Nose-Piercing, Utah, and a Big Oops (Not Mine) [Updated]

On Thursday, several of us Mutineers spoke to an AP reporter about a story in Utah last week — about a girl in middle school in Utah who got suspended from her school for violating dress code, after getting her nose pierced. She and her family said she did it to get in touch with her Indian cultural identity — she had the piercing done on Diwali just a couple of weeks ago. The school, however, had a strict “ear pierces only” policy, and was only willing to allow her to have a “transparent” stud in her nose, not the more obviously Indian nose ring she wore to school initially.

Here is the AP story that resulted. It’s been printed in a fair number of newspapers around the country. The reporter quotes Abhi, Sandhya, and myself. But something goes wrong here:

“I wanted to feel more closer to my family in India because I really love my family,” said Suzannah, who was born in Bountiful. Her father was born in India as a member of the Sikh religion.

“I just thought it would be OK to let her embrace her heritage and her culture,” said Suzannah’s mother, Shirley Pabla, a Mormon born in nearby Salt Lake City. “I didn’t know it would be such a big deal.”

It shouldn’t have been, said Suzannah’s father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States and works as an English professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. “It’s true that the nose ring is mainly a cultural thing for most Indians,” Singh said. “Even if it is just culture, culture matters. And her right to express or explore it seems to me at least as important as her right to express her religious identity.” (link)

Um, wait a minute. Did I read that right? Take a look at it again: “…said Suzannah’s father, Amardeep Singh, a Sikh who was raised in the United States…”

[UPDATE: The online version of the article has been corrected.]

This is a really bizarre and unfortunate error. Just to be clear, I have one kid, and he’s three years old. I am annoyed on my own behalf, but I also feel bad for the Pablas. (Suzannah has a dad, who is a practicing Sikh. It just so happens that most of the coverage of this story in the local Utah newspapers doesn’t mention his name: see the Salt Lake Tribune, for example)

When I spoke to the reporter who authored this story, he was 100% clear that I was in no way related to the Pablas. Somewhere between that conversation and the story that has now run in 200+ newspapers around the country, that important fact fell out. I don’t know who’s responsible for the error — it appears an editor might have come up with this.

In the end, it’s not really that big a deal; the only people who will really think anything is amiss are people who know the Pablas and people who know me. Still, maybe the moral here is to JUST SAY NO when reporters call you for a quote for a story that doesn’t really involve you directly.

Anyway, what do people think about the story itself? Should schools with strict dress code policies make an exception to accommodate nose rings for Indian students on cultural grounds?

170 thoughts on “Nose-Piercing, Utah, and a Big Oops (Not Mine) [Updated]

  1. Does anyone think that maybe that part of the issue might be her age? She’s 12… I think in highschools across the US you’ll find teenagers with numerous facial piercings. But we’re talking about a 12 year old. For most kids that’s 7th or 8th grade. That’s really young.

    Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for nose piercing. I got mine done when I was 18. But in my opinion 12 is very very very young.

  2. Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for nose piercing. I got mine done when I was 18. But in my opinion 12 is very very very young.

    why cant ppl just get left alone….

  3. Because all school administrators and educators are the same, yaar?

    I was actually referring to the mutineers.

    I think all schools should have either uniforms or dress codes. Who has time to evaluate each kid on an individual basis? Kids are hard enough to deal with as it is these days.

    Kids “these days” aren’t any more of a hassle than they were in the “good old days.” They just have different types of hassles. I am all for school uniforms just because I think it improves discipline and helps allay some of the posturing that comes with how kids tend to use brand-name fashion as a proxy for wealth and status. Minor things like jewelry though, as long as it’s not garish or distracting, aren’t a big deal. The thing is that most Americans think nose-rings are “counter-cultural” and don’t like it. In India, however, it isn’t counter-cultural and isn’t any more unusual than an ear piercing. But really, the question is what exactly is the problem with a nose-ring that makes such a rule necessary?

    I got mine done when I was 18. But in my opinion 12 is very very very young

    At least in my mother’s case she got hers when she was 16. I have heard that in olden days it was a way of signaling that a girl was of marriageable age, but I’m not sure how accurate that is. So 12. . . yea a little young. But that’s not really the school board’s issue. I honestly don’t even care about the Desi angle on this so much as my general sense that rule-mongering school officials are creativity squelching jerks on power trips who take all the fun out of learning and childhood more generally.

