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ManInBlack
03-29-2016, 09:33 PM
I'm getting to the point where I am writing my second-generation Indian immigrant character a lot, and as I am I'm discovering that even with plans to ask someone to culturally Beta later, it's a whole lot more complicated than I had expected. It doesn't help when the responses I'm getting from Wikipedia and other sources on even specific topics such as LGBT relations is "It's complicated. Very complicated."

Is there anybody who would be able to help me both make decisions about this character and answer general questions?

(I also feel that I should clarify that even though specific aspects of tradition such as arranged marriages are major points of conflict within the story, that I am working to make all sides sympathetic and that I am ignorant, not xenophobic, if I ask any questions that seem out of line.)

mirandashell
03-29-2016, 09:45 PM
Indian as in someone from the country of India?

Siri Kirpal
03-29-2016, 09:47 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Not Indian, but I am a Sikh and know bunches of Indians. So, first question: what type of Indian are we looking at? Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati? What religion? Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain, Christian?

The ones I know are mostly Punjabi Sikhs. But I also know a variety of others.

First generation Indians in the US tend to be very conservative. India itself rocks to the West more than it likes to admit. But Indian immigrants usually don't. Their kids run the gamut.

Arranged marriages are rarely ever the evil that novels make them out to be. (I've got one in mind where the Western, non-Indian parents of Sikh kids will be appalled that their kids have accepted such an arrangement.) A great many Punjabi Sikh kids WANT those arranged marriages, because it spares them the trouble of looking for a mate. However, bad situations do happen.

Food: Are we talking about southern India? Then the main base is rice. Are we talking about northern India? Then the main base is rotis (Punjabi)/chapatis (Hindi). Southern Indian food is more highly spiced than northern, but both are more spicy than European.

It's bad form for girls to cut their hair, but some do it. It's bad form for Sikh men/boys to cut their hair, but some do it.

So, what exactly do you need? It'd be better if you asked specific questions here, so you get more answers from more people...and so that everyone else can learn if they wish.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Siri Kirpal
03-29-2016, 09:49 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

"Immigrant" suggests not a Native American, nor a Native Brit. :)

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

mirandashell
03-29-2016, 09:52 PM
Really? He didn't say the story was set in America.

I thought I'd ask seeing as the OP isn't very forthcoming with detail. As you yourself pointed out.

blacbird
03-29-2016, 09:53 PM
What SatNami just said. India is the second-most populous nation in the world, geograpically very large, and is essentially a British colonial amalgam of hundreds of cultures and religions and languages. Many religions and cultural groups there remain more than a little bit unconfortable with one another. It's also worth mentioning that India today contains the third or fourth largest Muslim population in the world, only slightly smaller than that of Pakistan (which was split from India on grounds of religious differences back at independence time in the 1940s).

Plainly put, there is really no such thing as "Indian culture". You need to look for more specificity.

caw

josephperin
03-29-2016, 09:55 PM
Post the specific questions and will do my best to answer. Or at least tell you where you can probably find the answer.

Earthling
03-29-2016, 10:13 PM
Adding to the other posters saying you need to be more specific. There's no single Indian culture.

My husband is from Karnataka/Maharastra, is Hindu and is an immigrant himself. I'm sure he'll answer questions if you have any about his culture.

ManInBlack
03-30-2016, 01:32 AM
The questions you're all asking are proving why I needed to make this thread to begin with.

Here's what I do know:
The main characters I'm looking for information on are the parents of one of the MCs (As a girl in an American high school, I don't have any strict guidelines I need to follow with the actual MC) and they emigrated from India at some point between 15 and 20 years ago.
They are very conservative.
MC came out as lesbian a year earlier and her parents generally refuse to acknowledge it, and are extremely negative/critical when they do.
As a response to this refusal to date boys (and possibly for other, more traditional reasons) the parents have agreed to arrange a marriage with another immigrant family.
They hold strictly enough to this that when she refuses to change who she is or accept the marriage, they eventually kick her out of the house (not yet certain how this will be resolved).
I had Hindu in mind when I developed the character, but that was because to the best I was prepared to understand, India meant "Hindu and a little bit of Buddhists and Sikhs, and Buddhists and Sikhs apparently don't judge anybody based on what I've seen". Obviously at least one part of that "established knowledge" was pretty wrong so let me make my first explicit question be: does Hindu match the (almost stereotypical) description I've given of this family so far? Or did I start off in the wrong direction?

