diaspora talk

I realize myfeelings are extremely diaspora-focused, and holds most true for the desi diaspora in the U.S. bc I haven’t seen much about how diaspora culture and organizations work in other countries. Or how things work in India. But according to my mom, this problem is present in its own ways in India. This problem being the one of North India as the Real Representation of India.

how is it “self-flagellating” to criticize our community for our antiblackness? how is it “self-flagellating” to say that far too many in the east asian community think that we’ve assimilated into whiteness when we’ve been whittled down to “ninja kungfu fighting” caricatures with “funny” accents by the very same people we keep whitesplaining for? don’t come to me with your analysis on how we’re second class citizens to white people and then stay quiet when it comes to antiblackness among our own. you’ll yell to the heavens about needing “poc solidarity” because you want black people to do the fighting for you and in the same breath talk about how it isn’t our job to address their suffering. news flash: black people don’t owe us anything and antiblackness hurts us too. poc solidarity is a myth because of our silence about the suffering of black people.

i don’t really know how to say this: 

it’s frustrating when us people belonging to the diaspora spend a lot of time convincing people that our countries are “advanced” or romanticizing aspects of “our” countries when the people that actually live in those countries themselves are demanding change on the daily. 

it’s almost like when we spend time talking about how great (for example) pakistan is and decrying all criticism towards pakistan we also end up throwing actual, native pakistanis making the same criticisms under the bus. People that have been born in and lived in pakistan for their entire lives can tell you about their struggles and how much they want change and their grievances with the state, and a thousand miles away diaspora kids will talk about how negative portrayals of pakistan are a western phenomenon…while actual pakistanis are the ones making those criticisms. 

We talk over ACTUAL indians/pakistanis/bangladeshis etc all the live long day and we should just remember that the problems of south asians in south asia should take precedence over whatever love story we have with our “home” countries that we treat like vacation spots.

sry this is super unedited oh well this is a blog so whatevs

To me, being diaspora’d means a million painful feelings about language and indadquacy. Being diaspora’d means I got to do an ESL test before kindergarten, but the education I got after it has left me feeling like English is not my second language, but rather the only language I can speak anymore. Where is my first language? Language other than English spoken at home? Yes. But not by me. Not anymore, at least. Not in years and years and years. Being diaspora’d is being left out of diaspora because you don’t have your language. Being diaspora’d is no place for you, even where you thought there’d be. Being diaspora’d is your fellow diaspora’d folks believing in or acting like there’s a homogenized diasporic culture; one that erases you. That includes language. Being diaspora’d means wondering how much your possible future children will hurt, because you can’t even share your first language with them. Being diaspora’d is wondering if people will look down on you. Being diaspora’d is feeling awkward and terrible and hoping you’ll pass out when you get handed a phone to say “happy birthday” to someone or to hear a relative say “happy birthday” to you. Being diaspora’d is hoping your grandma has given up hope on listening to you speak, because as painful as that thought is, it’s even more painful to let her down when the phone is handed to you and you have nothing to say. Being diaspora’d and not speaking your parents’ language anymore is wondering if you’re part of the problem.

Do you feel like you have no right to your “motherland” or the land where your parents or grandparents or ancestors came from? Like, you feel you can’t call yourself as from there only. And do you feel like you don’t deserve to have a right to it? What right do I have to call a place my own when my tongue, my mouth hasn’t formed words in the language my grandparents speak since before I started school.

I just want someone else to care

I just want to make people understand how exciting it is to me when someone that people know is south indian

I just want to make people understand how exciting it is to me when someone is writing about something close to my experience bc the person writing it comes from the same state in india my parents do

i also get embarrassed when i get excited and it would help assuage the embarrassment if i wasn’t alone

Home is only in people (including yourself) because there is no place for you. Places don’t work the same when you were transplanted at less than 2 years old. It’s basically like being born in the second place. You don’t remember the less than 2 years in your birth country. You remember growing up here. You remember being a child here. When all the home you know was created by love and people who spoke words to you in languages not made for the ears of the people of this land. When you lost that language because you’re a stubborn, embarrassed failure of an immigrant child (you’re not really a failure, but that’s what you think). And “motherland” is a word that fills you with guilt because you can never feel for it (her?) the way others can and you would feel like a fake if you told yourself you did. And everything you do feels wrong, but remember that you’ve made it this far and you haven’t wreaked any major havoc on anyone else and you’re alive and that counts for something.

South Asian American history pre-1965 gets me. Like, wow. Idk. It was just so amazing to learn about South Asians who existed in the U.S. before ‘65. (For those who don’t know, '65 is when the Hart-Celler Act was passed, after which Asian immigration increased a lot.) 'Cuz when we look at post-65 immigration, the focus tends to be on brain drain and on the immigration of professionals (and also on solely or mostly India instead of all of South Asia, I think). But the story is so much more complex than that (what about people of lower SES??)! And South Asians have been in the U.S. for longer than that!! And we don’t usually get to learn about that!!

what does it mean when ‘the homeland’ does not feel like home at all?