    Part of the burden of being a contrarian is that you’re going to have some friction between yourself and “the man.” A little Dennis the Menace style mischief is healthy for some kids. But explusion or suspension and other zero-tolerance rules over every minor or routine infarction (such as a nose-ring) or attempt to test the system’s limits is just not good for creative, mischevious, or adventurous types. Rules that move from preventing kids from being unruly or disruptive to being docile little enseño-bots go too far for no real benefit to people’s educations.

  4. “Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for nose piercing. I got mine done when I was 18. But in my opinion 12 is very very very young. “

    Yeah, that is considered young in U.S. culture. But in India, I see little girls with nose peircing all the time. You cannot ignore the fact that in India having a nose ring is very much the norm– just think of a typical bride’s wedding jewellry. I don’t approve of parents taking their babies in to get their ears pierced, etc, but if a little girl wants to get her ears or nose pierced, what’s the big deal?

  5. The name of the girl was also changed, from Suzannah to Savannah towards the end of the article! Sloppy… I have no problems with nose piercing. I do think however that 12 years is young for it – if I had a daughter I wouldn’t encourage it at such a young age. But she’s not my daughter, and if the parents are okay with it I don’t see the problem – it’s just nose piercing.

  6. The thing is that most Americans think nose-rings are “counter-cultural” and don’t like it. In India, however, it isn’t counter-cultural and isn’t any more unusual than an ear piercing.

    Yeah, but they are not living in India, right?

    When in Rome……..

    Anyway, I wonder how supportive of their daughter “going against the man” her parents would be if she wanted to wander around India with her navel pierced while wearing a navel gazing halter top sans dupatta.

    I think the parents need to grow up and learn to either follow the rules of the school or take their daughter out of it and perhaps put her in a school with more relaxed rules.

    Kids “these days” aren’t any more of a hassle than they were in the “good old days.”

    Are you a teacher?

    Perhaps not desi and other asian kids, but for the most part, kids ARE more of a hassle, simply because their parents are.

    There is no such thing as a “problem child”…. just dysfunctional parents.

  7. I blame this on the editor. The reporter seemed like a nice and competent guy (who mentioned he regularly reads SM). In this case if I were to guess, the editor wanted the story to take a certain angle that involved desis rising up in defense of this girl. I argued just the opposite: that this girl was full of crap and that a school not wanting her to wear a nose ring was FULLY within its rights. I think she is using the Indian culture defense as an excuse. If this was about a Kirpan or another religious ornament then my opinion would be different. This is no different than wanting to wear baggy pants or a 100 jelly bracelets in my opinion. It should be the school’s call even if I personally think nose rings are cool.

  8. I blame this on the editor. The reporter seemed like a nice and competent guy (who mentioned he regularly reads SM). In this case if I were to guess, the editor wanted the story to take a certain angle that involved desis rising up in defense of this girl.

    And folks wonder why people have issues with media trust – if editors could simply edit and present what a journalist’s findings are, vs. trying to frame an article with any agenda, they’d be better off. I’d rather read an article with minor editorial errors, rather than gross misrepresentations of facts/issues.

    As a rule, I look at multiple articles from Google news in a hope to filter basic facts from editorial bias. The level of accuracy increases after corrections filter in, I guess, but said correction in many cases is already too late as people rarely read the article again or care about corrections after the fact…

  9. I hit submit before finishing….

    On to the focus:

    Anyway, what do people think about the story itself? Should schools with strict dress code policies make an exception to accommodate nose rings for Indian students on cultural grounds?

    I agree with Abhi here. Schools have the right to set policy. Frankly, I’ve always thought school uniforms are a good idea; kids don’t really need to express their “culture” at school IMO. If there are legitimate religious symbols, they can/should be allowed. Schools are for education, not trying to empower kids with their individual expression (besides art/music/drama). Trying to co-opt any cultural symbol into a religious one is a slippery slope. It’s narcissistic to assume that an individual’s choice to “express” themselves needs to be accommodated in a public school. At home, out with friends, or any other personal time one should do what they wish.

    IF the school allowed a transparent nose stud, heck, that’s a good compromise. Put the bling on when you go home.

  10. Nose rings have nothing to do with the Sikh religion or culture. It’s a fashion trend.

    No, it is not a fashion trend & my great grand-ma was not a goth! It has been worn from generations (the Sikh culture is not entirely different from the rest of the desi culture)

  11. I’m sure other people here besides me probably experienced uniforms in school– and honestly– when I switched to catholic school for 7th grade I was really excited about uniforms, because I thought it would cut back on all that silly clothing/brand/”in” competition crap (yes, I was already disillusioned with that in 7th grade, ha)…

    We had to wear either a specific plaid gray wool skirt (with some red) or a plain gray wool skirt, with a white oxford button down shirt, white socks and black or brown dress shoes. We also could not wear anything more than small earrings. We also had a (hideous) burgundy sweater with the school logo (gag) that we could wear if we got cold.

