I Promise I’m Grateful, But —



A quote

From The God of Small Things

By Arundhati Roy

“There is a war that makes us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.”

It was one of the first times that

I realized

How much I hated myself

And how much I hated India

I had known

For a long time

For example

That my skin

Was less desirable

Less pretty.

Less Clean.

Even when I was born

The first thing they said was

She’s so dark.

And that was in my homeland.

I had grown up

Hating and loving my sister all at once

Hating her for being olive skinned and mistaken for Italian

and Loving her for everything else.

But you see,

Arundhati Roy

In “exposing” India

Had made me hate myself more.

She talked about the days of the Untouchables

And I was horrified learning about a history which was apparently mine

But I had never claimed to be mine

One that Couldn’t be Mine.

So I went home

And I talked to Dad and Aunty about it




They told me that it had never been like that

They had lived through it

And it had never been like that

Dad even called Arundhati a “communist”

But that’s another story.

And then I read


By Jhumpa Lahiri

And was reminded all over again

About the long legs

The slim hips

Slim torsos

Light skin

Of everyone who wasn’t me.

Hell there’s a million dollar industry running off of creams to make you lighter skinned in India

When would we stop adoring our conquerors?

When would we begin adoring ourselves?


Oh she doesn’t sing?

Mine does, she placed first in her school actually

Hum long ke liye ga lo beta (Sing for us child)

Doesn’t dance?

Mine does, she’s so in love with our culture

Dekha do sab long ko (Show them all)

UConn? That’s wonderful. Ours went to Harvard, she loved it.

Henna, beta? (Right, child?)

Ye to moti ho gayi hai! (She’s gotten so fat!)

Why, I would even say she’s tripled in size!!

You have a boyfriend? with a curt smile That’s nice.


6 moves within 1 year

Mom barely spoke English

So she, upon moving a thousand miles away from her parents,

And never really learning how to be a parent herself,

Fell into a clinical depression

Dad supported a family of 4 on 30,000

And became 1 parent to 3 kids

Electroconvulsive Shock Therapy was suggested

But time and a foreign country heals all things

Or really it forces you out of them.

My sister suffered a lot too

I don’t know if it was because of the culture shock or because

It was destined to be.

But she developed severe anxiety, depression, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, panic attacks

The Whole Barrel

Kids made fun of her, a lot. They were just cruel

And I think part of it had to do with her not being like them

Having thick black hair that fell beautifully down her back until she bleached it blonde and wispy

Thick glasses that helped her see

Thick body that had been fed well by loving and devoted parents

Who didn’t know any better

Who didn’t know what to make of The Whole Barrel

But then again

Maybe it was genetics

Maybe destiny

But then again

What if we hadn’t gone in search of that white picket fence?


I am Indian

Indian American I guess but

I prefer



I’m not Indian.

I mean,

I have to prove to other Indians that I am indian.

I speak Hindi with an accent

I don’t know how to eat roti with one hand

I can’t understand everything in Hindi movies

I barely know anything about India because for the longest time

I didn’t ever want to go back.

The last time I had gone back


there were people with polio dragging themselves across the dirty, shit covered train station floor and stray dogs and poor people and it was hot and we got sick and the toilets were gross and the air killed you

But that was all an excuse.

And it was 7 years ago

And then I lost my grandfather

And then I lost my only other grandfather

And now I’m left with the question

Why didn’t I go back?


So now we’re here

Because I have to end this piece,

But more because I don’t want to say any more.

A lot more is left to be said

But not all of it can fit in here

There’s a whole discussion to be had

About the American Dream,

Whatever the hell that means

About the Third World,

The Developing Country,

And how enraged those terms make me.

For they impose a hierarchy between countries

And Glorify Western Living as being the Ideal

When it’s NOT.

Not only does the term perpetuate stereotypes

But it also

Reinforces those stereotypes within those communities about which these stereotypes are made

And so again

We Adore Our Conquerors And We Despise Ourselves

To be Honest

My life is very comfortable

And I am happy

So grateful

For the experiences that I’ve had

That I wouldn’t possibly have had if I had stayed

But Then Again

What would have happened if we had stayed?

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