You know how I was talking about trying to use Hindi with customers at the grocery store? I had an experience a couple weeks ago that put me in their shoes and it was…weird.
I was at the mall with a friend and, as usual, wearing my little red bindi. (I’ve spoken before about how important that practice is to me and since that post I’ve been wearing a bindi full time whether it is inconvenient or not).
Anyway, we passed a girl in the hall who I nearly ran into and as we were both apologizing to each other she said that she liked my bindi and I said thank you. Then as we were going our separate ways she turned back to shout, “sukriya” in a nervous but self-pleased kind of way.
And I realized that she assumed I was Indian and was proudly practicing her Hindi on me. Oh the irony. (I run into this a lot where people have trouble classifying me. Indians tend to know immediately that I’m white but many white people think I’m Indian).It was cute but it left me rather uncomfortable. I saw myself in her and I realized how much it came across like she was showing off, wanting me to be proud of her “inside” knowledge. It certainly didn’t make me think that she knew any Hindi but just that this was one word she had picked up and now she had a chance to use it and she almost didn’t out of fear or self-consciousnessness but she overcame it and said it anyway.
Just like me.
Having seen it from the other side now, I don’t think I’ll be trying out my Hindi on anyone any time soon. I didn’t realize how much it makes it about you and not about the other person.