    On “gym” day we had burgundy sweatpants, sweatshirt, and shorts, and a white polo shirt.

    Seems pretty regimented, right? Guess what though? It did NOTHING to stop the silly clothing completions. Poor (kids on scholarships and such) and uncool kids were just ridiculed for having the wrong shoes, bad haircuts, or for actually WEARING the burgundy sweater or shorts (both of which were a taboo no-no by the ‘popular’ crowd).

    So, things like uniforms and dress codes, from my experience, really don’t stop the silly judgments and pressures on kids about looking cool and being valued by having the right material possessions…. if you really want kids to stop that, I think we have to combat the way society teaches them to value that stuff, not by thrusting them in uniforms and thinking “problem solved”.

  12. LinZi, my experience was very similar to yours. However, I think uniforms are more strictly enforced in Desh than in the US.

    Re: nose piercings? I’m with Abhi on this one.

  13. I argued just the opposite: that this girl was full of crap and that a school not wanting her to wear a nose ring was FULLY within its rights. I think she is using the Indian culture defense as an excuse. If this was about a Kirpan or another religious ornament then my opinion would be different.

    She made a small mistake, she should get a nose ring that looks like a tiny kripan – or better a nose ring in shape of tiny khanda. Yeah – that would work for some people.

  14. Honestly, still don’t see the different between getting a nose stud and piercing ears. Piercing ears is perfectly acceptable– I got mine pierced when I was 6 (after asking for them many times). So why is 12 “too young” to get a nose stud?

    I think they are both well within the norms of “acceptable” body jewelery— now if she got three giant nose rings, pierced her lip, tongue, belly button or eyebrows then one might be like… she is too young to make that decision.. why, because all those holes might not close up, or may cause infections, get ripped out, scarring etc, that she might regret at an older age. But a tiny nose stud? It doesn’t seem any different to me then a little girl getting her ears pierced.

    The only difference is cultural norms— here we see pierced ears are perfectly normal- you can dress up and wear earrings and be considered “professional” looking, etc. I also have seen a lot of women with small nose studs who do not have any problem wearing a nose stud while looking professional– it may be a somewhat newer form of peircing in U.S. culture, but it really isn’t outlandish or wild— it’s not making a choice so extreme that it will affect your work opportunities as an adult (like getting “gangsta” tattooed on your knuckles, or having horn implants inserted in your forehead).

    I mean, common, a nose stud? Is that really too much for a 12 year old to have? I wonder how many of you had your ears pierced at a much younger age than that (or pierced your child’s ears at a younger age)

  15. I a not personally Indian, or of Indian descent, so it might seem a bit strange that I’m commenting on this at all, but I do find it interesting. I’m actually responding because of a comment that was quoted in the MSNBC article. In the article, a person named Nankani is quoted as saying the following:

    Like Singh, Nankani is frequently asked questions about her culture and religion — are Hindus really polytheistic? (Yes, but all the Hindu gods are really one.) Does she eat meat? (No.) Does she celebrate Thanksgiving? (Yes — she’s an American citizen.) “I’ve been to multiple dinners where the entire two hours is us being asked all these questions,” she said. “It can get difficult … it does feel like a load sometimes.”

    My “take” on this is that this is not necessarily a negative thing, or at least does not “HAVE TO” be. The standard complaint for years against Americans is that we: (a) know very little about the rest of the world, and (b) actually “care” even less.

    If people are asking this person detailed questions about her culture and background, I would perhaps see that as a positive thing; they’re not trying to “pry” or treat her like an exhibit at some “culture display”. They’re curious to learn more about her culture and are genuinely interested. Knowledge of other cultures is always a good thing. I can’t help but see that as “A Good Thing”, as Martha Stewart would put it.

    Anyway…

    Peace, Out.

  16. Anyway, what do people think about the story itself? Should schools with strict dress code policies make an exception to accommodate nose rings for Indian students on cultural grounds?

    Absolutely not.

    If Indian kids are allowed to wear it based on “cultural grounds” than any kid should be able to wear it based on “cultural grounds” as well. Nose piercings are no longer uncommon in the US because the fashion trend has become part of the culture here as well now, just as the fashion trend has been made popular in India hundreds of years ago.

