Sepia Destiny

Ever since I got my nano, I have been obsessed with downloading podcasts. Since there isn’t a Sepia Mutiny podcast for me to download (ahem) I do the next best thing and listen to a Desi Dilemma, a podcast by a woman named Smitha Radhakrishnan. This week’s series on ‘Desi Love’ perked my ear up- seeing as how the search for a ‘suitable mate’ is always at the forefront topic for most mutineers (or so it seems).

“There was a clear message from the Indian community about dating, that it was somehow inextricably linked with the most dangerous, scary thing that could befall an ABCD kid; an identity crisis.”

As has been mentioned before on this blog, as an ABCD youth one often had to deal with the projection by your peers that the only people you were expected to date is that one other desi in the school, even though you had nothing in common with them. Forget the fact that you weren’t allowed to date; if you had been, there was no one there for you to date, in the often confusing bi-cultural high school years. For me, this reminds me of senior prom. And prom reminds me of how my mother wouldn’t let me go to prom unless I went with my gay guy friend because only then would she know nothing would happen to me on prom night. How’s that for bi-cultural confusion?

Though in the realm of desi pride now, growing up there was also the conflict of trying to fit in and be as American as possible. I recently received the following e-mail:

I came to US at a young age, I faced discrimination from those who were born here… they acted like they were too good for me…Then as I made closer friendship with Americans to avoid all the bulls***t south Asians were giving, the new comers from south Asia started giving me the same crap. Eventually I became this “white boy” among SAs..Of course, I have learned to deal with such issues as I’ve grown up …But this question has always lingered in my mind… why do SAs hate each other? What makes US born’s better than those who come here? And how is it that those US born’s turn SAs so quickly during college years, and see those whom they disdained for being SA in the first place still as different?

Now that I’m older and in the ivory tower I can use big words like assimilation and racialization to analyze the divide in the generations, but really, when you’re just a kid in school, all you are trying to do is fit in. Being able to analyze this factor of bi-cultural identity now doesn’t make dating for a 20-something female any easier. In fact, knowing the internalized identity issues simply makes searching for love all the more confusing. There’s desi chick lit trying to manuever around it, and I regularly read a various group of blogs by single desi females all talking about similar issues. We are bombarded with desi dating websites, as well as pressure from family. Until that tab for Sepia Destiny is created, what’s a single girl got to do?

As Smitha asks in her podcast, and I’d like to further pose to you on this lazy Saturday afternoon,

“Are there things about being desi that give us a different set of expectations about our love life and our marital lives than our non-Indian peers?”
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About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

441 thoughts on “Sepia Destiny

  1. Hey admins, split up this page into 2 or sumthing… its starting to take too long to load!!

  2. Sorry byte…

    as far as i am concerned, my single self was in an accident a little while back (and unhurt completely). the only thing that bugged me immediately after was that i didn’t feel the need to call anyone. that was when i realized exactly what i wanted from all this relationship/marriage/whatever-else-you-want-it-to-be: just a woman “to be with”.

    I didn’t mean to dismiss this. :-( You echoed my sentiment. You said it in 4 sentences and I said it in about 40 posts! I rolled my eyes because of that.

  3. I would just like to say that I think DQ is absolutely correct. And no, I’m not just saying that because I’m now contractually bound.

  4. I would just like to say that I think DQ is absolutely correct. And no, I’m not just saying that because I’m now contractually bound

    About … ? There were a lot of posts up there! ;)

  5. Come on Jane, let’s turn this into a real catfight.

    Whoa, girls. girls. girrrrrrrrrrrls. Chillax yaar. Can we wait for this till we get together on dhaavak’s island?

    C’mon peeps, we can get this thread to 400!

    Not everyone’s a ‘feminazi’ or ‘bridget jones’. What about the shades of brown in between?

  6. wow, we already crossed 400 by the time I wrote that comment. Yay, is this a record?????

  7. oh, no worries jane.

    C’mon peeps, we can get this thread to 400!

    no we can’t. we are already past 400. BUT, i am thrilled i got the 400′th post. ha!

  8. PMG, Does this mean I won you for nothing? And why hasn’t Madurai answered my question about whether he’s legally entitled to put you up for auction? Hmm. This all seems very fishy…

  9. I apologize, I’m going to backtrack b/c I wasn’t here for the 60 comments prior :)

    I understand all of this believe me I’ve had these thoughts too. I just wish sometimes they’d give themselves a break from these stresses and just go hang with their friends and not worry about meeting the future husband.

