Bad Indian Girl

A south indian girl in traditional indian dres...

I am Indian but I am not from India. This one sentence is often enough to blow peoples minds, or at least confuse the shit out of them. I had never been to India until just on a year ago when I spent two months there as part of my travels.

When I was in India being seen as an Indian woman made feel vulnerable.  It felt like it opened me up to a particular kind of scrutiny and judgement that was threatening.  There I was, wearing western clothes, walking with a white man, unable to speak or understand hindi. The quintessential ‘bad Indian girl.’ I was what traditional Indian parents are often terrified their daughters will become.  Someone who defies and betrays tradition, culture, and custom. In many ways I allegedly represent the moral degradation of Indian society due to ‘westernisation.’  I am the opposite of the ‘good Indian girl’ who is modest, submissive and obeys her parents wishes, and by extension anyone else in authority.

I  found myself hiding behind my Malaysian nationality. It protected me a little bit from the scrutiny.  I would just tell people that I am from Malaysia and allow them to form their own conclusions.  “But you look Indian” they would say, and I would nod, too tired and too pissed off to explain the complexities of my identity.  It meant that I was judged as a foreign woman not an Indian girl and lessened the stares and inappropriate comments and inappropriate touching a little bit. Only a little bit. It is our culture after all.

I don’t think I am alone, as an Indian woman who feels uncomfortable around Indian men when I walk down the street even in New Zealand. There is a sense that as an Indian woman I owe them something. That I am theirs.  After all that is the understanding that many Indian men are raised with from the cradle. This has been reinforced by a number of incidents where I have been harassed or verbally abused. Obviously this is not true of all Indian men, and I know many who are not sexist or misogynist, but the fact that I and others often feel this way is a clue that something is broken.

I am an Indian woman. As a result, how I think, how I act, how I dress, all of these things are part of Indian culture.  There is not arbitrary test of authenticity that you can subject me to that decides whether I am Indian or not. I just am. I choose it. I live it. Culture is dynamic and alive and made up of people. People like me.  You cannot define culture purely by its traditional institutions or structures of power.  Claiming that I am not really Indian or a ‘bad Indian girl’ is simply a way of trying to silence me. It is a way of harmful cultural institutions trying to hold on to power they do not deserve. It is a way of maintaining control. I have as much right to define my culture as anyone else.

I will never accept that harassment and violence is a part of my culture. I will never believe that I am less than an authentic Indian woman for speaking my mind and advocating for what I believe is right.  My cultural narrative includes a long line of women who have advocated for the betterment of people and it is a part of my culture (alongside many other parts) I  willingly embrace. I will happily be a ‘bad Indian girl’ because that is what makes me a strong Indian woman.)

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9 thoughts on “Bad Indian Girl

  1. It was like it was me writing this article. You know I experience every single thing that you’ve articulated also. I’m happy to be a ‘Bad Indian Girl’ too. Haters gonna hate.

  2. It seems, not just the Indian men, but random Indian strangers, Indian neighbors, elders, colleagues, teachers, rapists, criminals etc all know they have some kind of authority to tell an Indian girl how she must protect her culture or else…

  3. Good article. A bad Indian girl is probably a good human. These fat hideous looking race of humans with a sub human culture. It is a culture that does not align with normal human values. The society is dominated by men who subjugate women. The men are women beaters, rapists and perpetuators of a dysfunctional generation. Not sure why such species are allowed into this country. Hopefully someone like you will enlighten the rest and put an end to it.

    • I am not sure why you thought your racism and bigotry would be welcome in this space. You have just referred to me as being fat and hideous with a sub human culture. Your comment has repeatedly sought to dehumanise me. Please do not make the mistake that by critiquing components of my culture I align myself with white supremacy.

  4. Pingback: A Human Story

  5. Hi I’m a little late. Just read the article. Just wanted to say that the “bad Indian girl” can be also somebody who was born, raised and lives in India, wears Indian clothes and eats Indian food.
    Virtually every Indian woman, who has rebelled in any way, large or small against being “the good Indian woman” fits into the label. The “good Indian woman” is an impossible ideal to live up to. Most Indian women, who are mere mortals, fail misreably in their attempts to be her. Maybe we should give Indian men rubber dolls who can be good Indian girls. 🙂
    That’s my blog name, by the way: Bad Indian Woman. 🙂

    • Thank you very much for your comment! It is so true the ideals we are given of good Indian women (Sita in the Ramayana springs to mind) appear to be male fantasies rather than living breathing human beings. Awesome blog name 😛

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