First of all, Happy Maha Shivratri! Wish me luck on the fasting and staying up all night!
In my experience there are few things more difficult than walking into a new place where you don’t really fit in or know the protocol.
Going to the Indian grocery store is like that for me. Or at least, going to a new one is. There’s one really close to my home and I feel pretty comfortable there. I know where things are.
But last week I needed more hair oil and I had recently discovered an Indian grocery store that was more on my way home from work, so I stopped there.
I felt extremely uncomfortable as soon as I walked in the door. Like I was intruding. I probably was. Just by my look I seem to scream: I want to be part of your club, why won’t you let me in?
It reminded me a lot of this comedy sketch: http://www.snotr.com/video/422/Eddie_Murphy_goes_undercover
In it, Eddie Murphy goes “undercover” as a white man to see how the world is different. It’s comedy so not literal truth, but there’s a part where they’re on a bus and as soon as the one Black guy gets off, all of a sudden there’s a literal party on the bus. That was the sort of feeling I had. Like I’d just interrupted a party.
Yes, that’s right. I just compared myself to the Black person in the video. Inappropriate, but it was really what my mind thought of when I tried to articulate what I felt.
Not to get all poor little white girl here. I realize that I’m lucky that I can usually avoid putting myself in a situation where I feel that way. Many people can’t.
So, I couldn’t find the hair oil easily and had to ask for where it was. I stumbled over my words (I’m not nearly as articulate in person as I am in writing, believe me!). I got it and tried to check out, but I only had a credit card and I was under the minimum. So I asked for the CD that was displayed behind the register. Karwa Chauth Vrat Katha. I felt like such a spoiled jerk being like, “Oh, I need more stuff? Okay, give me that thing.” But I did honestly want the CD. Walk-throughs of the prayers and chants for Karwa Chauth? I can use that!
I know this whole messy feeling is me. It’s in my head. Nonetheless, I cried on the way home. But even as I write that now, I’m rolling my eyes at myself.
On the positive side, I heard one girl behind the register say “Kya Hua?” and I understood it immediately! I know it’s just a tiny phrase, but to understand something in Hindi without having to stop and think about it was pretty cool. Baby steps.