    I think I opened up a can of worms. When I was talking about the “marriage myth,” I wasn’t denigrating women and their needs to be in loving relationships. Jane, I think you have a valid point, as does DQ. I think calling someone a hardcore feminazi is just as degrading and narrow as someone telling a woman who wants companionship (in our heteronormative conversation, a man) that her desires are invalid. That said, I do think we have to critically examine the social framework in which we operate. Despite progressions in ideas around gender equality, I stand by my point that there is a lot of pressure for women in particular to get married, and by extension, have children (more the former, though, in my opinion). I think women should have the same freedom, and also should not have to face a stigma, to choose the terms of their relationships, their companions, or their decision not to have a companion. The driving point is feeling like you have that choice, either implicitly or explicitly.

    All men are dorks – so it makes little difference which dork you pick. It all depends on you in the end.

    Oh, MoorNam, I am not so willing to let men off the hook! I think having low expectations of men does them as much of a disservice as it does (again, in a heteronormative context) women. Not sure to what extent you’re joking, but what a shame to put the onus on women, yet again. I cannot wait for the day when we, as a society, encourage healthy interactions and support for one another across all types of genders.

  10. Sorry sorry – this being an online auction, our bidders and auctioneer are in different time zones. I just woke up. Yes, I am legally entitled to auction off PMG. So let’s hear the bids… what are people willing to give for a tender, loving, progressive desi man?

  11. Oh well, Madurai Vivekan if it’s all above ground, I’ll totally bid. We are prepared to offer the boy’s family two goats (one black, one brown) and one electric, three speed table fan. We are open to negotiations if he knows how to dance, sing Rabindrasangeet or can tell me where Yo La Tengo got its name.

  12. Speaking of goats, my mom told me once that she “got rid of my dowry” after she convinced herself that I was going to marry a non-Indian. I have yet to figure out if she was joking (about the existence of dowry and/or spending it!)

  13. I just read through the last 50 posts or so and I’m having a hard time understanding DQ’s argument. The gist of it, as I got it, was that if I express desire for a husband and a family, it’s ok as long as I’m not whiny or mopey. And I damn well better be making a tangible contribution to society rather than be useless and crying all the time?

    And I just don’t get this statement:

    An unmarried, childless female who devotes her life to poetry or to medicine or human rights , for example, is to my mind a lot worthier person than some chick who cries every night cause she’s not married yet.

    WHAT?! Who are you talking about? I know PLENTY of 30-something, very pro-women, feminist doctors who date and are actively seeking a life partner. Maybe they get upset sometimes. Is that ok with you?

    Who are you? Who is this “chick” you’re talking about? Isn’t it possible to lead an active fulfilling life AND seek intimate companionship?

    What does a desire to get married have to do with worth? I’m working hard to have a successful academic medicine career and I want to have a family too. My biggest concern (even though I would estimate I’m at least 10-15 years away from having kids) is how I’m going to balance my career with my kids. EVERY SINGLE WOMAN (and probably man) in my class has had these exact same concerns, even though many of us aren’t married and aren’t anywhere near kids. We have ENTIRE FORUMS at school dedicated to this.

    Future-planning is hard enough (in ANY career) without having to listen to this bullshit judgment about how women can’t express their desire to get married. Is it so wrong to want intimate companionship and a family?

    This is NOT feminism. Feminism is about CHOICE, and if I choose to get married and have kids, then I am grateful that the women in the generations before me struggled long and hard so I could have my paid maternity leave and finish my residency on time without judgement from the administration. If another woman CHOOSES to stay at home and raise her children that is her choice as well and I respect that. I also respect a man who chooses to stay home and raise his children. Don’t make me feel reactionary and anti-feminist about my wants because YOU are the unfeminist one.

  14. Whoa! Wait a second! I thought I’d won PMG already. Even if the auctioneer was dozing, PMG auctioned himself off, or appeared to do so, in a manner which I’m sure is legally binding.

    In any case, while the lawyers out there are cogitating, here is my bid: Three goats, two black and one brown, one female piglet, my old skates, a used laptop, and a year’s supply of betel nut.

  15. So I’m half-watching a serial with my grandmother, and I hear the most amazing monologue: there’s a woman sitting on her bed, thinking about what this guy has said to her. It goes something like this: “You eat vegetables and I eat fish. But that’s not a problem. I’ll give up anything for you. Why won’t you love me?”

    Ok, this is an auction. There can only be one auctioneer, and that person can’t be the same person who’s up for bidding. That clearly represents a conflict of interest. Bids are still open for PMG. The old laptop and betel nut do sound good – brownfrown?

  16. Before either Brownfrown or I spiral into debt, could I request a promotional pitch from the auctioneer? You know, it goes something like this, ‘Sterling silver, crafted in the famous House of Berlioz, which catered to the nobility of southern france, with an intricate pattern of vine leaves and…’

  17. Pffft. Clearly, goods can’t just auction off themselves. They’ll be demanding rights and the vote next. Is that what you want? A progressive desi man who has the vote?! I think not, Dharma Queen, I think NOT.

