I’ve been blogging for a few years: I’ve been Indian my whole life. Most of the early part of this life, (as you’ll learn from reading parts of FROM DUNES TO DIOR, my latest release), was spent in America.
On most days, I dress and sound like an American. “I’d think you were white if I couldn’t see you,” a friend joked last week over dinner.
I forget that the Internet doesn’t know all this. The Internet, the oft touted vehicle of democracy, has another side. Only this one makes it easy for people to jump to divisive conclusions.
My avatar is of a smiling brown faced woman. Put that together with the name, either Mohana Phongsavan (married) or Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar (maiden) and this is what you get from someone who only knows me through my online presence: oh i just realized from her name that English may not be her native language.
This was in an email, about, but clearly not intended, for me. The email gremlins (jinns in the Middle East) made sure it didn’t reach the person for whom it was intended.
Needless to say, I was less than thrilled. Especially since the piece of writing she was judging me for was better than most of the other people who had posted on a certain topic.
I slept on the email because I didn’t want fatigue to taint my fury. The next morning, I was no longer angry. But I didn’t want to be pushed around. For the last year I’ve been standing up for myself in various ways and I added my reply to her onto my list of assertive moments.
Here’s my reply:
Sorry, what exactly was reflective of a non native speaker of English in that preview?
By the way, I am a US citizen, lived there since I was 5, and have a Phd from the University of Florida. None of which apparently didn’t train me enough for your high giveaway standards.
Are you always so charming or is it just people with foreign names who experience your best?
She wrote back, swiftly, and apologetically, in the style of most politicians:
I owe you a huge apology….. This email was meant for someone else and I had just harangued her for her bad grammar and spelling so when i saw the errors in that paragraph I couldnt resist pointing them out to her, so it was meant in more of a joking way, nevertheless, I do not know who wrote the intro to that post and I apologize making the assumption that it was you. Trust me we do not have high standards for our giveaways, (as is apparent in the intro post) and we are continually making errors. I take full responsibility for this email and hope it will not reflect poorly on XXXX.
Was she really apologizing or was she more concerned about reflecting badly on her business partner?
I’ve no idea. But in either case, I shouldn’t complain. What else can you expect in a country where people still disparage a sitting president for everything from his nation of origin to his father’s religion? For a nation started by those fleeing religious persecution, and then built by immigrants from all walks of life, from all over the world, life in the famed ‘melting pot’ proves less than cordial.
“Jen” (no, I’m not making that up, that’s her name, as bland as vanilla) reminded me we still have a lot to work on.
- A Life Lived Five Years at a Time (mohanalakshmi.com)