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Grievances of the Indian American

Grievances of the Indian American
Grievances of the Indian American
By Ishani Mehta
Every race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc. has faced the challenges institutions inherently will be forced to face. I aim to illustrate some of my frustrations as an Indian American. A lot of these are really specific, but my main message is to encourage people to educate themselves to the best of their abilities and to encourage people to stop assuming things about others based on something as trivial as skin color or a last name.


In India, henna is a plant. It is used for mendhi, the paste applied to the hands and feet in intricate designs, especially during weddings. Henna is also used to naturally dye hair (it’s a reddish-brownish color), and in beauty treatments in general. The designs you get applied at carnivals and state fairs, that’s MENDHI, not HENNA.

Gandhi NOT Ghandi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was one of the world’s greatest civil rights leaders and greatest influencers. His name is spelled G-A-N-D-H-I. However, it is often misspelled as “Ghandi.” I have never seen a published or marketed misspelling of “Martin Luther King Jr.” or “Nelson Mandela.” He signed his name in English; it’s time we learn how to spell it.

Indian vs. Hindu vs. Hindi

I am an Indian; my heritage lies in the Indian subcontinent. I am a Hindu, or a believer of Hinduism. Not all Indians are Hindu, and not all Hindus are Indian. Though I do not speak it, Hindi is the language that my grandmother grew up speaking (I am more proficient in Gujarati, the language of the state of Gujarat). I do not speak ‘Indian,’ just as you do not speak ‘American.’


“So how do you celebrate Easter?” Well, how do you celebrate Diwali or Navaratri? I’m assuming you don’t. If anything, your family might go out to an Indian restaurant, to celebrate globalization and the reminder that is auto-implanted into your calendar. That’s how my family is with Easter; when we were little, we might go to the local park and collect eggs with jelly beans and quarters, but our involvement never evolved past anything Hallmark couldn’t handle. Now we enjoy Good Friday off and use the extra days to visit colleges.

Religious Images on EVERYTHING

Culturally appropriating the bindi is sometimes excusable – after all, they are becoming more fashion-oriented in the motherland herself. However, I find it incredibly insensitive, when I see images of aspects of god that I’ve learned to love and respect on socks at Urban Outfitters, on tee-shirts at Wildfox, and toilet seats. Most people wouldn’t react well to a picture of Jesus on socks; we shouldn’t react well to other religious icons on socks either. I am tired of seeing the om symbol on feet, too; they are a religious and meditative symbol, not a way to be edgy. “Nama-stop” with the cultural insensitivity. I don’t mind these symbols and images being used (I even want an om tattoo myself); I mind them being exploited and being used in an uneducated context.


Hatha Yoga is a core aspect of Hindu philosophy. It is defined as the use of physical poses, called Asana, and meditation on a spiritual path towards God. The Hindu tradition doesn’t want ownership of yoga, but it most definitely wants to be recognized as the origins of this art. However, sources like Yoga Journal have been known to avoid allusions to yoga’s Hindu origins, because they claim the word Hindu “carries too much baggage.” Yoga, in all its forms, is central to the Hindu experience; it deserves to be taught that way. Join the Hindu American Foundation’s “Take Back Yoga” campaign to help distinguish the tie between yoga and Hinduism.


Someone explain this one to me – I have no clue what is means. Never in my life have I ever heard an Indian person refer to anything as “curry.” When people tell me they love Indian curry, I smile and nod because I have no clue what food you are trying to refer to.

“All Indians look the same”

Do all white people look the same? No. Do all brown people look the same? No. I have spent my entire life almost completely surrounded by white people, and I try my very hardest to learn everyone’s name, to learn people well enough that I can differentiate them, but more importantly, differentiate them based on their looks and their personality. Please pay brown people the same respect.

Being seen as only a poor, 3rd-world country

India is a beautiful place. It is colorful, vibrant, ancient and modern. It is cultured and diverse and absolutely breathtaking. It is, however, still developing as a consequence of its history (see: colonialism). I understand that poverty is very real, but don’t show me only the ugly parts of India in the classroom. I want to see the landscapes and the rickshas and the happy people, Don’t show me only the ugly, poverty-stricken slums of India; it hurts.

Airport Security

One of my favorite things is when my older cousin goes to the airport. On his Snapchat, he posts “Gonna get ‘randomly selected’ lol.” It feels like every time, right after that, there’s a follow-up Snap on his Story: “Holy what I actually got selected!” Stop checking my dad every single time. Stop checking my 12-year-old brother. Your “random” selection skills suck. Also, learn the difference between Sikhs, Muslims, and all other turban wearers.

Ishani Mehta About the Author

Ishani Mehta will be a senior at Mountain Lakes High School in the fall of 2017. In addition to writing, she enjoys Taekwondo, competitive garba, and community service.

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