Monday, April 18, 2016

An Indian American Mom

Dear kids,
I am writing this here because I want you to read this when you grow up. I am not happy writing this blog today. I am deeply disturbed, saddened and feel extremely responsible. Recently you were part of a very disturbing incident and I want to write about it. First, I will write the way it happened and then I will explain my thoughts about it.

On a typical Friday evening, I took two of you and some of your friends to a common play area so you can run around and have a good time playing. You guys immediately started running around and playing. There was a guy sitting with another guy near a table in the corner. He noticed you playing. He asked you to stop making noise - twice. He was not polite. I saw some of you getting uncomfortable. After a minute of two, he shouted at you and said “Shhh….keep it down..will you??”. His voice was loud and the tone was very rude. All of you immediately felt something is wrong. I walked to the person and told him politely “The kids are playing here. I don’t think they can keep it down.” The person banged his fist on the table and pointed his finger at me and said very loudly “You listen to me. If they want to play here, they better to keep it quiet or else I will call security on you. This is a meeting place..” I told him firmly he can go ahead and call security. At this point, I saw fear in 14 little innocent eyes looking at us. The room got very quiet as the person walked outside to call the security guy. I told you guys to not be scared as we have not done anything wrong and it is not okay to be rude like this and I will talk to the security guy. You guys moved to the ping pong table anxiously waiting to see what will happen next. The security guys walked in and told us to be respectful of others. I told him you guys are playing since this is a game room. He asked me if we can move the kids to some corner and I said that would be possible but the person in question is being very rude and that is not acceptable. At this time, the person who had complained about us walked fast towards me and put his face right in front of my face and pointed his finger at my face and shouted “You are a bad mom. You are letting you kids run around and be all noisy.” I told him “You cannot talk to me like that.” and turned towards security guy and told him “He is being very rude to me. This is not the way to talk”. The person put his face against my face again and told all of us “If you want to play like this, go back to India.” I turned to the security guy and told him “He is being racist. There was no need to bring up this in the conversation. I want to talk to manager and complain about this right now.” At this point all of you kids were scared. I could see fear settling in your eyes and some of you wanted to go and play in some other area. I tried to comfort you and messaged all the moms I knew about what was happening and told them I am going to complain.

India. My county. My Love.
The United States of America. My Country. My Love.

I am part of the generation of immigrants who came here to exhibit our skills and expertise and have settled here…some by their own choice and some for many different reasons. When I came here, I faced lot of challenges. I had no family. All my close friends were scattered. I was making my own living. And I felt no sense of belonging. But the sense of belonging is built by you slowly and gradually. I have gone all “When in Rome” on myself and the people I interacted with have helped me build trust and respect for what I do in this country and what this beautiful country has offered me.

But I am still an Indian. I am an Indian American. I am an Asian American. I work very hard to make a living. I pay my taxes and I abide by the laws. And let me tell you, this is how I have always been. My parents taught me not to litter. They taught me to be respectful. They gave me great education. This is not something I learned new when I landed in this country. Sure, these things were polished and put to use more often but they were there. No matter how much I change myself, I can’t change how I look. No matter how grammatically correct I speak, I will never speak in American accent. I am an Indian and I am proud of that. I am also aware of all the unlawful things going on in India and I feel huge sense of responsibility that I am not contributing to make anything better there. I am not one of those people who hang around in a corner in a party with beer in their hands and talk relentlessly about corruption and dowry.  I know if I can’t contribute, I can’t complain. I am proud of my country. I am proud of my values. And I will never change anything that makes me an Indian just to be part of something big, exciting or different.

But I am also an American. I lived all my adulthood here. I love the infrastructure and the laws. I enjoy the freedom of speech. I love that people here are very social and accepting and respectful. I love that what makes America great is this mix of cultures and diversity. I am humble that I am part of this country and I teach you kids the same every single day. 

But the truth is whether I am an Indian or American, I am just a human being and I feel that I am being bullied on several levels in this incident.

I think nobody can ever say to anyone that you are a bad mom or bad dad. Period. We human beings have taken it upon ourselves to be judgmental. That is so uncalled for. I feel like often moms are the worst target. I am a great mom. Sure, I need to improve but I am doing my job right. I want my kids to play. I NEED my kids to play. I want my kids to not put their face against some electronic device and get lost in virtual world that leads them to depression and leaves them with no real social skills to survive. I know when I take my kids out to play, I am supervising them from a distance. I want them to resolve some things on their own but then I also get involved when there is a need for it. I believe I am bringing up smart human beings. And if some guy is shouting at me because my kids are being noisy, I take it seriously. I will not let this go. My kids are going to play. Of course I will reach an agreement if someone is politely talking to me about taking them to a corner, but I will not tolerate rude behavior.  And lastly, I am being bullied for being an Indian. I can be from any part of this world; but no one can bully me about it. Period. No one can ever label me. We should not tolerate this and turn deaf ear towards it.

Lastly, what I am going to write in this paragraph is very important for you and me. Whenever someone is exhibiting aggressive and racist behavior when you did nothing wrong, it makes me think. Why would someone do it? It is a chance for me to reflect on my own behavior. When I look at someone, what do I notice? Do I notice skin color, accent, how costly his or her attire could be or am I really looking at his or her eyes and listening to what they are saying? Why would someone hate me so much and call me names because I was born in some other country? There is always a big picture and a big story behind it and as a part of this big society I feel responsible for it. I feel sad that human beings are labeled. I feel sad that many of us are unknowingly hurting others. I feel sad that many of us do not get outlet for some frustrations or setbacks in our lives and then we are destined to host hateful feelings about other religion, other country, other cast.

We are all just human beings in the end. I just want to be myself. I want you to be yourself. Whenever you feel the urge to call someone names, I want you to stop and say to yourself “I do not have a right to say that because it is just plain wrong” When someone is bullying you, do not tolerate it but at the same time, try to think about the big picture and find out how we can make this better. Be humble that we are alive.  We may be born in India, we may be born in America, but aren’t we all part of the same big world - the same world where we bring up our beautiful next generation and treasure the old generation?