Hopefully this has been enough information for those in the know to at least point me in the right direction. Obviously I don't want you to develop my characters for me, but I'll be happy to take what you're willing to give me and do independent research with that as help. Moving in the right direction will definitely help me with more specific questions (for instance, if we do go with Hindu, I will be looking for anti-LGBT teachings and culture, lesbians appearing in their teachings, and things of that nature, and that's just what I know I'll be asking for).

Also, thanks for all the responses! When I replied to a thread in the PoC forum indicating that I would be looking for information on "Indian culture" (perhaps I should say "the cultures related to a person from India" as being more accurate, but I knew even less then than I do now) as far as I could tell there were zero responses, so I definitely did not anticipate the level of interest this thread got.

josephperin
03-30-2016, 01:40 AM
A few things.

1) A conservative family would most likely arrange a marriage than ever want the daughter to date.

2) I don't know that they would kick her out of the house, but then that might be because I can't imagine a parent doing that to a child. I figure conservative or liberal, they love their kid. :D

3) There are more Muslims in India than in any other country in the world with the exception of Indonesia, IIRC.

4) There are also a good number of Christians and even a few Indian Jews. There are some Tibetan people who came in as refugees.

I believe your MC's experience on coming out is going to be more or less the same, regardless of the religion she belongs to.

I don't know if there are stories of lesbian love in Indian folklore. I do know there are plenty of M/M stories, mostly camouflaged as bromance

ManInBlack
03-30-2016, 01:47 AM
Point 1 - I thought that might be the case. It was the easiest way to broach the topic in the chapter I just wrote, but I think I've thought of a way to fix the line without changing the scene it's in.
Point 2 - Oh, you'd be surprised. There are probably numbers out there of LGBT youths being thrown out. I don't know if this is more or less prevalent in any particular religion, but there are a fairly significant number of Christians (let's ignore for a moment the distinction between identifying as a religion and practicing its tenets) that do this particular nasty trick.
Point 3 - Good to know. The brief brushing-over of this we got in history class was that the Muslims in India became Pakistan, and that was the end of it. Obviously a flawed account.

As for lesbian love...yeah, the closest I was able to find (and reference) was one that Wikipedia had where the gods demanded two widows make love since their dead husband never conceived a child. There seem to be a lot of cases of man-on-man when it comes to the gods (again, Wikipedia, not necessarily the best source).

Siri Kirpal
03-30-2016, 01:48 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

What might help you to know is that homosexuals of any type are still (or were until very recently, not sure which) subject to serious legal sanction in India.

Do not make your Indian family Jains. They would never do such a thing. They may not harm any living life.

Sikhs are iffy. Sikhs aren't supposed to judge anyone, it's true. But in 2004 or 2005 the Sikh authorities decreed that the Anand Karaj (the Sikh wedding ceremony) may not be used for same sex marriage. People in same sex marriages or relationships can still be Sikhs, by the way. Some Sikh parents have tossed their kids out, but it's really rare. And not condoned.

Not sure about Hindus on this one. Someone else will need to chime in.

From your first post, you said you didn't want the family to come off too badly. May I suggest giving the MC a sibling who's been through an arranged marriage and is really happy with it.

You still haven't answered the question about the original region and original language of the MC's family. It may make a difference.

Also, not too many Buddhists in India. It's where it started, but not where it's flourished.

Hope this helps.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Siri Kirpal
03-30-2016, 01:52 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I keep cross posting.

Yeah, dating isn't considered a good idea by nearly all conservative Indian families. Even where the kids choose themselves, they're often chaperoned.

Oh, and Indian engagement time tend to be very, very short. Less than a week in some cases. Usually less than a year.


Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

ManInBlack
03-30-2016, 02:00 AM
Great info! As for the region and language...that's a large part of what I'm clueless about, and didn't have any idea I even needed to know until I started searching for terms and discovered there were languages to discuss other than Hindi and English. That discovery is actually a very large part of the reason why I decided I needed to make a thread rather than relying on what I could Google.

morngnstar
03-30-2016, 02:22 AM
Hi, I have no particular claim to authority, but I just wanted to offer my impression of your plot.

I don't think Indian-American parents, even first generation, would use an arranged marriage as leverage against their child. Maybe that's something some very conservative Indian families would do, but I think most Indian-Americans are reasonably educated and are exposed to American ideas of individual liberty.

They look at an arranged marriage as a service to their children. They are just trying to be helpful to them to find a mate, because they believe marriage and family life will make them happy. I think the parents in your story would feel like an arranged marriage would be a better choice for their child, and might advise or nag her about it, but probably wouldn't force or manipulate her.

If arranged marriages are ever done without consulting the child about the choice, it's only if done ahead of time when the child is at a young age. They wouldn't make the arrangement on their own and then insist that it's a done deal.

josephperin
03-30-2016, 02:45 AM
@Morningstar

Ah no. Sadly, you are mistaken. You are right in that the Indian American community tends to be highly educated, but that doesn't necessarily make them any less bound to tradition. Having lived in both places, my experience has been that the group that moved to the US is stuck in a time warp. Children are expected to toe the line. Not that many of them do, since most find freedom an addictive experience :)

Ps. This is just my personal opinion based on a small slice of the community.

Siri Kirpal
03-30-2016, 03:04 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

And that brings up another point: Don't make your MC's family highly educated, which is to say, no computer techs, no doctors, no teachers, no engineers. Make them the other end of the spectrum: owner/operators of convenience stores or restaurants or gas stations. These are all traditional job paths for Indian immigrants in the US.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

ManInBlack
03-30-2016, 03:32 AM
I don't think Indian-American parents, even first generation, would use an arranged marriage as leverage against their child.

Looking at the feedback I've received in this thread, I'm kind of thinking that rather than using it as an intentional weapon, it will be more something that they simply decide and feel that if she's any good a member of the family she will do so. This would lead to them being baffled that she's not doing what "a good girl" would do and expel her from the house.

Siri's post about the engagement times being short does give me an idea..."you will marry him a month from now, on your 18th birthday, at which point all of your belongings will be given to him." That will give her an out without being completely contrived (she can get her own place, and her parents wouldn't become criminals) allowing them to talk out their differences in a more natural manner without the plot hinging on the fact that she is homeless until they give in.

I would say that this would probably end with her living with her girlfriend, but alas, the plot is not being kind enough to make than an inevitability.

Which reminds me...this may have helped much, much, much earlier in the thread, but I forgot to involve my MC's name in the discussion. Currently (and I have grown rather attached to the name at this point if I don't have to change it) she goes by the name Avani Patel. Avani, because I was Googling names and felt that whatever that meant (I don't think I wrote it down) it matched her personality well. Patel, because to me (based on experiences in the US) that was the Indian equivalent of Smith...but that might lead us to a more defined origin for her if it doesn't contradict anything we've discussed so far.

mirandashell
03-30-2016, 03:38 AM
That's a Gujurati Hindu name, isn't it?

josephperin
03-30-2016, 03:44 AM
Yes it is a Gujarati name. Not quite the equivalent of Smith.

No, Indian parent generally do not say 'all of your belongings will be given to him,' unless they're threatened to do so by the groom's parents or something.

The basic thought process goes something like this (in my experience) - If my child marries outide of community (they usually don't think in gender terms) it's a rejection of me and my values. Therefore, I want him/her to marry someone of my choosing.

Which is why I said that thing about time warp.

But that doesn't make them any less financially savvy than your average American parent and in my limited experience none of them will hand over the girl's belongings to the groom.

ETA- I have known parents who attempted to bribe recalcitrant children. Ex, an apartment in Manhattan if you marry THIS girl and not that other one (it really happened :D)

Siri Kirpal
03-30-2016, 03:45 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Your plot change sounds good with one exception: Not sure that all her possessions would be given to her husband. She would be given to the husband with her possessions. Subtle distinction.