    What makes it more “cultural” — for a fashion trend to be hundreds of years old instead of just 20?

    No, it is not a fashion trend & my great grand-ma was not a goth! It has been worn from generations (the Sikh culture is not entirely different from the rest of the desi culture)

    Your grand-ma was following the fashion trend, or else her parents were making her follow it (if she had her nose pierced when she was a baby or small child.

    There is no deep cultural meaning behind the desi nose ring, and if there is, let’s hear it!

    Again, just because a trend is hundreds of years old, does not mean that it is not a fashion trend.

    Perhaps 100 years from now, non-desis can claim their nose rings “cultural” as well.

  17. Yeah, but they are not living in India, right? When in Rome……..

    . . .have an orgy? A nosering is a minor cultural thing. What is the point in telling people not to do it? Is anything gained here?

    There is no deep cultural meaning behind the desi nose ring, and if there is, let’s hear it!

    What exactly is the deep cultural meaning behind the WASPY distaste for piercings?

    I have always been of the opinion that rules ought to actually, you know, serve some sort of function. School boards aren’t just entitled to make up rules for whatever suits their fancy. The rules are supposed to make for a good learning environment. How exactly does a restriction against a regular, inoffensive nosering promote that?

  18. WASPY distaste for piercings

    Judaism prohibits piercings too (well, some kinds are prohibited at least, and there’s a general distaste). So, i-banker wannabe’s had better, ‘twixt the Wasps and the Jews, avoid piercings.

  19. What exactly is the deep cultural meaning behind the WASPY distaste for piercings?

    The administration of this particular school are all white-anglo-saxon-protestants?

    Proof?

    Anyway, I don’t have a distate for piercings. I have a few myself.

    However, if the school has a rule, why aren’t the parents and student following it? Appearantly it’s not been difficult for others in the same school to follow. They always have the option of putting her in a school with no such rule.

    I’d like to see more navel piercings in Desh.

    Shekshy.

  20. The administration of this particular school are all white-anglo-saxon-protestants?

    That’s the culture we live in lady. Quoth Samuel Huntington.

    However, if the school has a rule, why aren’t the parents and student following it? Appearantly it’s not been difficult for others in the same school to follow.

    Once again, you’re missing the point. Why is the rule there? What’s the point of it even being there. If the rule serves no discernible function, why have it?

    They always have the option of putting her in a school with no such rule.

    Do they really? You’re not familiar with how public schools and school districts work are you?

    I’d like to see more navel piercings in Desh.

    I don’t see what this has to do with anything. I have also seen plenty.

  21. Judaism prohibits piercings too (well, some kinds are prohibited at least, and there’s a general distaste).

    Distaste for body-mods is pretty common in most of the Judeo-Christian world. It’s their right to not like them. I just don’t see how a tiny nose-ring is such a big deal that the school administration has to raise a fuss over it.

  22. I’d like to see more navel piercings in Desh.

    …………

    I don’t see what this has to do with anything. I have also seen plenty.

    …………..

    Where? And how?

    ;)

  23. Mostly at weddings, which are some of the rare events these days where younger women will wear saris.

    I am actually a little perplexed as to how midriff baring is cool with a translucent bit of fabric over it, but uncool with a T-Shirt on, but whatever. As long as you’re not being expelled from school over it. . .

  24. Again, just because a trend is hundreds of years old, does not mean that it is not a fashion trend.

    Going by your argument everything is a fashion trend, nothing is cultural (including saris). It is good to see that even goddess Kanyakumari is following the fashion trend!

  25. You should be happy to know that in our version today, Wednesday, Nov. 11, in the Virginian-Pilot from Norfolk, VA, Mr. Singh is not referred to as the father. So maybe someone was listening and fixed it. And please don’t mess with me about my bad grammar.

  26. Abhi wrote,

    I blame this on the editor. The reporter seemed like a nice and competent guy (who mentioned he regularly reads SM). In this case if I were to guess, the editor wanted the story to take a certain angle that involved desis rising up in defense of this girl. I argued just the opposite: that this girl was full of crap and that a school not wanting her to wear a nose ring was FULLY within its rights. I think she is using the Indian culture defense as an excuse. If this was about a Kirpan or another religious ornament then my opinion would be different. This is no different than wanting to wear baggy pants or a 100 jelly bracelets in my opinion. It should be the school’s call even if I personally think nose rings are cool.

    agree apart from the baggy pants which are just too cool for school.

