“Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”
Lately I’ve realized, that for the past few years I’ve been on the defensive. I’ve been defending my choices to a lot of different people who don’t really matter. From classmates at the university, to nosey neighbours and on one occasion to even a random person at the supermarket, I’ve felt the need to stop and explain. My mind tells me not to. To simply ignore and go on but my heart wants to set things right. But what I’ve lately come to realize is that perhaps there is no setting somethings, or rather some people right.
I am a Muslim. I follow Islam. I have a good relationship with God. Agreed, I tend to reach out to him more when I am in distress than at any other time, but then don’t we all. I am also an Indian in a foreign land. I hold an Indian passport. I am a woman and I am brown. I am not size zero, or one or two. I wear a a size 14. I don’t cover my head. I don’t speak with an exaggerated Indian accent nor do I bob my head weirdly. I can run a mile in 13 minutes and I am comfortable and happy at the gym just as same as I am at the park, running after my 3 year old. I don’t carry bombs and I don’t wanna blow people up. And as I’ve lately been made very aware of, my currency is not US dollars. This is who I am and I don’t see much of this changing any time ever.
Why do you with your holier than thou attitude feel the need to question me? Yes you, you who wear a hijab, what makes you think that you are any better a Muslim than I am? Why? Because you cover your head? Did you just forget that ours is a religion that preaches tolerance? Please align your actions with what the religion preaches, your choice of clothes can follow later. And you, you who used to be my friend but have begun to avoid me since you came to know my religion. Does my faith really matter? You know me, you know the movies I like, the music I listen to. You laugh at my jokes, you like my Chicken Tikka, you think I make the best desserts, yet why did my fasting for a month scare you away from me? When did my religion begin to define me? Now you, yes you, the wide eyed woman in the plane, I see you stealing glances at my husband. Not cause you think he is hot, but because he has a beard and somewhere in your heart you believe this bearded man is going to blow up the plane. Did you not see his wife and his newborn child with him. Did you not see how lovingly he was cuddling the little one? Did you not see him helping me with everything? How could you only see a beard and fear us? How? Where is your common sense?
I am not even going to acknowledge you, you who thought a woman’s place was at her man’s feet. You do not deserve my words. I only have contempt for you.
Yes, I am an Indian but I am not a joke. Yes, the stereotypes speak weird. It sounds weird to us too. I laugh with you cause I can take a joke. Please grow up. I cannot believe you exist in today’s world were we are International citizens. How can you live in such a multicultural neighbourhood and harbor such a narrow mentality. Wake up, now! Your breed of narrow minded bigots are going out of fashion.
Which brings me to you, you who is the head of a multinational company. You, who is entrusted with getting the best resources to work for you. How could you look past my double Masters in Communication? How could you look past my years of experience? How could you not see I have an exemplary work record? How could you ignore my excellent academic credentials? How could you not even notice the amazing letters of recommendations my former employers wrote for me? How could you not see the passion in my voice? How could you only concentrate on my passport? How? When did my citizenship become more important than my capabilities? And how dare you tell me that you would have hired me if I had a Western citizenship? You would make great team with that narrow minded bigot. Peas in a pod anyone?
Speaking of peas, I like mine mushy with some butter on top. Thank you! If you, eating your 75 calorie salad, have an issue with it then so be it. I like my chocolate, I like my ice cream and I like my pizza. You skinny b******s, standing by the treadmill at the gym, appear shocked at this only cause secretly you want it too. Get on that treadmill and run a while and then perhaps, just perhaps I might listen to you. So enough with your ‘health guru’ mode, I’m bored already. I warn you, if you keep it up, I might chase you down and you know I can, you’ve seen me kill it on the treadmill, and what’s worse, I might sit on you and eat my bar of chocolate. So begone, weird women!
And finally you, you who truly shocked me last week. You were so nice to me on the phone. You did not detect a brown face at the end of the line. You welcomed me so warmly and you took my reservations with unflagging enthusiasm. Yet, when you saw me, I saw your smile dim a little. I saw it perk up again when our white friends joined us. I saw you tripping over yourself to make sure their every need was met while you somehow forgot to fill our glasses with water. You saw to it that all their song requests were played by the inhouse band while our request for a birthday song somehow got buried under piles and piles of requests. You shocked me cause I thought you were the last person who would discriminate based on colour, seeing how your race has always been victims to sad stereotypes and subsequent discriminations. I thought I would always have you on my side fighting these discriminations. You truly made me sad. And then you surprised me when I saw you wide eyed smile reappear as we brought out the US dollar bills to pay for the meal. And just like that, you were warm again. You offered a little treat for the road and walked us to the car. Just then, you made me realize the existence of a new kind of discrimination, one that was based on the currency we wield. I was blissfully ignorant to it until you came along. My colour did not matter, the currency in my hand did. Would you feel differently about us if you knew those were leftover bills from a vacation? That for our next visit (if there ever will be one) we will we using the local currency? Your currency? You amaze me.
So I’m done. I’m done trying to tell why I am the way I am. I’m done explaining my choices to you. I’m gonna shut my mind to you, just as you have shut your mind to me. You shall not have me anymore. I have as much a right as you to exist in this world. Not anymore, not any less but just as much as you. I will not shake my head and sigh deeply. I am done with that. I’m done defending.