    Okay okay I’ll admit I have no old laptops. In fact I’m currently in the process of negotiations (i.e. whining plaintively) with my dad to give me his.

    I’ll throw a buffalo into the mix though (it’s still good to give milk even), some old stencil art this friend of mine did (very nice – pirate wenches, ships – anything nautical you might fancy), an inkjet printer and some edited volumes on post-colonialism (with the bits on slavery, dowry and forced marriage blacked out).

  18. YEAH. Good point, Dharma Queen. I want to know more about this PropaMcGandhi’s assets and history. I’ve read Jeffery Archer and watched the Antiques Road Show. I know how this works.

  19. Rupa,

    As an obviously secure and well-balanced individual, it baffles me why you would react in this incendiary way to my ‘bullshit judgment’. If it’s bullshit, pass on.

    You make no actual arguments in your screed. You bring up life-work balance, which was not being discussed. I suppose you were trying to point out that a lot of people want kids, which was never disputed. You ask the tired question again: why isn’t it possible to have a fulfilling life and have intimate companionship? Please review my comments. I never argued it was not possible. You ask me if it is okay with me if single female doctors ‘get upset’ at their singledom. Of course it is okay with me. They can jump into a lake for all I care. I just think that, depending on the degree and frequency of distress over this issue, they might not be worth knowing.

  20. Hi DQ,

    YouÂ’re right, my post was abrasive and I apologize for that.

    I just feel like women are always caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to relationships these days, and my point was that itÂ’s hard enough being an independent woman trying to balance your career with your personal life without judgment from other so-called feminists who criticize your desires.

    I just think that, depending on the degree and frequency of distress over this issue, they might not be worth knowing.

    I guess I just donÂ’t really understand this. Yeah, whiny people are lame and no fun, no argument there, but many single women are actively seeking a partner and I donÂ’t believe that even a small fraction of them are uselessly obsessed with it to the point of becoming pathetic. There are lonely desperate people of all genders and I find it slightly insulting to insinuate that women are more “mopey” and “feeble” and all it does it is harbor hostility between women. (See above posts as an example.)

    And this is unrelated, but SATC and Bridget Jones, as vapid as some of the characters and storylines are, in my opinion has been v. empowering to young women…even if their lifestyles were outrageous and sometimes out of control, it was just nice to see some strong female protagonists (Shaz, Miranda) who didnÂ’t live and breathe by one of societyÂ’s patterns for women, presented as the norm and not the exception.

  21. Hullo! What’s so unfeminist about ME, eh gals?? its not like i quit my job and sit around crying for a man… of course i feel lonely and incomplete without a partner, so what – i will not deny my feelings just to please YOU. go find sum other pinata!!

  22. Brownfrown, I cannot compete with a buffalo. Aren’t buffaloes endangered? Just where did you get yours? The best I can offer is an adoring, doe-eyed, silken-haired bellydancer. At least she’s not endangered.

    This is, however, a tentative bid. I’m still waiting for the promotional pitch.

  23. YouÂ’re right, my post was abrasive

    RUPA! HAVE A MANGO!



    just kidding, and no malice intended… swear… BTW, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog as well. superb comic timing and delightfully uncomplicated,, like Leacock. you sure you dont moonlight in comedy.

  24. don’t you all go abt bidding for pmg and all. i have one very very good son. he can run much faster than pmg. why don’t you spend money on him instead?

  25. PMG’s Evil Relative:

    Please explain what you mean by ‘run’. Is this a naughty euphemism? And please describe other characteristics of your son. I’m getting suspicious about the length of time it is taking to describe PMG’s charms.

  26. RUN?! We don’t want someone who can RUN. In fact, we plan, as militant misandry-loving feminists, to hobble him permanently if possible and then train him to do tricks.

    And Dharma Queen, I was thinking (as all good Bengalis know) of the water buffalo. They’re all all over the place. Mine’s a family pet that my grandfather gave me when I was of marriagable age to garland and then give to my beloved. It’s getting a bit long in the tooth now and I guess it’s going to the auction house instead.

    Where’d you get this bellydancer?

  27. I’m getting suspicious about the length of time it is taking to describe PMG’s charms.

    It could be that there are just so many that it’s taking a long time to type! Maybe?

  28. Be honest. Wouldn’t I be doing you all a huge favor by closing the comments on this thread? :)

    For some reason it reminds me a little of that one “Friends” episode: “You hang up. No, you hang up. No, you hang up.”

