My (Biggest) Struggle of being an Indian Girl

If you’ve kept up with Jointly at all in the past almost two years (ahh!), you probably know by now that one of my favorite things to write, discuss, and vent about is being Indian. In most cases I like to joke (but never exaggerate) about what it’s like to be an Indian girl, but today I want to be totally honest and share with all of you, my biggest struggle as an Indian girl.

I’ve always known my biggest pain point with my ethnicity, but the full extent of it didn’t really hit me until I finished Mindy Kaling’s latest book, Why Not Me. The number one reason I struggle with being Indian is because Indian culture prohibits me from being 100% real with all of you. I always think about my goals as a writer and how I can further refine my voice and skill only to realize that I can’t really, because I’m Indian.

Now, before going any further, I would like to caveat that this post is based solely on my personal experience and feelings. Additionally, I would like to make it undeniably clear that I love being Indian and could not imagine my life in any other way. Okay? Okay, moving on…

I feel that, as an Indian woman, I have a certain image to maintain. I should conduct my life with the perfect amount of grace, respect and reservation. I should share little and keep my personal life, especially the portion of it grandparents may frown upon, personal. And to a certain extent, I totally agree with this. I am all for grace and you probably can’t find a girl who loves and respects people (who deserve it), more than I do. But not sharing…I’m sure you can see how that would hold me back as a writer.

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                          Indian girls should be all shy and shit

As I got deeper and deeper into Mindy’s stories, I couldn’t help but go a little bug-eyed as I read about her love life, how she enjoys filming sex scenes and her excessive drinking (and McDonald’s eating). I was shocked but inspired and could feel my already present admiration for her grow as I flipped each page. She is real, I thought. I want to be real too.

And I try to be. I really do. I’m sure you can tell from some of my writing. But there are certain personal topics I avoid completely, as I know my audience. But I’m getting to the point where I’m old enough to not care what other people think. I’ve been raised well and I know right from wrong and appropriate from inappropriate. I mean…it’s not like I want to be a lingerie model. Just a good writer. If you want to be a lingerie model (which I would also totally support, to each their own), and this post inspires you to do so, please do not tell your strict Indian parents that I gave you the idea. If you need someone to blame, blame Mindy.

Love,

K

P.S. For all Indians reading this and preparing to judge me for the unfiltered stories I am to tell in the future, just know – I heard young adults in India are way worse.

More Growing Pains | A Tribute To My Old Friends

Up until now life has gradually transitioned from one stage to another, without much of a bump in the road. The change from child to teen was pretty painless and the switch from high school to college even more so. At any given point I’ve always been, not just ready, but eagerly anticipating the next stage of life. And until recently – that had always worked out just fine for me. I didn’t just think I was ready, or feel ready, I always was ready.

I was so fond of these transitional, big life moments that I actually sought them out, for no reason other than craving the blood rush it gave me. When I first graduated college, I was ecstatic to be an adult. And once I was, I was even more ecstatic to be an adult in New York City. Nothing new, I thought. But I was wrong.

Twenty-three is still so young, people say to me (especially here where 50 is the new 25). And maybe they’re right. I mean if all goes well I’m only about a quarter-way through with my life. But age is just a number. It’s not the numerical value of the years I’ve lived that’s scaring me, it’s about how much has changed during them. And the fact that for the first time in my life, this change that I can see and feel, is unwelcome.

In the past year or two, I’ve lost more friends than I’ve gained. This isn’t for any dramatic, intentional reason. It’s the mere fact that life keeps moving, faster and faster, and if you don’t stick together, you don’t grow together. And if you don’t grow together, you grow apart. I always thought to “grow apart” simply meant falling out of touch with someone. But recently I realized that growing apart is actually when you fall out of touch for so long that when you try to come back together, you don’t find the same person you once knew.

My parents preached it, but I never believed it: growing up is scary. And what’s even scarier is that sometimes, when you just want to retreat and go back to the people who were once your home, the people that knew you and all your teenage weirdness so well, they’re no longer there. Maybe I’m the only person consumed by a sense of dread and regret over this, but I honestly want nothing more than to pick up the phone and talk to the middle school or high school friends like nothing’s changed. Like we still spend hours talking to each other, watching Laguna Beach, binge eating junk food and then doing crunches to negate the previously inhaled junk food. But everything’s changed.