I can ID Punjabi names. Am not so good with the others.

I was going to suggest that your MC and family NOT be Gujarati, because that area is heavily Jain-influenced.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Siri Kirpal
03-30-2016, 03:49 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Josephperin and I keep crossposting!

And often the "uneducated" ones -- the convenience store owners, etc. -- are the wealthy ones.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

ManInBlack
03-30-2016, 04:11 AM
Would it be the whole name that I would need to change, the first name, or the surname (to avoid the Jain influence)?

morngnstar
03-30-2016, 05:09 AM
Looking at the feedback I've received in this thread, I'm kind of thinking that rather than using it as an intentional weapon, it will be more something that they simply decide and feel that if she's any good a member of the family she will do so. This would lead to them being baffled that she's not doing what "a good girl" would do and expel her from the house.

I think this is more plausible. Especially if they don't know she's a lesbian and think she's just bad at meeting guys. They might think that even if it's staring them in the face, because of strong denial. Or even each parent may know in their heart, but be afraid to bring it up with the other parent. Each thinks the other doesn't know, and comes up with other excuses to justify their choices for their daughter, which the other accepts no matter how flimsy because of their ulterior motive.

In that case, I don't think they'd jump straight to an ultimatum. They might expect her to come around to their point of view on her own given time. But maybe if that's not happening, in a fit of frustration and anger a threat could happen.

I doubt they're very factual, but you might want to check out some Hindi (a.k.a. Bollywood) movies. They still might stimulate the brainstorming for your project, as long as you do research for factual accuracy before you lock down the story. They frequently deal with issues of children disagreeing with their parents over who to marry. Some examples are Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The Lover Will Take Away the Bride) and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, which is the story with the opposite genders.

Siri Kirpal
03-30-2016, 05:33 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Just the last name, I think, but let's see what josephperin says. I may be off base about Gujaratis. And I'm not sure about the first name.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

josephperin
03-30-2016, 06:20 AM
He he. I'm no expert on Indian names. I agree with younthough, just the last name I think.

Lillith1991
03-30-2016, 06:21 AM
Great info! As for the region and language...that's a large part of what I'm clueless about, and didn't have any idea I even needed to know until I started searching for terms and discovered there were languages to discuss other than Hindi and English. That discovery is actually a very large part of the reason why I decided I needed to make a thread rather than relying on what I could Google.

I'm going to suggest that next time you (general) go looking at a specific culture or nation in this case, then it is best to go in with as few assumptions as possible. It colors how we think as writers and makes us less able to process what may seem like cultural inconsitencies. In your case, going in with a preconcieved notion of what being Indian meant, meant that you weren't prepared for the diversity of languages or culture that came from further research.

ManInBlack
03-30-2016, 07:55 AM
Fair point. The thing here is that the story isn't focusing on this culture - only one character's subplot is - and I knew I had a lot of research to do...I just had no clue whatsoever what lay below the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. What I've encountered in researching India is literally like nothing I've encountered researching a real-world, modern day...anything. I'm going to take that as the downside to an education in the country that everybody else has to watch on TV instead of a country where I have to watch somebody else's culture on TV all the time.

EDIT: That's not a complaint, for the record. The fact that this is an inconvenience in the way of a larger story PALES in comparison to the fact that this is the sort of stuff that makes me more interested in writing in the first place.

Lillith1991
03-30-2016, 09:24 AM
I'm going to take that as the downside to an education in the country that everybody else has to watch on TV instead of a country where I have to watch somebody else's culture on TV all the time.

This would be an incorrect assumption. Many of us make a concerted effort to not allow any preconcieved notions we have about another place effect the way we think of those places, particularly those of us who grew up in multicultural or multiethnic homes.

Which begs a question. Have you thought about the characters LGBTness and ethnicity in relation to how other Queer folk act towards her? The LGBT community still has a lot of race and ethnicity issues, though it is getting better slowly. The fact she is probably dealing with both these issues will effect her outlook as a human in some way.

josephperin
03-30-2016, 10:22 AM
@ManInBlack

If you watch Hindi movies for inspiration as Morningstar suggested, try My Brother Nikhil. It's a rather lovely movie from the POV of the sister of a gay man. Fair warning, it ends in tragedy. But it is one of the few Indian movies I've seen deal with homosexual relationships sans mockery or titillation.