  29. Be honest. Wouldn’t I be doing you all a huge favor by closing the comments on this thread? :)

    No – you can’t do that – not until we get to hear your input on this posting!

    dating while desi…is more complicated than Sudoku puzzles

    Sahej said it all in comment #3 ;)

  30. run? my son runs forever like the duracell bunny.

    what naughty euphemism? tsk tsk this generation. when i was younger we never asked all these questions. in my old age i see all you tykes like this. what tragedy.

  31. No – you can’t do that – not until we get to hear your input on this posting!

    I was actually going to write a post about desi dating from the male perspective and I was even thinking about the title “Sepia Destiny.” I’m not even kidding. It was going to be a manly post full of manly insight drawing parallels to one of my favorite books. It would have been more in the style/tone of writing I use on my personal blog than on SM. Taz came up with the similar idea you see here and beat me to it. It is still in my head but now I will wait several months until I am slightly more jaded and perhaps while I am on a bender. I work best when I’m feeling like Pollack :)

  32. I had posted a link to an article positioning a societal backlash to the self-diminishing path taken by “civilized”, secular societies. To me, the latent angst expressed in popular media (including this blog) reflects the subtle correction in society. The excerpt below is from a news and views program airing daily on cbc.ca. It may be of interest.

    Earlier, we were talking about how to make the decision to stay home and raise children less financially fraught for women and families. But for the next half hour, we looked at who–in fact—is having children at all. Feminism is often given credit for forcing family issues to the political forefront, including decriminalizing abortion, making birth control widely available and encouraging women into the workforce…all of which deliver a sucker punch to patriarchy… Those advances have also been blamed for the falling birth rate, at least among Western liberals who embrace progressive ideas about family. But according to my next guest, fewer children could signal liberalism’s ultimate demise because, he says, it’s the conservatives who will eventually inherit the earth… Well, adjusting demographics and birth rates doesn’t just affect social values and family life. As we just heard, there is also an economic impact — caused by who’s in and who’s out of the workforce.

    realaudio here

  33. PMG,

    So – do you also, ahem, ‘run like the duracell bunny’? Just trying to weigh my options.

    Brownfrown, the bellydancer is someone I know who is looking for a change of scenery. She’s also old and is missing a couple of teeth, but she still beats a water buffalo anytime.

  34. I had posted a link to an article positioning a societal backlash to the self-diminishing path taken by “civilized”, secular societies. To me, the latent angst expressed in popular media (including this blog) reflects the subtle correction in society. The excerpt below is from a news and views program airing daily on cbc.ca. It may be of interest.

    Dhaavak yesterday WNYC (NPR) had Sree Sreenivasan sitting in for Brian Lehrer and he had Caitlin Flanagan the author of To Hell and All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife that talks about this very same issue of women and their struggles with balancing family/career and making choices and the politics that is fueled by it and how feminism and the struggle is affected by it.

    Incidentally today non other then the Illhindu stood in for Lehrer.

  35. I was actually going to write a post about desi dating from the male perspective and I was even thinking about the title “Sepia Destiny.” I’m not even kidding. It was going to be a manly post full of manly insight drawing parallels to one of my favorite books.

    Woo hoo! – that means you’ll have to do some “research” ;-) Any willing subject???

  36. I didn’t want to post on this thread when it was happening originally, but there are some things that can be said.

    I don’t think dating someone indian versus not indian is a binary choice, one over the other. People are taken as individuals, and the package someone comes in is the package they come in.

    As an Indian guy, as we were growing up, most of us were not appreciated for our brown-ness per se. It was the rare Indian guy who was popular in high school to the extent where dating was a ho-hum thing, Also, many Indian girls did often specifically avoid Indian boys. Particularly if they were out-going and popular. It often seemed easier for mainstream dudes to date. Our society has changed a lot since even the early 90′s in this regard. This is not to say anything other than, this was the experience for a lot of Indian guys, and this colors our experiences.

    Also, Indian boys were not encouraged to date. And since the desi household was very comfortable for Indian boys, it was easier to listen to our parents and stay put for the time being.

    But at some point you put that away and start living life. And then you’re left with a few dilemnas. For one thing, men mature less fast than women, and some of the mature life decisions with regard to dating include; what does this relationship mean in terms of how I see myself as an adult. That can take awhile for dudes to figure out.

    Given all that, once you get to a point where you have things figured out, in some semblence of a way, its almost the hardest part. Now you have to find what you finally figured out you want. Thats when the lack of the binary also comes into play. Dating for an indian man is not simple, even though it also is simple. To me thats the one thing I would like to generally get across, that we are making choices based on the inter-action our ethnicity has on our life experience, as well as simply making choices based on our life experience regardless of ethnicity.

    q.e.d (i’m being deprecating, this is far from a proof of anything)