Representation

One woman’s/man’s views ≠ all women’s/men’s views

One LGBTQ individual’s views ≠ all LGBTQ’s individuals views

One *insert cultural/religious/socioeconomic group here* views ≠ the views of all *insert cultural/religious/socioeconomic group here* viewsWhy? Each man, each woman, each poor person, and so on is different. Why? Each are ultimately individuals with unique experiences.It is impossible, ultimately, to be a true voice for all groups or even people. Not even the most immaculately-designed research in the world can claim to be fully representative.

This sounds really obvious, but it isn’t. I often read articles about people claiming to represent entire groups, sometimes of those I belong to, but I cannot relate at all to despite the fact they claim to speak for me. Then there are times I most certainly can, but many from the same groups I belong to do not.

For example, I am a woman and I think and talk a lot about gender issues. And while sometimes I spout certain views I know many women agree with, or from my own personal experiences, I still cannot sit here and say I speak honestly on behalf of all women. Because I am not (sorry Whitney Houston, RIP) “every woman.” My experiences derive from my unique life circumstances that differ remarkably from another woman’s. There are many who disagree with my views, and they have every right to being women themselves. Their voices are as legitimate as mine, even if I may disagree passionately with them.

But sometimes I meet people who, when trying to argue a point, bring up certain individuals who agree with them from that group. Or they state they are a woman/from that religious group etc…as if that rests the case. When it doesn’t at all. Be humble enough to realize your life does not represent everybody else’s, not even your sister’s, the most genetically alike to you.

I think it bears reminding because it is easy to forget that each individual is different; we cannot always claim to know what they are thinking, or who they are, what they feel and believe, simply based on the group they come from. Sometimes we can have a good, general idea, but never the whole. And that is because each individual is more than the boxes the world artificially constructs for them.

When we forget that the tribe one hails from does not fully represent one’s life, we forget to truly listen and hear another person’s voice. Sometimes, we can even forget our own in all this group identification. We cannot truly be there for another if they need help. We cannot authentically connect. We can even end up imposing our own will onto them because “it worked for one person from your group/country/gender etc…”, so it should work for you.

Just take down your preconceived notions from time to time and hear another out.

Going Beyond India is Weird

I recently read a post on Thought Catalog titled, How India Changed Us.” In short, the article featured the travel perspectives of two young Americans who recently bicycled across India. Their account was condescending; an eloquently expressed unoriginal piece at best. I can’t even count the amount of times they recounted how traveling in India made them feel “lucky to be American.” While I don’t believe the duo were intentionally being racist they unwittingly approached a sensitive matter in, as one commentator put it, a “less than enlightened manner.”

What surprised me most was not their depiction of India, but the response of many other Indians to the article. A few were upset. Many were not. If anything, they were complimentary -– and critical of those who had issues with the piece. One individual stated:“I think a lot of the time people fall into the trap of immediately branding something as racist if it doesn’t fit into his/her idea of what is appropriate. I understand that, but I really hope we can move past that.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of writing. Nor is it the first time I’ve seen a positive response to it from fellow South Asians. Sadly, I think that sometimes South Asians get so excited about being represented in a media outlet, they ignore the fact the depiction may not be entirely accurate or balanced. Or maybe, like the writers, they’re not even aware of it themselves.

When you’re a Westerner writing about a country like India in public, or a region like the Middle East or Africa, you have a responsibility to be careful given the historical context.

Instead of offering something “interesting” or “original,” readers were offered the same overdone, condescending, Orientalist, being-in-India-made-me-appreciate-amazing-America cliché. It offered a very superficial image of India. The same image we’ve seen time and time again. It was disappointing, especially from a website that claims, “You’re going to discover stories, ideas, and voices here that you won’t find in the mainstream media.”

Why do I resent the image of India portrayed in “How India Changed Us”? Because it ignores the myriad, complex reasons for India’s status quo. India, like many former colonies, finds itself mired in social inequality and poverty for many reasons, some internal but also external. Corrupt governments. A colonial legacy. Unfair international trade practices, which contribute to farmer suicides by organizations dominated by — or at least traced to — the United States, such as the World Trade Organization. These are just a few examples.

But none of these issues are even touched upon in this article. It simply parrots the same old, “Indians are backwards,” “India is weird” trope we see time and time again. While nobody expects these two young bicyclists to offer 10 paragraphs narrating the various back stories behind India’s many troubles, the fact that the article was published in its current form continues a troubling precedent.

The dialogue seen in “How India Changed Us” is particularly significant today. It adopts the kind of approach that breeds First World resentment. For Americans to present themselves as morally superior, when we have helped install authoritarian governments and have contributed to many of the problems in the developing world smacks of hypocrisy.

Now, I’m sure the writers didn’t intentionally mean to insult. They probably just wanted to talk about their radical bicycling trip. But because the post appears on a public site, Thought Catalog, and only serves the purpose of reinforcing American stereotypes regarding countries like India, it’s irresponsible to share yet another article like this one without at least offering a balanced counter-narrative. Every story has two sides. And this one is lacking.

I published this here: http://theaerogram.com/going-beyond-india-is-weird/

Let Go – Glimpses of Doodles I am Working On


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Every time I create one of these doodles, I feel like I am lifted into this stunningly beautiful space where I am deeply in touch with my feminine, the Indian in me, my playful inner child. My thoughts go silent and my heart takes over. The more I delve into this space, it’s like a cleansing and I can see who I am – a spiritual practice more powerful for me than meditation even. Somehow, my doodles are helping me metamorphose from caterpillar to butterfly.

That is pretty funny to me as these are feelings I searched again and again for in philosophy and spiritual books and teachers – really, in every domain of my life – yet somehow I am finding them by allowing myself to simply…doodle. I constantly ask myself questions like: How do I re-connect with my true self and intuition? Live a life that is calm, free, creative, playful and not stressed and like it belongs to somebody else? Joyful and fulfilled? Feminine and passionate?

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Then like a serious student and adult, I’d grab at every serious book or teacher on the subject I could find, or work, relationships, etc…I’d get mad at myself when my focus would stray elsewhere to the doodles on my journal. and other seemingly unimportant tasks. “Pay attention! This is serious work to help you connect with your true self, understand life, and embrace your purpose etc…” I’d sternly command to myself, only to find myself resisting even more. Until it dawned me a few months ago that this voice of resistance was not the problem but the solution – this is the voice of my inner child and true self screaming at me to get real and surrender.

So I started to allow myself to doodle and just “resist”. And I realized: How do I become playful? Drop the control. How do I listen to my intuition? Drop the control. How do I live a life of passion? Simple – just let yourself. You are already full of passion. People tell me that all the time. See it. Feel. Accept it.

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There is no need for so much serious speculation all the time – just play and live. I am realizing more and more nowadays it’s the adult in me that sometimes is more of hindrance to my life and happiness than anything. It’s the inner kid in me that is my true self and vibrant and beautiful – she has something gorgeous to express and she shined magnificently when she was younger, before certain painful experiences and the superficial world’s limiting beliefs got in the way. From my doodles, I am learning that the more I get aligned with her and listen to her, the more my life flows.

Funny how it is the  most seemingly insignificant, tiny things that are often the catalyst for great transformation if only we’d slow down and awaken to it.

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