Homeward Browned

Third-culture brown woman searches for a place called "home" (Currently in India)



I’m A Grumpy Old Bastard – In The Body Of A 26 Year Old Woman

I don’t really want to go out. That’s where all the people are. I’d much rather stay in my house, with my laptop and my books and my stuff. I’d rather wear my comfy “house clothes” that I can’t wear out because of the food stains and holes. I just want to do my work, watch my films, read my books, and be left alone. I don’t really love it when there are people in my house, either, but that can’t be helped sometimes. I hate small talk.

“LEAVE ME ALONE” is what I would scream at my parents when I had a tantrum. I dreaded the weekly dinner parties my parents and their friends had because I would have to wear proper clothes and talk to people and socialise with kids my own age. The best times were when someone’s lazy but genius parent would just put on a VHS movie for us. This meant I could just stare at that gorgeously glowing screen and not have to deal with anyone, including that kid who ate toothpaste. Adults would pretend to steal my nose (fuck off), and the unfunny ones would try so hard to be funny because they wanted the kids to think they were cool. I politely humoured them, of course.

I was a polite kid. I was SO POLITE, you guys. I would silently, smilingly steam while some uncle stole my glasses off my face. I would sit, quiet as a (possibly dead) mouse, in the living room when my parents entertained. I was The Quiet Child. I wasn’t shy, I just didn’t give a fuck about what anyone was talking about.

This was really cute when I was little, because grown-ups expected little girls to be quiet and well-mannered. But, boy did things change when I grew up. In the community that I come from – Urdu-speaking Bangalore Sunni Muslims – chit-chatting/gabbing/tittering is a bona fide activity for women. I’m supposed to want to wear awfully itchy clothing and attend weddings and talk to other girls my age about their itchy outfits and where they got their bangles from. I’d much rather be chewing on a glass bangle sandwich. It isn’t that these other people aren’t totally lovely, pleasant folk – which they are. It’s the fact that my gender and age mean that I am expected to participate in exhausting social rituals.

See, I don’t care much for expectations. Great expectations, low expectations, exceeded expectations. Expectations can piss off. It isn’t my job to fulfil whatever made-up fantasy of what I’m supposed to be like that lives in your head. Because I can’t read minds, and also, I don’t care.

If I was a 60 year old man, nobody would care what I did. Is it any wonder that Grumpy, of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves fame, was drawn as a beardy old coot and not a 5’2” Indian girl? My bastardliness would be cute, even. A charming little quirk I’d acquired at the ripe old age of 60. Except, of course, men are allowed to be horrible, unsocial bastards at any age. So this grumpy veteran didn’t just “ripen” with age – he was always a piece of shit. And all I really want in life is to be a horrible piece of shit and order people to get off my lawn and mind their own goddamn business.

Women are always expected to be nice to everyone and accommodating. Has anyone ever realised how creepy the word “accommodating” is? I’m not a hotel room. I do not want to accommodate your gross ass! My mother, every once in a while, complains about having to cook for guests that are coming over for lunch. Just order out, I’d tell her. No. It has to be home cooked food. It’s exhausting.

What do you think that 60 year old man would do? He’d tell you to fuck off home because The Searchers is on TV tonight and he’d rather watch that than deal with your annoying ass. He’d do exactly what he wanted to.

And I think that’s really fucked up, that women can’t just do what they want. Because doing what you want is rude. Letting people trample all over you is being nice. Letting other people dictate how you use your time is being accommodating. I read a massive (VERY LONG) article about the emotional labour women perform, which should’ve just been a neon sign saying “WOMEN, STOP GIVING A SHIT”.

So, to wrap things up, the whole point of this piece is do whatever the hell you want. I don’t care. Thanks for reading, I guess. Bye.


Abraham, Moses and Jesus Were Probably Black – But That Makes My Asian Muslim Family Uncomfortable


A few months ago when that amazing 3D image of what Jesus probably really looked like came out, I brought it up at the dinner table with some of my relatives in India. I said “Hey, some scientists found out what Jesus really looked like.” Everyone leaned in. I was mostly high off the thought that, yes, this was going to scientifically prove that white people can go suck it because Jesus wasn’t blonde and blue-eyed – he looked more like me than he did an Abercrombie & Fitch model.