  27. I am actually a little perplexed as to how midriff baring is cool with a translucent bit of fabric over it, but uncool with a T-Shirt on, but whatever. As long as you’re not being expelled from school over it. . .

    Neither is “cool” if a school has a dress code against either. Same with the nose ring. If the school has a no nose ring rule, then why does this girl expect to get a special pass just for being desi???

    Going by your argument everything is a fashion trend, nothing is cultural (including saris). It is good to see that even goddess Kanyakumari is following the fashion trend!

    Please, the girl is claiming “cultural” and even “religious” grounds for a nose ring. Her grandma wore one and she wants to be like her grandma. Yeah, and…..?

    That’s no difference than a non-desi dude or girl in the school sporting a nose ring because their brother/sister/neighbor does so and they want to be like them.

    Again, why the expectation of extra special treatment because she is brown?

  28. well, it is different if it is your heritage rather than Julie-next-door-wears-stirrup-pants-so-iwanna-too.

    And anyways, she is half-desi and half-gori, so seeing as how she is from multiple heritages, it might be important for her to be able to identify with both.

  29. And anyways, she is half-desi and half-gori, so seeing as how she is from multiple heritages, it might be important for her to be able to identify with both.

    A Sikh marrying a white woman is as common as a Hindu or Muslim Desi doing likewise.

    At my mosque, I always find it interesting that the gori brides of Pakistani men will be the ones to don the niqab (face veil). I remember, this one Pakistani woman, looked at this gori and said, “Shit, you married a Pakistani, what’s with the Gulf Arab dress and face covering? Why are you not wearing the national dress of Pakistan? Shalwar kameez anyone? “

  30. What’s next: hijabs, yarmulkes, head-coverings for menonite girls? This action is narrow-minded, excluvistic, and so very typical of the current culture of talk-radio trash. This is not my America, or the America of MY friends, neighbors, or fellow citizens.

    that’s a mighty slippery slope there…

    is it too much to ask for us to draw a distinction between religious REQUIREMENTS (a la hijabs) and religious/cultural symbols?

  31. Gustavo,

    You may not realize this, but most gori brides of South Asians have to deal with a lot discrimination from some members of the South Asian community about their marriage… since we represent the amoral, uncouth divorcing Americans … I don’t know the gori brides you meet, but perhaps they were feeling extra pressure to prove that they are nice moral people and also cultural respectful, hence maybe going a bit overboard for the dress…

  32. LinZi,

    The animosity towards gori brides is multifaceted.

    Dress among Muslims is quite contentious especially since dress can be a signifier of one’s view on their religion. A woman who shuns traditional Punjabi dress for drab, monochromatic “Arab” clothing, can be seen as an “extremist.”

    White women may be envied because of their fair complexions. I notice sometimes Indian bridal catalogs use non-Indian women as models for saris, lengha cholis, etc. The practice of using Eastern European women for such photo spreads is quite common and not unheard of.

    I’m Afghan, a non-Desi South Asian, and some Desi guys love Pushtun women, Tajik women, or fair skin Uzbek women who look more “Caucasian.” Many Afghans look “East Asian” like the Hazara and some Uzbeks. Some Afghans are quite fluent in Hindi/Urdu. Some Afghan women have made their debuts in Bollywood, where fair skin and “Caucasoid” features are prized.

    If I was the editor of Vogue India, I would go to Karachi or Gujarat, and scout out an Afro-Pakistani or Afro-Indian Sheedi/Habshi, it is about time that Desis celebrate that they are non-white people and celebrate the diversity of the subcontinent, be it women who are Tamil, Indo-Aryan, Sino-Tibetan, or African.

  33. White women may be envied because of their fair complexions

    1) White women aren’t the only ones with “fair” complexions, there are Asians, Latinas, even black women with “fair skin” 2) “Fair” in India does NOT mean pasty, freckled with pink undertones. That is not considered attractive. Fair means tan, even toned, smooth, blemish free skin. I would think MANY women want that, not just Indian women.

    The practice of using Eastern European women for such photo spreads is quite common and not unheard of.

    I’ve only heard of one: Yana Gupta, but it was made very clear that she was NOT indian.

    ‘m Afghan, a non-Desi South Asian

    Afghanistan is in the middle east. Nice try.

    Some Afghan women have made their debuts in Bollywood

    Oh really? Name a few!

  34. Oh really? Name a few!

    There are quite a few: Celina Jaitley (is half Afghani), Madbubala (a Pathan from Peshawar), and many earlier actresses had Pathan heritage from British India days

    A large number of movie extras (backup dancers), and even lesser known models (not as well known as Yanna Gupta) are East European.

