
the elephants. Do you still use elephants for transportation?
[note: This one we were actually asked in August '93 by a real
estate agent when house-hunting in Boston.]
A. Absolutely. In fact we used to have our own elephant in
our house. But later, we started elephant-pooling with our neighbors,
to save the air. You see elephants have an "emissions" problem.....

Q. Does India have cars?
A. No. We ride elephants to work. The government is trying to
encourage ride-sharing schemes.

Q. Does India have TV?
A. No. We only have cable.

Q. Are all Indians vegetarian?
A. Yes. Even tigers are vegetarian in India.

Q. How come you speak English so well?
A. You see when the British were ruling India,they employed Indians
as servants. It took too long for the Indians to learn English. So the
British isolated an "English-language" gene and infused their
servants' babies with it and since then all babies born are born
speaking English.

A variation to the above is a compliment ---
"You speak very good English."
Response: Thanks. So do you.

Q. Are you a Hindi?
A. Yes. I am spoken everyday in Northern India.

Q. Do you speak Hindu?
A. Yes, I also speak Jewish, Islam and Christianity.

Q. Is it true that everyone there is very corrupt?
A. Yes, in fact, I had to bribe my parents so that they would let me
go to school.

Q. India is very hot, isn't it?
A. It is so hot there that all the water boils spontaneously. That is
why tea is such a popular drink in India.

Q. Are there any business companies in India?
A. No. All Indians live on the Gandhian prinicples of
self-sufficiency. We all make our own clothes and grow our own food.
That is why you see all these thin skinny Indians -- it is a lot of
hard work.

Q. Indians cannot eat beef, huh?
A. Cows provide milk which is a very essential part of Indian
diet. So eating cows is forbidden. However in order to decrease the
population of the country, the government is trying to encourage
everyone to eat human meat.

Q. India is such a religious place. Do you meditate regularly?
A. Yes, sometimes I meditate for weeks without food and drink. But it
is difficult to keep my job, because I have to miss work when I
meditate like that. But the bosses there do the same thing. That is
why things are so inefficient there.

Q. I saw on TV that people there walk on burning coals. Why do they
do that?
A. We don't have shoes. So we burn the botton of our feet to make it
hard so that we can walk.

Q. Why do you sometimes wear Indian clothes to work?
A. I prefer it to coming naked.

Q. How do you celebrate Thanksgiving day in India?
A. By roasting an American....

Anonymous said...

Yep!! I am sure everyone has an example to cite, but just this morning someone asked me, your fiance (he's in India) speaks English? This is after learning that he's a manager at a software firm

Mali&Madhu said...

There are a few I made up myself (the prev. one was a compilation from USENET). Here's one more.

Q: Do you have movies in India?
A: No, but we made up for it by flipping the pages on the few comic books we had really fast so it looked like the characters moved. The advantageous side effect was that we learnt how to read really fast.

Can also be used when asked about how "you Indians read (and speak) really fast".

Mali&Madhu said...

Interestingly, the last decade has changed a lot of those questions. For instance, I dont think anyone is going to ask the one about businesses any more...

Premalatha said...

My ex boss was on the recieving end from a Tamil guy, who was a student before I worked there. Showing the purple aubergines he told them that in india we use the purple ones to feed the cattle and human only eat the green ones. You should have looked at Mike (ex boss) face when he was explaining this to me. :D Poor Mike, he is a genuinly nice guy.

Yeah, some of them could be really stupids. It is mostly their anger they take out on us. Could be the curry the houses they hate or it could be his neighbour/friend/acquaintance who has bought that german Mercedes recently... :D btw, what car do you own? Could be that you know. :D
(I know you commute to work by train)

Premalatha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Premalatha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Premalatha said...