He was an Arab Jew, and probably had some black African blood,” I revealed, psyched. Black African blood! Science to the rescue! Suck it, white people! Suck it, Indian Christians who have such deep-seated internalised racism that they hang photos of dreamy Ewan McGregor Jesus everywhere! Jesus is ours. Considering the sociopolitical climate in the United States at the time with Black Lives Matter and institutionalised racism against blacks, I revelled in the idea that if everyone realised Jesus was (somewhat) black, then racists would take a second to reflect on the link between religion and anti-black racism. As an Indian, I often align myself more with blacks, and other people of colour than I do with whites. I know this is not the case for many other brown people. Unfortunately, not many in India were aware of what was going on in Ferguson, and not many cared.

The response to my J-Bomb (Jesus bomb) was, umm, confusing. Remember how white people reacted to the black Stormtrooper? Looks of disgust. Incredulity. Internal turmoil. I’m pretty sure someone tore their shirt off like Marlon Brando in Streetcar and screamed “Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Wait, what? This was the reveal all of us have been dreaming about for centuries. Now I realised, not all of us. The Muslim community is kind of racist. The Asian Muslim community is definitely probably kinda racist.

For some inexplicable reason, Asian Muslims think they’re the best at being Muslim. (We’re not.) It might be because we’re brown-skinned which makes us feel a kinship with Arabs (where Islam all began). It might be because some of us, my family included, believe we are direct descendants of Arab/Persian/Turkish Muslims who migrated along trade routes in Asia. Maybe it’s because we’re not first-generation converts and believe in the idiotic fallacy that being born Muslim is superior to converting. Maybe we’re just dicks and think we’re better than everyone else.

I went a step further and – just to start some shit – said that Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses were all black too, because all humans were black in the beginning. We’re all from Africa, which is a supremely cool idea. My audience weren’t having it. The feared the thought that the Prophets they cherished and admired possibly did not look like them. This is the same reasoning behind Italian painters depicting Jesus as a skinny Fabio – people find comfort in praying to someone that looks like them. In Christian history, this turned into fucked up white supremacy. Colonialists used these images of Skinny Fabio Jesus to colonise and tell the brown heathens that, since God was white, white people are superior. Man was created in the image of God, right?

Why do dark-skinned Prophets scare us so? Is it because we actually think that we are superior to blacks? If black people are so inferior to us, then how on earth could we love and respect them as we love and respect our Adam, Abraham, Moses? Were Adam, Abraham and Moses thugs? Were they “street”? Were they drug dealers? How low did they wear their pants? Did they listen to rap music? Cornrows? Locs? Jay-Z?

Will Idris Elba play Musa in the inevitable Ten Commandments reboot? (Um, yes please.)

We dislike the thought of black Prophets because we dislike black people.

But whoa, hey! We’re not racists! There’s a hadith that says something about not being racist or something. And remember Bilal? He was one of the first Muslims – a great man. He was a black man and a slave and was liberated by Islam. By a show of hands how many of you have said these exact words: “Islam actually ended slavery, you know, 1400 years ago. Have you heard of Bilal?”

See, here’s the thing – let’s stop using Bilal as the Islamic mascot for anti-racism. That’s the same as a Men’s Rights Activist saying “We gave women the vote so what more do they want?”

Three vibrant, innocent young black Muslims were gunned down, execution style, in Indiana, USA. Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, Adam Kamel Mekki, 20, and Muhannad Adam Tairab, 17. I shared the news story on my Facebook wall twice. I’ve never even been to the United States, yet these boys were my brothers. I find comfort in having an international community. I got 1 share from a Muslim friend. Most of my Facebook friends are Muslim. You do the math.

These same Muslims go into full throttle during Ramadan with the Iftar memes and infographics showing you when the best time is to offer dua. That’s not the important stuff. This is the important stuff. Our brothers and sisters are being gunned down because we pray to a specific God. Would we have cared more if the boys were of Pakistani or Palestinian descent? I don’t know. All I know is our reaction, or lack thereof, was shameful.

Asian and Arab Muslims – you’re not special. Get over yourselves. Islam isn’t post-racial yet, like we want to believe it is. The liberation of Bilal is not the badge of honour that we all wear proudly, stupidly on our chests. Islam must be intersectional. Black Muslim Lives Matter.

May Our Three Brothers rest in peace, and may we keep their names in our mouths.

