White Hindu Conversations: Part Four

The office where I work doesn’t have a lot of diversity mostly because it’s so tiny. There are about ten full time people and occasional contractors. I’m the only woman in this branch. The only person of color is a co-worker who is half Indian and half Irish.

In a money-saving effort, I don’t usually go out to lunch with the guys, so I don’t get to have very meaningful conversations with them.

A while back, though, I did decide to go with them to lunch. I was in the car with four boys and they are all brilliant and confident. I, with my English degree, rarely feel intelligent enough to jump into their conversations. A lot of it is about politics, economics, and technology; all things I understand very little of.

Somehow on this particular day, the conversation in the car on the way back to the office turned to human nature and whether at our core we are good or evil. Now, that’s my kind of subject!

I tried to pipe up with my thoughts, but I have a quiet voice and I’m not often heard.

I believe that people are naturally good and those instincts get corrupted by fear and the illusion of scarcity. I managed to express a little of that to the boys and my half-Indian co-worker, knowing that I’m Hindu, said, “Don’t forget, I’m actually from there. My great uncle killed his brother over land” (Or something to that effect, this conversation was a few months ago).

The conversation was off in another direction before I could even say, “But do you really think that was his true nature?”

The thing that really stung me, though, was the “I’m actually from there.” From the tone of his voice it seemed clear to me that he thinks I have some fantasy idea of India and he is the real authority because of his ethnicity. He’s as American as I am, but somehow I have no authority to speak on Indian philosophy.

Me at work. Yes, its’ an odd office environment.

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Sabina

    How was your co-worker’s comment about where he’s “actually from” relevant to general human nature? If it was totally out of the left field, that’s really messed up. It’s messed up in general regardless.

    • Krishna

      She said since her voice is meek, she is not heard. She was probably not allowed to talk more on the subject.

    • Ambaa

      He, rightly, realized that my belief on human nature comes out of my religious practice. Maybe I’m wrong, but it felt like one of those “you hippies don’t know what India and Hinduism are really like.”

  • justinwhitaker

    Ha! Yes, I go through this a bit with people actually from x or y place who think their links or origins somehow make them exports or authority figures. I’m *actually* from Montana and the USA, but that hardly makes me an expert or authority on either, especially when it comes to countless specific issues about which I know nothing. If you want to be direct (and perhaps confrontational) you can always respond to such claims with “So?”

    Being from somewhere means you have some direct experience there that can be very helpful to the conversation, it doesn’t mean you’re the expert in the room :)

    • Ambaa

      Good point on being from Montana! I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s true. I often can’t even give people directions in my home state. Yeah, I grew up there, but I didn’t have a car until after I left home!

  • Y. A. Warren

    So many ways to be dismissive toward another! This is why I so enjoy Patheos. No matter how softly you speak, in the written word you may roar.

    • Ambaa

      Very true. I have a lot of trouble with face to face communication and I really rely on the ability to write what I’m trying to say!

      • Y. A. Warren

        You are blessed with a great gift. I worry that too much of the wisdom of women is spoken and disappears into the air rather than becoming part of the ever-increasing sacred writings.

  • Shesadri Sekhar Bagchi

    it doesn’t matter.