Hi Mali&Madhu,

you missed the Indira Gandhi daughter of Gandhi question. :)
Actually not a long ago (when Congress won the central elections. and they were deciding on who the PM was going to be), I was in my boss (another ex boss)'s car, We were driving from somewhere,we were listening to the Radio, we actually followed the results to and then the PM thing.., Paul (this ex boss) is a professor, head of the department, and knows the politics (only British) so well asked me, whether indians voted for Sonia gandhi because she belongs to Gandhi family?. I gave him a look.. that hurt him. :D

did you watch the celebrity "who wants to be a millionaire" in which Alistair Cambell participated? when this guy, who had had such a strong career in the media and then in the PM's office could be so ignorant of the rest of the world (other than Brittain), I guess we can be little sympathetic at other guys at work. But, I have heard Americans are worse. Bill Bryson says it so beautifully in his "notes from the big country", that "the moment you enter America, you see a magic happening, you see your country dissappear from the map"! (not exact words, as I am writing from memory)..

Have a nice day.
next time you get a chance, tell them that they are all eating cattle food. :D

rat said...

Excellent post.
My question is this: how are we, as Indians, contributing to this? When asked such questions, why do we just patiently answer the idiots all the time.

I think Mali & Madhu's suggestion was the best - deal with all with good grace, and a sense of humour, and a small patronising smile which says—you idiot, this is the 21st century, grow up!

Ash said...

Yup, I've had enough of it too.

yadbhavishya said...

Yes, I had one bad day like that before. I was fuming, and my next e-mail went something like,

"[...]the resources, nevertheless, had to be reallocated and numerous mistakes had spawned in the execution. This was a fortnight ago and all the issues today do not look any redoubtable[...]

The next hour I spent answering e-mails about what I really meant. And yes! believe me the americans do not know what a fortnight is.

Falstaff said...

:-). Lovely.

You missed the one about worshipping cows. It's amazing how that's the one factoid about India that everyone I meet seems to know. As though I started every morning by devoutly genuflecting to a nice juicy steak.

It isn't all bad though. I can think of at least half a dozen people who think I'm all spiritual and sooner or later there's got to be a woman out there who wants to be initiated into the joys of tantric sex.

Anonymous said...

Just a break to our thoughts.. how many of us in India do not comment on the "chinks" ( who are actually from north-east india), or comment about the "kaala" madrasis or the "loose" north indian women! it is but natural, that the majority would always find the minority a curiosity! as long as this little devil of bias in each of us, does not grow to what it did in that mad man hitler.. we can live with it.. after all.. we do live with the other 7 sins..

sudha said...

aahaa - angsty!

i prefer either getting drunk before or saying things like "ewwwww, people have to wear seatbelts here, how awful!". everyone regrets not being desi around me :)

but one stunner question was the one about why cows are sacred and not dogs , since dogs are brainier and have more character to relate to - it didnt help tat it was a wine tasting event and i was half drunk - it took me many minutes to come up with and articulate well "the cows being a primary source of income, maybe".

but it depends on who you hang out with too - one of my friends recently went "oh ya, u dont need seatbelt rules reinforced coz u believe in reincarnation" :)). it took me months before i weeded out the right people to hang out with, though! so patience :)

Happy-Go-Lucky said...

Really funny post and some of the comments too!

But I hope you guys are only half-serious coz some of these questions are due to genuine ignorance and we need to be patient to them.

Once our japanese business partners had come to bangalore and while travelling on road, on seeing so many cows on the road, one of them asked to my boss, with a very serious look on his face "Who's cows are these?"

You guys should have seen the puzzled look on his face.

Manish Bhatt said...

Its that bad, huh? And I was only fuming at Robert A. Hienlein's comment on Hinduism in "Stranger In A Strange Land".

zigzackly said...

Shoe Fiend

Thanks for a much-needed chortle.

(: oh, and Falstaff, re your last sentence, is that a bad thing? :)

shyam said...

Love the post! :) I empathise especially with the last point.

Falstaff said...

zigzackly: Not at all, not at all. As I said, it's not all bad.

Unfortunately, it turns out that a quarter of the PhD students here are from India, and some of them are actually good-looking, which means that yours truly's Mysterious Man from the East allure isn't working as well as I'd hoped it would. My sexual aura gets more and more blue.

progga said...

hysterical. sort of the next step from pen-friends who ask whether you go to school by elephant and come back by camel. Of course, with Americans, it's a whole other deal: "So what language do you Indians speak - Pakistani?", and "Hey, don't speak Hindu at me."

the wannabe indian punkster said...