10 Reasons Why I Hate Talking To Older Men + An Open Letter To Older Women

  1. They always think they are right, and you are wrong.
  2. They HATE being told they are wrong, or when you disagree with them.
  3. When you have an opposing view on something, it has become their mission to prove you wrong because you are an ignorant and foolish little girl.
  4. They think they know everything about everything. (They don’t.)
  5. They like talking about topics about which they know nothing, yet pretend that they are experts on this topic.
  6. When they form a group of more than 2 older men, they all are experts on shit none of them are qualified to talk about.
  7. They reject arguments based on logic to support their already existing preconceived notions and beliefs (based on nothing).
  8. Mansplaining.
  9. They can’t handle the fact that you might know more about a certain subject than they do, so they start getting a little crazy.

Bonus reasons:
11. They won’t let you finish talking before interrupting you/talking over you.

An Open Letter to Older Women:

Dear Older Women,
I get it now. I finally understand. To you I owe everything I have today. I am thankful for your struggles and the sacrifices you have made to get me here. I thank you for raising your sons better than their fathers were raised. That’s all you. You moulded your sons to take on their fathers’ best qualities, and you ensured they shed their worst ones, the ones that held you back and suppressed your spirit.

I only have to deal with the shitshow of conversing with men of older generations a couple times a year. For you, this has been your life since you reached adolescence, since you got your first job, since you got married. Thank you for taking the bullet. Thank you for absorbing the shock. Thank you for raising a generation of men who are slightly better than their fathers.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
With all my heart,

PS: I’m sorry.


The Sad Muslim

There are many, many different kinds of Muslims. There are practicing Muslims, non-practicing Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, moderate Muslims and radical Muslims, ex-Muslims and cultural Muslims.

These groups can be further divided into subcategories depending on race, nationality, and propensity for murder in the name of God.

We’ve seen all of these Muslims in the media, on internet forums, and in real life adding their own personal flavour of Islam to public discourses, involuntarily representing the 1.5 billion other Muslims on the planet.

If you’re a black-and-white kinda person it’s probably incredibly confusing for you, trying to figure out which kind of Muslim is the majority kind. You know – the stereotype that makes it easier for you to identify and then understand a group of people. Well, life isn’t that simple and now, finally in 2015, we all know that stereotypes suck and don’t actually work as an identifier.

But dichotomies do still exist, especially as a result of media representation or, more importantly, lack thereof. After the incredibly sad and unjust attack on Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead as well as the 4 dead in the Paris hostage situation, Muslims were subsequently divided into two major groups: those who are offended by the Mohammed cartoons and react with violence, and those who are offended by the Mohammed cartoons but do not react with violence. Both of these are more commonly known as “angry” or “offended” Muslims.

But there is one more category of Muslim, of which I find myself a frequent card-carrying member – the sad Muslim. We’re not angry or offended or indeed blasphemed by the satirical cartoons of our Prophet – we’re just sad.

We’re sad that people who claim to follow our faith are killing innocents in it’s name, and supposedly in our name too. We’re sad that they’ve been led astray when they should be helping build up our communities with us and making sure every member of our community is happy and healthy. We’re sad that there are people who think we should be held responsible for the acts of strangers.

We’re sad that a satirical newspaper chose to ridicule a man we hold in esteem instead of the actual people who commit crimes against humanity. We’re sad that they choose to cruelly prod the millions of peaceful Muslims with disgusting images of a man who cannot defend himself, instead of going after the individuals who actually committed the acts that appalled the world.

This kind of kneejerk reaction to spread racist, stereotypical, and lewd images that took place after the attack victimises innocent Muslims and does nothing to tackle the problem of fanaticism and terrorism. It perpetuates racial stereotypes and marginalises a group of people that had absolutely no stake in this sorry state of affairs, instead of going after and lampooning the real nutters.

Our religion has been mocked – by Islamic terrorists on the one hand and Charlie Hebdo on the other. And as usual, our voices drowned out by the two extremes.

I’m sad that the ludicrous, delusional and downright silly fanatics and terrorists aren’t the butt of the jokes. Are we mocking the state of contemporary politically-charged fanaticism? Or are we mocking a dead man and his peaceful followers who simply don’t need to see a drawing of him as a hook-nosed, greasy-haired Arab stereotype in the nude, riding a pig?

Go ahead and draw whatever the hell you want, but remember there may be a community of people who may be offended by it and not for the reasons you think. We don’t appreciate racism or blatant disregard for our sensibilities. We do, however, appreciate it if you draw terrorists as the low-life scum they are.

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