In case you’re wondering what this series of posts is in regards to I had a recent stint in a Seattle hospital after being assaulted. Details on the “why, what, when, how” here.
OK everyone prepare yourself I’m about to shock you; nope, blow your minds even! Hang on, no, even better, I’m about to turn your world upside down bitches! Are you ready? Are you sure? OK, here goes… 3… 2… 1… I’m an Indian. There, I said it. Well, no, that’s a lie, I’m half Indian, and no it’s not “Woa, woa, woa” Native American Indian, I am in fact half curry-munching-bad-BO-thank-you-very-much-come-again Indian. Can you believe it?!
I’m surprised more people don’t figure it out for themselves to be honest. I mean my name is “Raj” after all but then again my skin is about as dark as an extremely over-milked cup of tea. You know, that brown that kind of sits in between blood-nut white and tanning-salon-addict orange. The point is I get mistaken for pretty much every other nationality besides Indian. Italian, Spanish, French, Cuban, fuck I’ve even had Thai and Chinese! In most cases I’ll generally respond with a correction of “Nah mate I’m `stral-yan” (Not really, I speak the Queen’s English) not actually letting them in on the fact that I’m also part Indian.
Now there’s plenty of reasons that this is probably the case, the biggest of which is that I was never brought up with a great exposure to an Indian culture, but if I’m to be honest with myself one of the real reasons is more likely to be that I’m a bit ashamed. Indian’s don’t get the best rap when it comes to social acceptance in Western culture. They smell, they take our call centre jobs, they drive our cabs, their heads wobble as they talk, etc, etc, the list goes on.
It took the shit kicking of a lifetime for me to re-evaluate my own perception of Indians but I’m glad it came about. Whilst in hospital in Seattle I had three different Indian nurses, two male, one female. One of them in particular “Vic” was there from day one, he would come in every couple of hours and check my sugar level, empty my urinals and then leave again as quickly as he had arrived. It was like clockwork, he was never late, he never pried, he was always professional and proud of what he was doing. I would watch him come in and perform the routine meticulously time and time again until on the third day, when my senses had begun to return, I finally asked him his name and where he was from. After a brief conversation, one that is almost identical to every conversation I have with a newly met Indian; “I’m half Indian”, “No, Dad’s Indian”, “He’s Punjabi”, and finally “No I don’t speak Hindi”, Vic left and we barely spoke another word until it was my day to leave and we said goodbye and good luck.
What amazed me most about Vic was just how professionally he went about everything. He wasn’t being a snob he knew that I didn’t want to talk, he just went about what he had to do and did it with the upmost of attention and decorum. It took me a while, but when I thought about it the majority of Indians I’ve encountered in their workplace did the same. They work hard, they do jobs no one else wants to (I mean the guy was emptying my piss into a toilet for Christ’s sake) and they do it proudly as best they can. Vic’s work demeanor made me proud to be Indian, made me feel almost guilty that I, at times, can be a pre-madonna when it comes to working matters and most importantly made me want to be better. It was much needed inspiration.
Professional pride is however only half of the story because what happened after that first conversation is more of the amazing culture that is India. You see, once it was established that I was of Indian blood the grapevine did a’flutter. Eevery Indian within a 50km radius knew of my situation within a matter of minutes. By the end of the day I’d met three more Indian nurses and by the next day I had my Dad’s extended family calling me to take me in as soon as I returned to Toronto. I swear the gay rumour network stole their schematics from the Indians, either that or they outsourced its construction to them!
Indian’s accept any as their own, if you’re Indian you are family. My Mum and I were talking about this the other day because of how confusing it makes things when you’re actually trying to figure out who’s a blood relative and who isn’t. For example, every Indian male I meet who is friend of my father is my “uncle” and any Indian I meet of my generation is my “brother”. They have an unbelievable sense of family, something I’ve unknowingly inherited in the way I always put family before anything, but never really understood how passionately I do so as what I believe to be a result of my Indian genetics.
Hospital was an eye opener on my heritage. I’m not about to whack on a turban and migrate to “the homeland”, that’s not what I’m getting at all, but the next time someone asks me about my background that silly feeling of shame isn’t going to be there any more.
P.S. I’m not just saying all this because Indian beat Australia in the cricket either :)