Siri Kirpal
03-30-2016, 09:43 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Lillith, the only Lesbian Sikh couple I have ever met included one Punjabi and one very white woman. The white partner was thrilled to pieces to learn more about her partner's culture. Which isn't to say there's no prejudice.

By the way, dear OP, it's interesting that you originally placed your query in POC. Indians know themselves to be Aryans, and therefore, do not view themselves as POC. Usually. One of the things they hated about the British Raj was the Brit reaction to brown skin.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Lillith1991
03-30-2016, 10:20 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Lillith, the only Lesbian Sikh couple I have ever met included one Punjabi and one very white woman. The white partner was thrilled to pieces to learn more about her partner's culture. Which isn't to say there's no prejudice.

By the way, dear OP, it's interesting that you originally placed your query in POC. Indians know themselves to be Aryans, and therefore, do not view themselves as POC. Usually. One of the things they hated about the British Raj was the Brit reaction to brown skin.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

I'm speaking more from experience as a Black Lesbian who knows other LGBT folks that fall all over the spectrum of POC to White. She most likely won't view herself as POC to use the example you gave, but the majority of the LGBT community is from a White Christian background. They will view her as a POC and a further outsider because of her faith if it's visible in some way. I've had people ask me foolish stuff and assume that I don't date outside my race because of my skin. That's not really something any LGBT person who doesn't at least look white can avoid entirely in the western world unfortunately.

That said, things are better than they use to be and there's always been those who don't hold with preconcieved notions of race and culture and have always been open to dating people of a diififerent appearence to themselves.

morngnstar
03-30-2016, 10:47 PM
This would be an incorrect assumption. Many of us make a concerted effort to not allow any preconcieved notions we have about another place effect the way we think of those places, particularly those of us who grew up in multicultural or multiethnic homes.

This is a little too demanding. Everyone has preconceived notions. People with a more diverse background have the advantage of having fewer, but you probably still have some you're barely aware of. The important thing is to be open to sweeping away preconceived notions when you encounter evidence. I don't think it's necessary to rid yourself of all of them before you start.

Siri Kirpal
03-30-2016, 11:49 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I have to agree with this. (I'm speaking as a Lebanese-Anglo half-breed.) The key is to be open to changing assumptions. Which our OP seems willing to do.

And anyway, it think it's great that a person wants to learn about people outside their own culture. Keeps those assumptions from getting codified.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal


This is a little too demanding. Everyone has preconceived notions. People with a more diverse background have the advantage of having fewer, but you probably still have some you're barely aware of. The important thing is to be open to sweeping away preconceived notions when you encounter evidence. I don't think it's necessary to rid yourself of all of them before you start.

Sophia
03-30-2016, 11:57 PM
By the way, dear OP, it's interesting that you originally placed your query in POC. Indians know themselves to be Aryans, and therefore, do not view themselves as POC. Usually.

That's interesting. Is that specific to Indians in the United States, do you know? I'm Indian (in the UK), and have never thought of myself as anything other than a POC. It seems really strange to me to deny it. It's likely due to my ignorance regarding the term Aryan - I always thought that meant white skin, blond hair, and blue eyes.

Lillith1991
03-31-2016, 01:55 AM
This is a little too demanding. Everyone has preconceived notions. People with a more diverse background have the advantage of having fewer, but you probably still have some you're barely aware of. The important thing is to be open to sweeping away preconceived notions when you encounter evidence. I don't think it's necessary to rid yourself of all of them before you start.

I said it was an incorrect assumption, not that the OP didn't have the right to view things that way. I also said many do it and not all. I'm well aware of the fact I have preconcieved notions about other cultures, that doesn't mean I don't try to curb all the ones I do have about a culture I know little about to the best of my ability. The expectation when someone undertakes such an effort is to control the known instead of the unknown.

