There are the desis that only talk to each other, and the desis that avoid each other like the plague. I don’t really want to be like either.
“Most” of the desis I met in college came from conservative, religious, upper-class families. They tended to only hang out with other rich desis and would only date other rich desis (of the “opposite” gender, of course). The farthest their adventures would go would be a Hindu desi dating a Muslim desi, and their parents would end up driving them apart.
Then there were the few “alternative” desis that I ran into both in High School and in college, and admittedly, I was one of them. Like many of these friends, I never really considered dating a desi… okay maybe ONCE, but that’s it. I’ve always loved my culture, my roots and my religion, but for some reason, I have never managed to sustain even a good crush on a desi. Maybe it’s because we’re taught to view each other as family, but I’m thinking it’s something else. Even when I identified as “straight”, I couldn’t find myself being interested in the fratty straight desi boys. In High School I dated people of color, but never desis.
When I started identifying as queer I pretty much exiled myself from the desi community for a while, in order to find myself and all that. This meant that I casually dated white people and black people… but no Indian people or non-western people at all. After a while it got frustrating, like when this white girl tells me “show me some of those sexy Indian dance moves…” WTF? Since when has Bharatanatyam, a sacred dance, been considered sexy? Well that’s not the point, I’m just saying I guess I got tired of being an alien to everyone and so I told myself I would somehow, someday find a queer desi. I gave up on that plan when I eventually got serious with a white man, but my weirdness with desi dating still haunts me.
I’m still curious as to why I never dated a desi and what it means when desis refuse to date desis. I was recently talking with one of my friends about this same issue in the African American community. However, since the number of South Asians in the U.S. is so much lower than the number of African Americans, is it more reasonable for alternative desis to not be able to find like-minded desis to date? Or is it just self-hate?
I know some of you will be inclined to say, “Oh race doesn’t matter at all… Love is love”. However, with race comes experiences and as our experiences differ more it is harder to empathize with each other. I’m not saying it is impossible, my most successful relationship has been with a white man after all, but we can’t ignore the cultural differences and obstacles when dating outside of one’s race, religion, class, etc. etc. And really I just want to hear everyone’s thoughts on the concept of “self-hate” in the South Asian community.
Furthermore, what happens when we are queer or, in other ways, alienated from mainstream desi culture? There have to be some legitimate reasons why we might find it hard to date within our race. On the other hand, there are some legitimate reasons why we should stick together, whether that is dating or just being friends and having solidarity. I don’t think there is anything wrong with interracial dating, but I think it is crucial to always analyze why we feel the way we do about ourselves and those around us.
What is it that we like about dating desis? The loving, large families? A sense of community and collectivist culture? Perhaps an understanding of each other’s parents and religion? And what is it that worries us about dating other desis? Their apparent lack of class-consciousness? Their racism against those that should be considered our brothers and sisters? I think it is different for everyone and I am interested in hearing everybody’s thoughts.