    Part of Afghanistan is very similar to India/ Pakistan, and part of Afghanistan is very similar to Iran and other Central Asian countries.

  35. Celina Jaitley is HALF Afghani, half Indian. She grew up in India and identifies herself as Indian. Besides, genetically, Afghans and Indians aren’t too different.

    and Pathans are people who live in Pakistan. Most Pakistanis have roots in India and not Central Asia.

    Part of Afghanistan is very similar to India/ Pakistan

    Why did you group India and Pakistan together? Those two countries are distinguished by very different cultures.

  36. Celina Jaitley is HALF Afghani, half Indian

    uhh, all this time i thought she was Arun Jaitley’s relative! :-)

  37. it is about time that Desis celebrate that they are non-white people and celebrate the diversity of the subcontinent, be it women who are

    By non-white people, you mean darker skin tones? B/c you do realize among Middle Easterners, South Asians, whether Pashtun or Mallu, there are darker complexions and lighter complexions within a family. Have you checked out Vogue India, and know who the top models of India are?….yes, Indians and other South Asians like THEIR fair skin, but there is some diversity in beauty…among our top models are Lakshmi Menon and Tinu Verghese, both Mallu and both dark and of course the beautiful desi women who are light skin. I have the Oct issue of Vogue India with me, Tinu and Lakshmi both have spreads and Tinu. Lakshmi Menon in Vogue had a cover in a bikini showing her dark-skinned hue looking beautiful.

    It’s a little more complex than desis at least Indians always celebrating their light-skinned fellows amongst them (and big-eyed fellows, as there doesn’t seem to be much celebration of the east asian looking Indian either).

    As for many of our successful businessmen, politicians, writers, corp heads, scientists they come in all the DESI colors – light and dark. Indians are not separate races, but rather a population that has a diversity of skin tones. This may seem strange to a Westerner, whose history is marked by light skin and dark skin populations that have no contact, but that same template cannot apply to Indians, where you have dark, dark skin for a brother and very light skin for that sister w/o a random outside population causing the difference in skin color.

  38. I’ve only heard of one: Yana Gupta, but it was made very clear that she was NOT indian.

    early in Indian cinema, often the only women available for films, as it was considered a low-class occupation, were apparently Indians with roots outside of India. As most Indian women, whether muslim or Hindu or what not were available.

    That of course has changed and now desis whether Tamil or Gujju or half-Afghani Celina, are willing and available to act in desi films and so the stars have been varied parts of India. They have all been lighter skinned beauties from the India, unfortunately, the darker skinned sisters are not as celebrated in bollywood, nor are manly features with large noses, as is common in parts of South Asia, including Afghanistan, nor are east asian looking features of some Indians – and I do hope that changes, as I do hope the larger size women in America get more celebration and women w/o rhinos and boob-jobs, and fake hair, whether weaves and creamy-crack treated hair in African descent women or unnatural blondes, in the west get celebrated more.

  39. Jenna,

    Afghanistan is in the middle east. Nice try.

    India and Pakistan are cultural cousins. The cradle of Indian civilization is in Pakistan! Their cultures are similar. Even if Pakistanis have largely abandoned wearing the sari, the “mother of the nation” Fatima Jinnah was fond of saris.

    You make a false claim when you say Pushtuns live in Pakistan. The majority do, but Pushtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Pushtuns like other peoples currently have a diaspora.

    South Asia and what countries are included and which ones are excluded is not definitive or agreed upon.

    40 million Pushtuns live around the world, with the majority in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pushtuns represent the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan yet 28 million (the largest segment) live in Pakistan.

    Pakistan is a frontier nation, where Indo-Iranian peoples like Baloch and Pushtun people live side-by-side with Desis be they Kashmiri, Punjabi, and Sindhi. Pakistan is home to some of Afghanistan.

    The UN considers “South Asia” to include Iran and Burma.

    At my alma mater UCLA, South Asian studies includes the Autonomous Region of Tibet in the People’s Republic of China.

    Some consider Afghanistan to be South Asia.

    Many Afghans have immigrated to India and Pakistan, we wear Shalwar Kameez, some Mughlai dishes originated from Afghanistan like “naan kabuli,” during the time of the British raj, one maharaja was of Afghan ancestry, during the 18th century, Afghans would raid the Punjab periodically from their fellow Muslim neighbors, at the height of the Durani Afghan empire, Afghan military power governed Gujarat, Sindh, Indian and Pakistani Punjab, and Indian and Pakistani Kashmir.