Siri Kirpal
03-31-2016, 02:46 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Sophia, ever hear of Indo-European? The original Aryans were Sanskrit speakers. I agree that nowadays most people think Aryan means what you described. But white, blond, blue eyed people aren't the originals.

Hmm. Perhaps I misspoke about how Indians view themselves. But most of the Indians I know in the States don't speak or act as if they themselves as a color. Rather they speak and act as though they are an ethnic group. If they view themselves as POC, that's certainly not what they project.

I'll tell you that my Lebanese-American father was as dark as many Indians, but we always knew he was Caucasian. Not white, certainly. But think about where the Caucasus Mountains are.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

ManInBlack
03-31-2016, 04:44 AM
This would be an incorrect assumption. Many of us make a concerted effort to not allow any preconcieved notions we have about another place effect the way we think of those places, particularly those of us who grew up in multicultural or multiethnic homes.
To be fair, the "preconceived notion" was "I have a lot to learn when I write about this character", which had to be corrected to "I have more to learn than I actually thought would ever be the case about a single nation". If I had gone in under the assumption that I knew literally nothing (which is still not technically true, unless you're playing by percentages) I probably wouldn't have taken the risk to include her in the first place (which I personally think would be a shame, because I've grown to like the character).


Which begs a question. Have you thought about the characters LGBTness and ethnicity in relation to how other Queer folk act towards her? The LGBT community still has a lot of race and ethnicity issues, though it is getting better slowly. The fact she is probably dealing with both these issues will effect her outlook as a human in some way.
I haven't, really. The school community is still being populated as I write, and I wrote her with a white girlfriend who has arguments with her, but not about something like that. I hadn't really heard anything about the LGBT community being any more racist than any other...but then, I still haven't decided if I'm going to address the fact that I'm writing in a part of the United States that traditionally tends to fall on the shall we say, less inclusive side of these sorts of issues or not.

I actually started this WIP with the thought that I would write a sort of ideal alternate universe where there was no homophobia, sexism, etc...and then proceeded to write my 12th or 13th character as one who masks his own issues with outward violent homophobia, which quickly murdered that, in addition to a few other natural story progressions. Now I just wrote a character who acknowledged sexism in an ancient culture, so the "no bigotry, look what this world could be" world is already dead. I'm sure race will come up, but I haven't gotten to it yet.


I'm speaking more from experience as a Black Lesbian who knows other LGBT folks that fall all over the spectrum of POC to White. She most likely won't view herself as POC to use the example you gave, but the majority of the LGBT community is from a White Christian background. They will view her as a POC and a further outsider because of her faith if it's visible in some way. I've had people ask me foolish stuff and assume that I don't date outside my race because of my skin. That's not really something any LGBT person who doesn't at least look white can avoid entirely in the western world unfortunately.

That said, things are better than they use to be and there's always been those who don't hold with preconcieved notions of race and culture and have always been open to dating people of a diififerent appearence to themselves.

Quoting this out of order since it's the same person and directly deals with the above...that's some very good information to keep in mind, particularly considering the cultural atmosphere I mentioned earlier. I'm not sure how direct I'll be, but it will probably come up in one of the (increasingly frequent) arguments between the couple, even if it's the white girl losing standing with her family or something of that nature.



If you watch Hindi movies for inspiration as Morningstar suggested, try My Brother Nikhil. It's a rather lovely movie from the POV of the sister of a gay man. Fair warning, it ends in tragedy. But it is one of the few Indian movies I've seen deal with homosexual relationships sans mockery or titillation.

I'll keep this in mind, thank you.


Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)
By the way, dear OP, it's interesting that you originally placed your query in POC. Indians know themselves to be Aryans, and therefore, do not view themselves as POC. Usually. One of the things they hated about the British Raj was the Brit reaction to brown skin.


Lately it seems the accepted thing to do is to refer to anyone that's not European-skinned as POC. That, and I believe I had been contributing to a thread specifically mentioning issues related to India, and was simply trying to expand that.