I don’t mean “change” in a bad way. Don’t think that for a second. Every day I find out that someone else is moving abroad, choosing their life partner (!!), making their first million or doing their part to solve some large scale global problem I don’t know enough about. My childhood friends are nothing short of amazing. I just wish I had been there to watch them go from kids trying to understand themselves and life, to the incredible adults they are today.

* Shout out to everyone who was a part of my journey to adulthood, big or small, from Solon or from Naperville. Every victory of yours fills my heart with so much happiness and I wish you all nothing but the absolute best in life. Hope to catch up with you someday soon. 

Love,

K

The (Unexaggerated) Struggles of an Indian Girl Pt III

As you all know, A and I are two Indian girls, born and raised in good ol’ Cleveland, Ohio. Last year I started a series titled “The Unexaggerated Struggles of Being an Indian Girl”, and today I’m ready to share with you, part III of the series.

I know you’ve all been waiting for it, so let’s get this started.

1. Indian people are becoming so trendy

Maybe some other Indian people enjoy watching their people succeed. I, on the other hand, get pretty salty. I have this very distorted perception of myself and can’t help but feel that if any Indian-American deserves to be famous it should be me.

Whoops…

2. When your headphones fall out

So there I am, sitting at my desk, diligently working. To anyone who sees me, I look just like any other employee at an ad agency. I’m jammin’ HARD. Probably head-shaking, definitely foot-shaking and creating killer dance moves in my head. And then…one of my ear buds falls out and I’m struck by the silence of the work place and the horror of the fact that I was pretty much doing the Indian head shake at my desk.

Wait whhhat? So I’m not in a Bollywood movie? And we all really are just working? Oh…okay…cool…

3. Competing on who can cook better

I can’t help but to feel a jealous pang every time one of my friends tells me that they learned how to cook an Indian dish. I still need to call my parents to figure out how to make chai. Take your butter-chicken to your future mother-in-law’s house, I don’t want none of that, showoff.

4. Huge ass Indian weddings

A can attest to this even more than I can. But let me tell you a little something about being Indian. Every person you’ve ever said a word to, actually wait…every person your parents…no…grandparents have ever said a word to, will expect an invitation to your wedding. The number of people that came up to me at A’s wedding and said “Congrats! Where’s the lucky guy?!” Are you serious? You are here and you don’t even know who the bride and groom are…? Just…just leave. No nice words for you.

5. Oh, you left your coat on the chair while your mom was cooking? LOL sucks.

I know if you’re Indian you’ve for sure made this mistake. Your mom was making masala and your coat was hanging on a bar stool in the kitchen. Well kiddo, you’re going to smell like that for at least two weeks. Don’t even try to take a jacket to India House. The place stank up my handbag.

6. What’s up with their vocal chords anyways?

You always want to sing along to the latest songs but wait…Indian female vocalists put to so in soprano. Seriously, I grew up always having to sing the male parts of every popular song because I couldn’t hit Asha’s high notes. Thanks for the gender-confusion early on, Bollywood.

7. You said four words to a guy once

If you’ve said more than four words to a guy, you’re probably dating. If you took a photo with him, you’re probably in the process of planning your wedding and may even have a name or two picked out for your kids.

I’ve had quite a few close guy friends in my life, and you bet there have always been assumptions that we’re dating or are oblivious to the fact that we’re madly in love. This is not an Anjali-Rahul situation guys. Stop trying to make it happen.

Well. That’s it for this time. More to come as we continue to live our crazy Indian lives. Below is probably the best Indian/Bollywood GIF I’ve ever seen. Me every Friday to be totally honest (jk Aunty community).

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Love,

K

A New New Yorker | A Writer in New York | Tale 3

Well goddamn, it’s been awhile.

I always used to twist A’s arm a bit about not putting enough time into this blog and she would always tell me it’s because she didn’t have enough time. I would sort of roll my eyes and ask my mom what she’s so busy with, but she never knew either. I don’t think I understood this concept of lack of time until I moved to New York.

