#THE CHUNNI PROJECT

Tumblr: @masakalii

Being born and raised in the US to immigrant parents has always made me question my identity. In America, I am known as an Indian girl, but when I go to India, I am known as the American girl. So what am I?

When I think back to my childhood, I never noticed these differences. Fortunately, I grew up in a very diverse area so I never got the feeling of being treated differently by other people. I was just a normal kid, but one thing made me question this. It was my name, Manika. At school, no one could pronounce it. They would ask me “Oh, Can I call you Man?” or “Manny?”. I kept saying no, and told them to call them by my actual name, but no one bothered to even try. I kept questioning it, why no one could pronounce my name, everyone at my house could. I slowly became more and more frustrated, till I realized that it would be best to change the pronunciation of my name to fit in with society, “Monica”. This didn’t upset me, I know that I was still Manika no matter how people pronounced my name. Though the pronunciation change made me seem more American, I know that I was never perceived as fully American. Till this day, whenever a professor calls my name I always prepare myself to correct him/her. “Maneka?” “It is Monica!”.  Or when someone asks me my name “Oh it is Monica, M - A -N - I - K - A”. Who knows how many times I have said these words. 

Monica is now a part of me, I am not complete without. I used Monica for my advantage and it made me more confident. After years of using Monica, it is what I have become. I am the same person Manika or “Monica”. 

Now in India, I am only known as Manika. Though I am Indian, I don’t ever feel like I am fully Indian. I act differently, I have an accent while speaking Hindi etc. I am just different, and a lot of people try to make that a point. They will speak mostly English with me, even though I can perfectly understand Hindi. Some people have also tried to embarrass me by making speaking in Hindi in front of a lot people. Like I know I have a huge accent, doesn’t mean it is your source of entertainment. There was also a time at a party, where they were playing music, and little old shy me didn’t want to dance and this girl comes up to me “Oh, do you not understand the music??”. I just found it so odd, like what do you mean I don’t know this music? I don’t live under a rock. I think the perception Indian’s have on foreign Indian’s need to change. It sucks to feel like an outsider in your own homeland, either it be USA or India.

With the recent rise of brown girl movements like this one, and Reclaim the Bindi as well as many others, I have found a new confidence for myself. I am proud of being a brown girl. I am proud of my culture. I will go out in a kurti, and have people stare at me and all I can think is “Good, because I know I look fabulous”. I would have never felt this before and I am really appreciative of all these brown people coming together and showing the world. I know I am not fully American or Indian, but that is what makes me unique. I am my own breed, as long as I self identify with myself I don’t need labels. 

Thank you for this project!

Anyway! This took me like an hour to write and there will probably me tons of mistakes in it (oops). But yea! This picture is of me at the Golden Temple last year in January….

Lots of brown girl love from your local punjabi kuddi~ 

–Manika 

I literally just saw explain cultural appropriation as someone getting a F for doing something and another person getting an A for doing the same thing. The thing being from the first person’s culture but not from the second person’s culture. Surely you would blame the teacher instead of the second student?

People who criticise Indians/black people for wearing bindis/dreadlocks and then think its cool when white people do the same are the racists. That doesn’t make the white people who expose this racism when wearing things from other cultures racist.

Tumblr is completely misinterpreting cultural appropriation and is taking it way too far, to the point where its now opposing multiculturalism.

Why is it that I have yet to see dark skinned Indian women being the main character in an Indian movie or show and most of the background dancers in Indian movies are white… Why is that??? This is why so many brown people struggle with their self imagine.. Show more dark skinned desi people and stop trying to tell us that being light skin is the answer to all of our problems or being of darker skin complexion is ugly!! Beauty comes in every color!! Don’t try to tell us otherwise