As for non-quoty things, I think I have made progress! I was able to do some preliminary research now that I knew to look at regions, and unless I go with something a little smaller (and therefore even harder to find information about) I'm tentatively looking at my character family to be from West Bengal. I still need to do a bit more reading on the culture to come close to being certain about that though. One thing that I don't think research will help me with that you guys might be able to is the question of if a Bengali family would give their daughter a Hindi given name? I know it's not uncommon for Americans to give their children a French, German, Spanish, etc., name...or a Dothraki, Klingon, or Naboo name now that I think about it...but I have no idea how common the idea of using other languages for names is outside of Europe.

Siri Kirpal
03-31-2016, 06:50 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

The Indian languages tend to have a number of similar words. I believe I've seen Bengali people with names that are also Hindi (note that it's not either/or). So you could probably get away with it. However, if their are any Bengali folks in the house, their opinion would be more accurate than mine.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Lillith1991
03-31-2016, 01:51 PM
To be fair, the "preconceived notion" was "I have a lot to learn when I write about this character", which had to be corrected to "I have more to learn than I actually thought would ever be the case about a single nation". If I had gone in under the assumption that I knew literally nothing (which is still not technically true, unless you're playing by percentages) I probably wouldn't have taken the risk to include her in the first place (which I personally think would be a shame, because I've grown to like the character).

I hope you don't feel in any way that I was condemning you. I'm not and I wasn't. We all have to work in the way the best accommodates our needs as writers. If going in aware they probably know next to nothing about a culture bothers someone, then it bothers them and probably isn't the best way to work. Going in with those notions in tact isn't a bad thing if that's what works.

To be fair though, you did mention that you were surprised about how diverse the language situation when you did some research. I'm willing to bet that you on some level assumed everyone spoke Hindi, because it is a fairly common assumption when people aren't aware of the variety of languages in India. Then there was the implied assumption that India is actually one culture, which is also fairly common for someone with very little knowledge of India in the US and other parts of the English speaking west. And they do seem to be the root of your difficulty with this character's story at least partially, so I suggested something that works for me.


I haven't, really. The school community is still being populated as I write, and I wrote her with a white girlfriend who has arguments with her, but not about something like that. I hadn't really heard anything about the LGBT community being any more racist than any other...but then, I still haven't decided if I'm going to address the fact that I'm writing in a part of the United States that traditionally tends to fall on the shall we say, less inclusive side of these sorts of issues or not.

It not that we're more or less racist than the rest of the country per se, but that we're a microcosm of the nation and the US still has a lot of unspoken race issues. People can't totally avoid being influenced by the dominant culture of the place they were raised. It shows up in one way or another, even if they're the most accepting person on the planet.


Quoting this out of order since it's the same person and directly deals with the above...that's some very good information to keep in mind, particularly considering the cultural atmosphere I mentioned earlier. I'm not sure how direct I'll be, but it will probably come up in one of the (increasingly frequent) arguments between the couple, even if it's the white girl losing standing with her family or something of that nature.

Yup.

On this note, I feel that I should mention my heritage extends beyond Black. I'm mixed race, with a European, Native American, Middle Eastern, Black and, yes, Indian background. Both my maternal grandfather and his parents were anglo-indians of the half Brit/Euro and half Indian variety. I don't pretend to know more about how Indian Americans feel or would feel in the type of situation you described because that's not how I'm perceived by our society. But there are issues that overlap between the Black community and general Indian community in the US, and the pretty in an exotic way but not my taste thing is very much one of the overlap points. Neither of us can completely escape the issue of race unless we're white-passing in appearance.

vsrenard
04-07-2016, 08:21 AM
Hmm. Perhaps I misspoke about how Indians view themselves. But most of the Indians I know in the States don't speak or act as if they themselves as a color. Rather they speak and act as though they are an ethnic group. If they view themselves as POC, that's certainly not what they project.



I am a first generation Indian American, from South India. I have never quite thought of myself as a PoC (to me, that has always meant black folks) but neither do I consider myself Aryan. I'm Indian, a brown girl, not an Asian but definitely part of an ethnic group. It's a common way of thinking among other Indian Americans I know, although in groups, we can self-mock our heritage, or further individualize our "groupness." Hey, Tamilians are way cooler than Patels, or practically anything out of Bihar, that sort of thing.