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I don’t know what it is about this city but it truly consumes you. All your energy and all of your time. You get so stuck in your day-to-day life and trying your best to take any free time you do have to sprinkle in some stuff from your New York City bucket list (or binge watch Netflix because sometimes a girls just gotta relax and turn her brain off). All of this leaves you tired, drained and honestly – not really wanting to exert your brain in trying to write a blog post that is the perfect amount of analytics, truth and wit.

It’s funny, really. I always thought this city would inspire me. Well, it definitely does it some ways, just not the ways I expected or wanted it to. I thought it would bring out this artistic, creative talent that was hidden inside of me, waiting for the right place to unlock it. I envisioned myself spending weekends at various coffee shops writing or working in Photoshop, drinking black coffee and fawning over men in turtle necks. But instead New York City has unlocked the determined fighter in me. The one who works her butt off at work, and pushes through throngs of people near Penn Station only to come home and squat her butt off in the gym. The one who is fixated on having it all – a killer job, a fit bod, a bustling social life, at least two planned vacations at a time and time to attend any and all the New York specific events she can.

You can imagine that in trying to do it all, the first few things that drop off your “to do” list are the ones that take the most heart, soul and mind. And for me that’s writing. It’s a shame because out of everything, writing is probably the one thing I want to be working on the most. But for some reason, New York won’t let me.

I think the problem is that in New York, I keep myself so busy that I don’t have time to truly assess and explore my feelings. I feel something for a second and then I’m thrown into a new project at work, forced to re-route my way home to avoid a rowdy group of men on the sidewalk or running out the door to meet up with friends and down a bottle of champagne at brunch.

I thought that this is what writers did. I thought they lived their lives to write about them. Instead I’m finding that it’s hard to do both. There’s being a writer (experiencing things that you plan to write about but never really finding the time to do so) and then there’s being a writer (focusing less on doing things you can write about and actually putting pen to paper). And I want to be one.

Love,

K

Daddy’s Girls

To be totally honest, I’ve been thinking about writing this post for quite some time now, but I’ve been putting it off. Why would I ever want to put off something that’s for our dad? The reasons are two-fold:

1. Even though A and I are normally pretty good at finding the right words – when it comes to our good ol’ Papa, there are literally no words that can do the man justice.

2. Because any time I even think about my dad for more than five seconds – I start to cry. It’s a strange reaction really. Normally that would indicate that we don’t have a good relationship or something. But it’s actually quite the contrary.

Our mom has always been our best friend. A and I both talk to her at least once a day. We call her when we’re happy. Sad. Bored. Hungry. Confused (typically paired with the hunger as we go to her for cooking help). And when we just need to complain. Our dad has always been a little envious of this relationship. There’s been a number of times where I’ll be whispering something to our mom in the kitchen and our dad will scream from the living room, “Huh? What are we talking about?!”

When you’re a girl, your mom will always be your best friend, your locked box of secrets and your role model.  But your dad will always be equally as special and necessary. I can’t speak for A (I know she feels the same but would probably articulate it differently) but for me, our dad is both my biggest weakness and my biggest strength.

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Like most good oxymorons, it’s hard to understand. How can my greatest strength also be my greatest weakness? I’ll try my best to explain…

We have a strong connection, my father and I. He’s the one who pushes me – without even meaning to. He’s the reason I strive to be bigger, better, and more mature in matters of the mind and the heart. In my moments of weakness I think of him and know that he would never want me to shed tears or feel hopeless – and so I try my best to brush it off and stand up tall, because I’m Samir Gautam’s daughter. But so often, it is this very thought that kicks me even more. To know how my father would feel knowing that I’m a part of the big, real world now and thus, how hurt and cut up I’ve been at times.

I guess it all comes back to dad’s wanting to protect their baby girl’s from the harsh realities of the world. I know as teenagers we all went through that phase where we thought our parents were overprotective and wouldn’t give us enough space to grow.

(A quick rush of ghost arguments came back to me just now. “I want a later curfew”. “But all my friends are going to this concert”. “I can drive six hours by myself”. “These shorts ARE NOT too short”. And as an adult I’d like to say – the concerts were always sketchy. The six hour drives got lonely. And now that I see teenage girls prance around as an outsider…the shorts were most probably too short.)

So now that we’ve grown we can tell you this, dad – we will always want and need your protection. No matter how old we get. The world can be scary and no one’s armor is stronger than yours.

