I do not wish to be dramatic, but I am not sure if I am a desi girl? What consists of a desi girl? Are we basing it off that song from Dostana? Am I only allowed to call myself a desi girl when I wear lehengas, saris and shararas? Is it simply a caption on my Instagram pictures or is it just a feeling? Do we really need to define what a desi girl is? I almost feel we do, because at times we have a benchmark for what a desi girl is, and other times we are attempting to dismantle that same notion.
A desi girl is a strong woman who can do anything. There is no definition, but it is difficult to understand.
I recently got a message from someone who I met through a friend and it was of a TikTok video of a girl is portraying a white-washed South Asian and it was sent to me with the caption “you.” I felt hurt, to say the least. While the video is genius and very funny, having it sent from someone who does not know you is off-putting.
While my parents have had multicultural and diverse friend groups, I never had South Asian friends. Not because I did not want South Asian friends or because I am whitewashed, but mostly because the schools I went to never had many other South Asian kids. It did teach me one thing, whilst I did not have friends who were South Asian or of South Asian background, I had friends who were open to learning about my culture and my ethnicity. Friends who shared the same values as me, and did not belittle me for not knowing every single thing about being India.
Growing up abroad, I had many privileges, and at the same time, I also had my own set of challenges that my parents were not always able to help me figure out.
I find that the most scrutiny I have faced is from the South Asian and my apparent lack of being Indian that they see. As sad as it is, I have found myself scrutinizing South Asian women much more than other women.
Is it because I think I understand them more? Or is it because I can say that as a woman of South Asian descent, I am allowed to judge them? It is not something I like to admit, but it is something I have had to acknowledge. Not only because it’s harmful, but it hints at internalized feelings that I have harbored within me and have not handled well.
The scrutiny in the South Asian community is already terrible, however, as women, I feel we should be mindful to it and move forward and try to break this cycle. We shouldn’t try to have to define ourselves and send videos that are seen as funny but come off as hurtful.
As March is the Women’s History Month, I would like to take a moment to applaud all the courageous young women who have had their identity questioned. To the women who have forged their identity when it has tried to be erased and to send all the power and love to the women who have been fighting to be who they are regardless of what society has told them.
While I may not know if I can consider myself a “desi girl”, that is my decision and only mine. No one can tell you who you are and who you are not. Your identity will always be in question, but your identity can only be told by you. Wear yours loud and proud!