OP: Happy to help if I can with other questions. I would focus less on the perceived trappings of old-fashioned parents and more on the heart of the MC. No reasonable parent is going to say 'you're getting an arranged marriage because I said so, and all your things will be given away.' A better approach might be to have the parents think that arranged marriages have worked well for so long (in their eyes) and in a society full of divorce and adultery, this is the best gift they can offer their daughter. The gold and money and valuables they have saved for their daughter will go to her and the new family she's starting, to out them on a better path than what they started with.

As an aside, I'm married to an ex-Catholic Caucasian American. The relative attitudes of his parents and my (pretty conservatives) ones were not what we expected. In recent years, I've asked my mom more openly about what would have been worse than marrying a white guy. She said white was better than black, but black was better than Muslim. When I asked about gay/lesbian, she said she had entertained me enough for the month. Point being is that you should be asking your characters those sorts of questions to develop a more nuanced conflict than 'it's the old way or no way.' Indian immigrants living in America are certainly in a time warp outside of today's Indian Indians, but they have thought about the Indian v. American duality, trust me, even if they thought it would never apply to them and their kids.

AW Admin
04-07-2016, 08:33 AM
I am a first generation Indian American, from South India. I have never quite thought of myself as a PoC (to me, that has always meant black folks) but neither do I consider myself Aryan.

Just for people who might misinterpret (it doesn't mean what you maybe think, readers): Aryan (https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=Aryan&submit.x=0&submit.y=0).

Aryan can be a hot-button word sometimes for 'Muricans.

vsrenard
04-07-2016, 09:26 AM
Good clarification. I should also point out that most South Indians believe we settled our land much before our northern neighbors and have a Dravidian ancestry, rather than Aryan ancestry that migrated from the north. Although that might not be the best theory anymore (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Aryan-Dravidian-divide-a-myth-Study/articleshow/5053274.cms).

ManInBlack
05-03-2016, 09:10 AM
So in order to get some basic knowledge here so that when I have questions, they're at least smart ones, I picked up some light reading:

https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/13103367_10103278405086811_7605964792214464717_n.j pg?oh=05892a1b30ce1416ecd72f31ea85110b&oe=57AF86D8

aruna
05-04-2016, 05:55 PM
To be fair though, you did mention that you were surprised about how diverse the language situation when you did some research. I'm willing to bet that you on some level assumed everyone spoke Hindi, because it is a fairly common assumption when people aren't aware of the variety of languages in India. Then there was the implied assumption that India is actually one culture, which is also fairly common for someone with very little knowledge of India in the US and other parts of the English speaking west. And they do seem to be the root of your difficulty with this character's story at least partially, so I suggested something that works for me.

Interestingly, in many South Indian schools Hindi isn't even taught as a second language. Instead, it's English. When I travelled in North India hardly anyone, I found, spoke English and all the signs were in Hindi, whereas in South India you'll find many if not most of the shop signs are in English as well as the native language -- Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada etc.








I know many Indian second and third generation people settled in the West. Hardly anyone I know still adheres to Indian culture in totality, but when it comes to marriage they are often more conservative. I know a couple of arranged marriages that have worked well. Even when (Hindu) marriages are arranged, it's never "you MUST marry the person I choose!" It's the parents sounding out suitable mates who they think would fit from a rational point of view, considering education, job, religion, interest, character, and looks. The son or daughter gets to see the "applicants" and choose the ones they like, they meet, and if it clicks they marry. They expect that if those basics are clear from the start they are then free to let love grow. They don't see falling in love and passion as the basis for marriage.
I would have loved this method as a young woman as I was shy and vulnerable. I wanted someone who is serious form the very start, and that is very hard in Western culture which considers that sex comes first, and then love.
There are lots of good novels about arranged marriage -- I loved the "Marriage Bureau" series, set in South India -- light hearted and yet profound and moving stories.

ManInBlack
05-19-2016, 09:26 AM
Does anybody know any good resources to find, for instance, diminutives (such as what a parent would call their child) in Bengali? All of my searches just keep bringing up translations of the concept (such as the translation of word "diminutive" or "endearment").