Monday, May 05, 2008

Clothes don't make a Woman

Or do they?
I've been branded a ganwar dehatan this weekend. Simply because I chose to wear a (Indian) suit.
And because I cooked (for the people who branded me a dehatan!!)

I sometimes wonder at this Indian prejudice (especially in the US)- the minute they meet another Indian in a non-western dress, she is pretty much an illiterate housewife.
So, I met some people for the first time, who came to a party of sorts at my place. I was wearing a suit (which, by the way, was a simple cotton, but very nice). As I opened the door for these (new) people, they took one look at me- and after that, all of them addressed me in shudh hindi.

They did not even ask me if I was studying here (everybody in the party was/is in various stages of their Ph.D., and so am I) but assumed that I was just an English-challenged housewife who's main goal in life is to cook and clean for all the other Ph.D.'s!!!

I was wondering quite a bit about this- just because I chose to cook for a bunch of people, I become a housewife (yes, with all derogatory connotations possible). Is cooking so uncool? Why do Indians look down upon it- why is it associated with "not being modern"?

So because I wear suits and cook, I am labeled, branded and slotted- all in the blinking of an eye. It does not matter that I probably do have better English than the rest of them put together. Or that I worked tirelessly so that I could make good food for all of them. And was so tired after it all that I could not go out drinking with them- I did not (because I was really tired after a day spent cooking and cleaning, for 7-9 people, but in their eyes, what in the world would a dowdy housewife do in a pub?)

Why? Why do Indians need to show off all the time? And then consider themselves superior to people who don't?
Why doesn't being a nice person count?

P.S.- I don't even wear a kilo of kaajal- which is the basic prerequisite for being a modern Indian woman in the US.


Richa said...

Hahaha..seems like you had a rough day... you met some very narrow minded people. I love cooking and I love dressing in Indian suit. I think they are the most feminine dress ever.

But thats beside the point. People who make their judgments based on the looks and not material, aren't worth pondering about. Let them live in their narrow minded world. Why do you care?

Anonymous said...

Wow! How ridiculous!

Cooking is an art! And Indian clothes are amazing... why cotton is even more awesome!

You go out and get yourself a nice drink and chill! And don't cook for random idiots from now on :)

Rachna said...

@Richa- Actually, it was a rough weekend- I cooked and cleaned for 2 days straight! But you're right, I do need to get it out of my mind! I feel awfully used and abused :(

@Sirop- Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'll definitely chill this weekend!

CuriousCat said...

Well, I understand what you say totally. Happens to me all the time when I go to parties with my common law and meet new people, if I am dressed in a salwar they assume I am the stay at home type! And not jsut desis, but I guess I do not blame the rest..

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

ridiculous is the word. or as my 2 y.o niece says, "REDICULOUS!"

and the least they could do is be grateful for home cooked food and behave, instead of passing baseless judgements. ah well, it takes all kinds, as they say.

i am so glad the summer is (Almost) here and i can wear my desi clothes. they definitely make me feel good and are a refreshing change from the same old tshirt/jeans that you see all around.

Blogbharti said...

Pingback from Blogbharti: [...]Rachna who was married a year ago invited some friends over for dinner.[...]

Vinod Khare said...

Ha ha. Don't worry Rachna. I love women who cook and I also love women who wear suits. In fact, one of the most intelligent women I've ever met does a marvelous job at both of these. The thing is, most people in this world are jackasses. Don't spoil your day over them.

harini calamur said...

it happens in India
When i wear a sari for a meeting, people automatically speak to me in hindi - even tho' i am from the South.
When i wear western clothes, they discuss business with me :)
and yes, i can cook !!

Anonymous said...

They might have been prejudiced, but I have to ask, being greeted in Hindi was your cue? I understand where that is coming from, but speaking in English as a ticket to automatic intellectual superiority is so last decade.

dodo said...

Why being housewife is so "uncool"?

Anonymous said...

why is being dehati uncool? what exactly is dehati? maybe, if you examined these questions more, you'll find an answer to some of the questions you ask. blindspots are the easiest/hardest thing to spot depending on where you're searching for them.


nimit said...

I was once traveling with an Indian and an Australian. After sometime The Australian inquired , why when we both were from same country, we were still conversing in English? We ourselves play down our language and culture. It is cool to be Phirangi.
"Dehati" is a term coined by Indians to make some fellow countrymen look lesser mortals. Don't feel bad. I living in India don't even know how to cook food.

Great post!

mekhala said...

Oh my gosh! It's you.. I came from Blogbharti. Anyway, it's simply inexcusable behavior. I hope their snobby airs are damped down on reading this post.

i149 said...

seriously dudette, you hang out with totally the wrong kind of desis...
from a total FOB dehat

Never Mind!! said...

Rachana: This is my first time here.And I came here from Krish Ashok's blog. After reading your comment on his blog, I cannot help but ask you a few questions:

Just because Gult women oil their hair, does it mean they arent smnart or capable?

And really, are India women that sterotypical that they let just a few define who they are, how they dress and what they do?

What is wrong in being a housewife? Even if your guests were really judgmental and thought you were a housewife and were not worldly wise, you could have initiated an interesting conversation proving them wrong?

I wonder if your guests said something judgmental or if it just your attitude? A lot of times we have insecurities and we would like to believe everyone is looking at our shortcommings when they must have been enjoying your cooking, your home and your nice cotton salwar!

I hope i did not touch a raw nerve here and I hope you see my point. Take Care.

Anonymous said...

I came from Krish's blog too. It seems that you contradict urself here.

Clothes don't make a woman.. but waxing and shaping eyebrows does?

And why is being a phd such a big thing whereas being thought of as a housewife so demeaning?

I hope the folks who made you feel that way did do something to put you down.. and these are just not your insecurities.