Lots of love,

A + K

A New New Yorker | Tale 2

I’ve been sitting on tale two of this series for a while – eagerly anticipating the next event that would inspire me to write. It hasn’t happened yet. So, I’m going to try to write on my lack of inspiration. Is this every writer’s nightmare or just mine?

I moved to New York City nearly a month ago now. My list of expectations was long and honestly, at this point, forgotten. Despite the move having happened not even a month ago, I can’t remember what all I had dreamt of – I can only remember how these hopes and dreams were unmet.

I think I thought it would be something like the opening credits to Sex and the City, where Carrie Bradshaw is fabulously strutting about the streets with a bright-eyed smile and a confidence only a character in a TV show can have. The sky behind her, blue as can be with some very picturesque cumulus clouds floating across the Chrysler building. Skip to the end of the video, the part where she gets splashed by a taxi cab – yup, that’s more like it.

Let me give you an example. One of the first thing I saw today was a man – how do I say this in a pretty, flowery way…I can’t…the man was literally peeing right outside the subway and I unfortunately saw it all! Last week on my way to work, I had to stop and gag up a little in a nearby trash can (which they should really put more of those around because if you look at the sidewalks you will clearly see that there is a lot of trash) because I couldn’t handle the various scents of NYC. Wet dogs, urine, dead fish – to name a few.

I know, I’m being a total Debby Downer. I don’t want to be! In fact, my least favorite question has quickly become “how are you liking it so far”, because it is for some reason impossible for me to lie and then I have to gently tell these happy New Yorkers that I have yet to fall in love with their home. A wants to kill me every time I talk about it and I’m sure I’ll get some backlash for writing about it.

But I think what I’ve learned so far is…

1. No matter where I go, I can’t leave behind who I am. I thought that this move would help redefine me – change me. But what I’m realizing is that even a new place can’t do that. Only I can. And getting myself to a place where I’m ready to let go of the past and embrace the present and future is a lot harder than packing up my apartment and leaving a city.

2. I’ve come to see that my present never seems as wonderful as it really is. While I’m living it, I’m discontent. Waiting for the next chapter. But when I look back, I ache for it. I’ve always heard those cheesy “the present is a present” quotes and dismissed them. Because well…that just sounds dumb. But learning to live in the moment and cherish it while you have it is so much better than regretting your lack of appreciation for it later in life.

So despite my less than warm feelings about The Big Apple – I’m going to make a public promise to give it a real chance. Feel free to keep me an honest woman here, guys.

With love,

K

A New New Yorker | Tale 1

Well, I’ve done it – I’m a New Yorker! At least, as much as I can be five days into my move here. I’ve mostly spent my first week here taking a mental break from work, actually hitting the gym, going out on solo expeditions and giving an excessive amount of love to my puppy nephew Kingston.

The more time I spend in this city, the more I come to see the difference between New Yorkers and the rest of the world. It first hit me at a Moth GrandSLAM event – where people take the stage to share their own personal stories with the audience. There I realized, through both the stories and audience participation, that New Yorkers are unapologetically themselves. They aren’t afraid to (in my Midwest opinion, over) share tidbits of themselves with complete strangers – no matter how dirty the truth is. People sent slips, though anonymous, up to the host during judging breaks telling tales of “that time I got stuck in a sand dune during a threesome” or “when I did cocaine with the guy that I was in love with…and his girlfriend”. Actual performers shared in their struggles with depression, losing loved ones and accidental viewing of child pornography.

On the streets of New York, you’ll see completely normal city dwellers fully embracing themselves – whether that means wearing what I perceive to be a ridiculous outfit, having open and loud conversations about their weekend activities or driving down the street with the windows down, putting on a Beyonce-inspired show for everyone.

At times I would have found all of this alarming and, for lack of better word, improper. I have not been raised to catch attention of strangers or overshare my personal stories. But now, just five days into my move, these people make me smile. To be yourself, so unfiltered for the world to see, is such a beautiful thing.

As I’ve shared with all of you before, one of the things I’ve personally been seeking is a better understanding of myself. Maybe it’s because I’m 23 and that’s too young to truly know you, or maybe it’s because I stayed in one city for eight years, not pushing past my comfort zone. Whatever it is, I’m confident that taking a few years to grow in a place where people are comfortable to explore and be themselves is just what I need.