I know what it means - it means that when you don’t grow up somewhere, it makes total sense to not feel the same sense of attachment to it as someone who did grow up there would.

but idk!!! for a while i felt so out of place bc it seemed like 'authenticity’ was measured in ~activist spaces~ or whatever as like, a real desire for the homeland, for feeling home in the homeland, etc

but I know with so much of me that that could never happen for me. going back to india, to keep it to the truest sense of homeland, would be nothing like here for me (i know for other people it would be different, just cuz of where you’d be living, but u know)

and all my memories of trying to speak malayalam are just full of like shame and being made fun of (which for sure was magnified by being a self conscious kid but i mean, come on, what kid doesn’t find that hurtful). how is that home?

and i grew up here. and everyone i love is here. (w/ the exception of extended family. but isn’t that a different kind of love? i don’t really know them, you know). and 99% of what I know i learned here.

this is why i found it kind of hard to believe that people were really being real about all that talk about the homeland even though i know other people’s experiences are different and i shouldn’t be a jerk lol

i dont actuallly have anything against the actual dances or music but

but hearing the words ‘bhangra’ or 'garba’ make me just not pay attention anymore (either that or get mildly annoyed) bc its boring that those are the only “south asian” (yeah cuz bhangra and garba together represents all of the region(s) amirite) things that exist on a large scale

do what u want just dont pretend ur doin something awesomely new when u make it an event for ur club

also i will use any chance i get to hate on the “south asian” american club on campus so this post is also dedicated to hatin on them

what about my potential future babies whose mother tongue will be english (unless I end up not living in an English-speaking country??/or not having babies)

do you relegate them to less, for the faults of their mother

whose fault it really isn’t

if i speak to them in english, does that diminish the love i (know i will) have for them?

tbh half the time I don’t feel bad for being mad at other indian(-american)s for being complicit in “lol you’re indian and you know nothing about bollywood?” thing bc sometimes it’s hard to be sympathetic toward the fact that yes, it’s just diasporic people drinking up the manufactured idea of what it means to be who they are

i think i’m allowed to be mad at people who frustrate me

It bothers me when people (who speak your language/‘mother tongue’) say you should speak your language more but then they’re the same people that make fun of you/others for speaking it with an accent or doing it badly.


it’s gr8 that you’re doing the thing that made me really not want to practice speaking when I was younger

super gr8! super good job at proving that you actually care about people learning their language!!

(I’m speaking about making fun of people whose mother tongue/parent’s language IS the language in question)

I don’t really know the right way to talk about this, but I guess that’s what writing it out is for, to figure it out. I guess I can just ask a questions and see if anyone can help me out, actually.. does anyone know if there are any writings on looking at ‘tradition’ vs 'breaking tradition’ in a context other than 'tradition’ = 'east’ and 'breaking tradition’ = 'west’ ? Or talking about why looking at it like that is, ~for lack of a better term~, problematic?

bc I would never wanna say that west is better than east bc obviously that’s v orientalist and i don’t believe it at all, but i feel if someone tries to talk about tradition (i know, very general) and problems with it, whatever specific tradition it may be, there’s this assumption that it must be about how the east is inferior or smth

but i wanna talk abt it and that’s not what i mean at all

maybe this problem comes bc we always wanna defend ourselves and our cultures, and i get that.. buuut when we are so often talking within our own groups, can’t we take a break from that please and really interrogate how patriarchy and other stuff operates w/in our own spaces through tradition and through this uncritical support of tradition in the name of preserving culture? going a traditional route (for the most part) worked out for my parents, and other people, including people my age, so i’m not trying to say it’s bad for everyone

but it’s pressing down on me and its part of the reason i impose this self-repression on myself and its keeping me from going where i want to go, and i know for other people too, and i also do not understand why things should be done some way JUST BECAUSE “tradition”.. so how do we interrogate this while making clear that we’re not talking about a west is better than east thing? bc that’s not what i’m trying to say, bc obviously 'breaking tradition’ can happen in any part of the world and being 'traditional’ can happen in any part of the world too

i dont know what im trying say NO I do know what i’m trying to say but idk how to clearly convey it without fumbling it up with a lot of disclaimers and making it essentially unintelligible ugh but hopefully someone gets it

thinkin bout how

many of us come from places where our families lived and still live in places where you take bucket baths and you have to boil the water on the stove (probably a wood stove) if you want warm water

there is a road behind my dad’s parents’ house now, so you don’t have to take a boat across the river to reach it/that side of the river, but that doesn’t mean everything about the place has changed you know? you still wash clothes and dishes in the river

on the way back from a thing for our internship, we were all riding in the car together back home, and this girl was saying how when she visited her mom’s family (she’s guatemalan) she was tryna take a bath but her aunt was washing dishes at the same time


we all have stories yeah

and i don’t know where this is going


- i dont live anything like that here

- what is my relation to “there”

- what does any of this mean

you know that intense longing for a place but also knowing how it’s hard for you to be completely comfortable there with your extended family because you don’t completely belong there and when you’re an adult it’s kind of embarrassing, but even moreso really inconvenient for everyone involved, that your parents have to speak for you because you can’t really speak the language (or even if you did, no one would understand you bc your accent would be atrocious)

I don’t want to resent anyone for the sense of community they may feel. Because that’s really great and I AM happy that people get to feel that with each other. But sometimes it’s just really frustrating or a kind of dull pain that I feel like I don’t share many commonalities with other diasporic South Asian, or even specifically Indian, folk. Like, in the sense of things we do or can have inside jokes about or enjoy together or whatEVER you know. I feel like my commonalities start and end with the pain (and warmth) of being in diaspora and the food we eat.

Sometimes I feel bad because I don’t feel a strong connection to India as a place/land mass/somewhere to go (I’m wording this badly but maybe you know what I mean) but other people feel very strongly about their home countries or countries of origin or their families’ countries of origin

And sometimes I feel bad I only speak English. And that I can read French much faster than Malayalam (ok but if I’m being fair to myself here, I’d have to admit that French and English use the same letters so obviously it is easier for me).

But then I see what people have written about diaspora, as diasporic people. And I feel okay.