Whenever I visit India, I have a whole list of people that I have to see. There will be days where I won’t stop seeing people. I’m sure those of you who are children of immigrants understand. Visiting the homeland is hardly a holiday.

Whenever I go out for these visits, it’s never really that interesting nor do I enjoy them a terrible amount. It’s usually older aunties and uncles who will comment on my weight or skin and then ignore you the rest of the time. On occasion, I’ll get lucky and get to hang out with people my own age. Either my cousins or family friends. On this particular occasion, I didn’t know the people well, all I knew was that they were around my age. After a few weeks of hanging out with people 50 and older you crave any face-to-face interaction with someone your own age. I was ready to have a conversation that didn’t revolve around my weight or when I was getting married, but I wasn’t ready to have a conversation that left me in tears and attacked who I was to the very core.

These dinners all start the same, awkward small talk until the drinks come out and everyone finally has that little bit of liquid courage to start talking. From here it wasn’t long until I ended a sentence with “because of the patriarchy.” And the next thing to come out of this person’s mouth was “well that can’t be because the patriarchy isn’t real.” Now, normally I would’ve just dismissed that comment and not talked to the person the rest of the night. But maybe it was the drinks or my new-found voice but this turned into a near screaming match. The more this person said the angrier I got, “women are asking for it when they wear a provocative outfit” or “rape is just in men’s genes” or “rape culture doesn’t exist” or “sexual assault can’t happen to men.” With every rebuttal, I gave the more sexist his comments got. It came to a point where I was so frustrated I was holding back tears. As this was a family affair this person’s mother was there as well.

Any person should take offense to these comments, but not this person’s mother. She was defending him and his comments. She claimed them as “Indianism.” Is this really Indian thinking? Is viewing women as an object for your pleasure Indian thinking? Is it even appropriate to defend your son’s sexism by blaming it on their culture? For me, you can’t replace the word sexism with Indianism.

To say this dinner was a disaster is an understatement. But it also prompted me to think about my own life and who I’ve surrounded myself with. I have either been very lucky with the people who have come into my life or subconsciously been very picky with who I let into my life, but I’ve surrounded myself with people who believe the same things I believe. With everyone from my family, to friends, to relationships I’ve been lucky. I have surrounded myself with people who push me to think beyond what I believe. This dinner showed me how important the people around you are. And to make wise choices about who you keep around you.