I've actually had someone ask me if Hinduism was a form of 'devil worshipping voodoo tomfoolery'(Im quoting that person) since we worship idols and all.

I didnt know if I wanted to laugh or cry, I think I was too shocked to go either way.

dining_philosopher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
that girl in pink said...

:) you're funny! "...a semi colon is situated in the human body" LOL

of course you speak better english and are smarter and can carry off any colour you want (such are the advantages of brown skin). i guess prejudice and stereotypes are a part of life today and humour is certainly a great way to deal with it.

p.s. i'm shocked people that people still ask about human sacrifices and stuff. i thought we'd left that image behind in the 80s...

Grafxgurl said... a desi girl married to a white guy.. its been a hilarious ride explaining all things indian to him...thankfully he isnt a dumbass who asks stupid questions about countries he doesnt know anything of..but...he has been to india for our wedding and thankfully made me proud of his brains and sense...

i lived for 5 years in Canada and almost every second white person i met opened their eyes wide in surprise at my speaking such "good english" theyre the only english speaking people on the planet!!and they cant even SPELL!!

Nilu said...

My grasp of the English language is far superior to yours


shoe man said...

hi there - great post, and cool blog! i just added a link to your blog on my blogroll. (please consider linking back!) take it easy

jazzdance said...

talking of ignorance..............does anyone know why the 26th of Dec is called Boxing Day in England?
One view is that, formerly,it was the day people boxed gifts for service personnel and gave it to them...........would like to know if any of you have heard differently??

Anonymous said...

I find this post quite rascist to be honest. While you talk about white people commenting on us, what about the North Indian commenting on the south Indian's accent and eating habits? Arent we very rascist within India itself? And i too have been living in London for 3 years, but have never been treated like I was an "ambassador" from India. I think the issues about race, colour and specially identity go down far deeper.

vijayendra said...

I liked the spirit of Mali&Madhu's comment. Laugh at it.

Sakshi said...

And pls STOP calling us 'Curries', just cause we eat too much of them.

jazzdance said...

I have to agree with Anon.............there is racism/casteism etc in India too. Having lived in several countries of the world, I find discrimination all over and it takes many years to come to terms or deal with it.Unfortunately.

tilotamma said...

My sympathies :-)

Rationale said...

Are the British so prejudice? Maybe others are just curious about India?

I think you are being a tad touche.

shub said...

hehe and here some random Indian female told my prof that Indian women finish studies, get married and stay at home. It takes all kinds...


Lol, funniest post I read in some months... do u get asked whether u spoke HINDU at home?

n said...

completely non sensical, but aren't colours so much more fun that balck and white. And isn't gold just completely terrible? You show them that the world's a bright and colourful place.

sonia said...

funny i read somewhere else - Pickled Politics i think - about this fuss about indian call centres. its silly, people used to complain about call centres long before they went to india = things didn't get worse but they didn't get any better. of course now everyone goes on about the indians and have forgotten what went before.

this business about being expected to be a model ambassador is anti-individualist but unfortunately all over the place..

Anonymous said...

What kind of insane idiots do you work with?

Sridevi said...

Good's really shocking when people in the US ask similar questions. But, it is a fact that they are highly ignorant. One lady asked me about the India-Pakistan conflict, while she was actually thinking about terrorists in Iraq!!!
One reason for this could be that, Americans are so absorbed in their own country- one good example, is that, a cable news channel here has a news segment called "Around the World in 60 seconds", where they give about 5-6 snippets of interesting news items around the world. These interesting news snippets normally include "man sacrifices child on advise of tantrik".

On the other hand, we cannot criticise the Americans and British, when there is so much ignorance in our own country. My science teacher in school in Mumbai, once asked me which state I was from. When I replied "Tamil Nadu", she asked me, if I lived in Kerala. I was confused, and asked her why she thought that, and she said, "I assumed you might have lived in the capital city". Believe it or not, I have had variations of that question, not just in Bombay, but in Lucknow as well, where I have lived. Also, North Indians need to understand that there is a lot more to South Indian cuisine than just idli-sambhar.

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