  40. Jenna,

    You’re why I hate sometimes can’t stand other South Asians. My family is from Kabul, ethnic Pushtun/Persian/Kurdish. Due to war and social dislocation, some of my family fled to the “subcontinent proper” since you say Afghanistan is the Middle East. Most of my family resettled in Karachi and some went to Maharashtra/Gujarat.

    For my fellow Muslims, they feel left out by chauvinist Desis. Even my Christian Desi friends are questioned about their authenticity. It seems if you are not a Sikh or Hindu your South Asian-ness is questioned

    I’m questioned because I’m Afghan, people look at my “buttery” (smooth, unblemished, fair skin) and then they are puzzled when they see my sister, her skin color is similar to a light mocha complexion, but perfectly unblemished.

    My mother looks like Rekha but is a natural dirty blonde, while my grandfather is so dark his skin color has a cinnamon-like red hue similar to many South Indians.

    Skin color variation in my family is apparent.

    My other sister raised in Karachi went to Mumbai to do commercial print model and do some back-up dancing. She found it easier to get employment than indigenous Indian women who were the wrong color or had the wrong facial features. My sister ended up marrying a Hakka Chinese Indian from West Bengal and now resides there with her half Pushtun and Chinese kids.

    So Jenna, be a little bit more open-minded.

    If Pakistan wasn’t a part of Bharat, why would members of Hindutva not consider Mohandas Gandhi as a traitor to Hinduism?

  41. Jenna,

    In Bollywood’s “Muslim social” films like the various remakes of Umrao Jaan, based on a Urdu novel to an intended audience of elite Muslim women, the language used in these films and in the songs is clearly Urdu, not Hindi.

    Though Hindi and Urdu are both Sanskrit-based languages derived from a common language, the Urdu of modern Pakistan has intentionally added more Perso-Arabic loan words to make the language distinct from India’s modern Hindi.

    Pakistan has been obsessed with trying to make their culture as distinct from India as possible. However, at the end of the day, both nations are like a dysfunctional couple, you haven’t learned the art of getting along.

  42. Celina Jeitley was born in Kabul, Afghanistan.

    Her mother Meeta is an Afghan Hindu and former Afghan beauty queen.

    An estimated 500,000 Indians immigrated to Afghanistan since the 19th century. The Hindu and Sikh community in Afghanistan, though brutally suppressed under the Taliban, has survived.

    They were the only Afghans allowed to use music in their worship services.

    They were more tolerated than Shia Muslims who comprise about 20% of the country’s Muslims.

  43. Gustavo– I agree with you that on one hand there is this strange coveting of women with fair skin in South Asia– many of their advertising schemes use foreigners or Indians that look as fair as possible. But with this stereotype of fair= more beautiful (completely absurd, in my opinion, but of course, so is tanning) also comes something else. This something else can be far more troublesome for a gori coming from the west…

    While on one hand the fair skin is seen as beautiful, there are further stereotypes about the western ‘gori’… beautiful but SEXUAL, beautiful and available… beautiful and lacking South Asian Morals…. or to put most bluntly… beautiful and willing to have sex with anyone.

    Of course, not everyone in South Asia can possible believe this, but enough can that while living in India there were quite a few scary (and also many slightly annoying but comical) situations.

    That’s why I offered up the suggestion, that perhaps gori women from the west may in some cases, overact by dressing EXTRA-SUPER conservative, to counteract these stereotypes.

  44. You may not realize this, but most gori brides of South Asians have to deal with a lot discrimination from some members of the South Asian community

    I bellieve it; I am dating someone who is white and although accepted now, my parents initially would much rather me be with an Indian Hindu, caste no bar (lol though at one time this mattered, and as I’m of a “lower” caste, plenty of desis Hindus who are caste conscious I’m sure wouldn’t want to marry me) whether light or dark – that didn’t matter, more his education and the fact that he was Indian and Hindu. No one would want me to marry a Muslim, whether light or dark-skinned – I don’t think it’s out of religious animosity, maybe some negative stereotyes of Muslim culture and apparent backwardness – but a strong feeling that the two religions do not work well together, and someone from his family would want me to convert. Unlike many East Asians I know, most Indians do not want their children to marrying “goris”, despite much opportunity – and my current partner felt alienated b/c of that, but he also felt alienated b/c he wasn’t a dr or successful businessman – that can have a lot to do with things as well. I wish you and your partner well, and if you guys show you’re committed hopefully things will get better.

  45. PS: “This may seem strange to a Westerner, whose history is marked by light skin and dark skin populations that have no contact, but that same template cannot apply to Indians, where you have dark, dark skin for a brother and very light skin for that sister w/o a random outside population causing the difference in skin color.”

    PS, Let’s not overgeneralize other parts of the world! You’re saying that I, with olive skin tones, brown eyes and almost black hair do not vary from, say someone from Ireland with red hair, pale, pinkish skin and blue eyes? I just say, take us out in the sun for an hour, and you will see how skin tones of the west are quite varied. ;)

    Europe has quite a history of contact with people of other populations– The Mediterranean Sea is quite small, you know.

  46. Even though my family lives in South Asia, we are not considered South Asian according to Jenna. I love how she defines for me what I am. Most Afghans I know would never call themselves Middle Eastern.

    But other things aside, if you are Muslim or Christian, you are sometimes not considered an authentic South Asian.

    It seems that an authentic South Asian would be only a Sikh or Hindu. An authentic South Asian is only Indian, even though Pakistan and Afghanistan are mentioned in many of the ancient Hindu epics.

    The Swat Valley in Pakistan, recently taken over by the Taliban, was one of the legendary early Buddhist kingdoms when Jainism and Buddhism ascended temporarily in South Asia.

    This debate about authenticity is troubling. I’m certainly a minority in South Asia, but even in America, I don’t pass the “brown skin color litmus test.”

  47. PS “I wish you and your partner well, and if you guys show you’re committed hopefully things will get better.”

    Thank you. For me, my partner’s family was at first reluctant (I was called a “friend” for quite a long time.. ahem) but now his family keeps asking him when He and I are getting married (which we plan on doing in a couple of years).. I talk to his family regularly on the phone (In my horrible American-accented Hindi, they don’t speak English) and his mom is a very big advocate of me, insisting that I am a very nice girl (I was very shy when I meet them, which seems to work much better in India than in the U.S, haha) . His dad is a bit worried because of the whole Americans get divorced a lot business.

    So it has taken a while for the family to warm up, but they have and (hopefully) will continue to… I just need to keep practicing my Hindi so I can speak to them more easily.

    I actually have been lucky that his family does not hold many of the stereotypes about western women, most of those situations happened during other situations, generally when I was just traveling in public or hanging out with friends. But in many places in India, I do choose to dress extra-conservatively, in hopes that this will keep such behaviors and attitudes from being expressed to me on the streets… not sure if the change in dress really has an impact on others’ behavior though.

  48. No one would want me to marry a Muslim, whether light or dark-skinned – I don’t think it’s out of religious animosity, maybe some negative stereotyes of Muslim culture and apparent backwardness

    South Asian Muslims disparage Hindus because of the following customs we deem backwards:

    -Female infanticide (though misogyny is an issue in some South Asian Muslim households)

    -Child brides (this practice is prevalent among poorer South Asian Muslims)

    -Marrying a dog or other animal for some religious reason

    -Caste system (Muslims have their own version of the Brahmin caste, those are people whose name is Syed-they claim to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad)

    I can see why there is Muslim animosity among Hindus and Sikhs (they were expelled from the homes in Pakistan), but still, all the religious communities in South Asia have their problems.

  49. PS, Let’s not overgeneralize other parts of the world! You’re saying that I, with olive skin tones, brown eyes and almost black hair do not vary from, say someone from Ireland with red hair, pale, pinkish skin and blue eyes?

    LOL, yes let’s not generalize. All Irish are not red haired, and many, many have very black hair. It was strange for me to see people with such light skin have such black hair, that I thought at once that they died their hair black, but when talking with friends they said no, their hair is natural.

    You’re right though, there are of course variations in shades, among “white” european descent people, but in recent Western history, that hasn’t been the main point of delineation, b/c I assume, those shades of whiteness are not, when looking at people, that stark.

    I’m aware of stereotypes of negative sayings toward certain groups of europeans taht seemed more dark, but there wasn’t an institutionalized barriers to say an Italian or a red-haired, light-skinned Irishman – in US history, both groups, whatever average skin tones their population’s had, were both initially treated with contempt by some Anglo Americans. I’m aware that the stereotype of Jews in Europe, was that they had a darker skin tone, or they had larger, protruding noses that were not considered attractive – but many Jews do not share these characteristics and it was just stereotypes. But there was a stark physical difference that all Europeans saw with Africans, Indians (particularly the ones who were dark skinned), or East Asians and in US history that “race” difference is more to do with skin color b/c of black Americans and white Americans coming into contact with each other.