Sunday, August 30, 2009

The pre-departure seminar

( Corey, Im really sorry to upset you, I didnt upload the whole thing, but now you know what kind of reaction it generates in reality)

In the last few weeks before departing for the United States of America, generally all Indian students are given a pre-departure orientation. This orientation seminar usually has not changed for decades and even in my short experience with it so far with my cousins and myself coming here to study, I now know what is said and fed to the students at the tip of my tongue. Here are a few quotes from this seminar:

‘You are all representing the great country of India; the reputation of our motherland is at stake’

‘We are culturally superior to the Americans’

‘If you are approached by an American, please follow the following protocol –

1. Throw a dirty look to indicate your displeasure

2. Whisper to your Indian mate that you are going to pretend to be friendly\

3. Settle down and convince yourself that if they say “Whats up?” the correct reply is “ Not much, whats up with you?” ( even though you might prefer to conveniently ignore it)

4. Put on the most fake smile in the world and pretend to be cool.

5. Say something in Hindi in front of them just to make a point that you can curse and get away with it.

6. Go home and then tell you mommy and daddy on Skype how dreadful the experience was and great Indians are.

‘Indian food is always the best in the world, there is no food that comes close and its perfectly acceptable to complain, frown and make puking noises in front of you gracious host who spent 3 hours cooking up the otherwise delicious Amish potato salad and Stromboli.’

' if you ever eat beef.....consider your Indian passport invalid'

‘It is ok to forget to say words like “Thank you” ,”Please” and “ Sorry” because hey, cmon yaar! In India, anything works’

‘Whenever you see another Indian in America, get excited and worked up as if you were Will Smith in “ I AM LEGEND” and you just met another person who wasn’t an infected zombie’

' If you need to do research on the natives, switch on your laptops and open a file called A.M.E.R.I.C.A.N P.I.E. 4 - T.H.E. N.A.K.E.D. M.I.L.E'

‘Good luck on your mission soldiers, the Government of India will reward you greatly* if you survive your stay in the enemy territory. ‘ (* conditions apply)

There are really so many misconceptions that we as international students, besides being Indians, or Pakistanis or Africans or Europeans, carry when we come to a foreign country like the USA which is so open to diversity. As discussed in my earlier posts, I certainly do not think leaving family friends and your natural comfort zone behind for 2 years or more is a small step, and neither should it be ever portrayed as one. But in no ways does that make the international student a superman compared to the American who just drives 2 miles everyday to the campus. It is hard for me to understand that when an Indian comes to Penn State York, a prestigious educational institution and a product of the USA, he/she does not even have the simple common sense to respect and acknowledge the opportunity given by the States to study here. Credit to oneself should be given when it is due, but not always. Whatever happened to’ When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’? Now it’s all about ‘When in Rome, make fun of the Romans and live in a bubble’
Its really painful to see this kind of thing happening being an Indian. I have never understood the concept of one race being superior to another, and I never will and never want to. I can unfortunately testify to have felt this first hand in this past year. Never would I have imagined (especially after that enlightening seminar) that the Indian people would be the ones who would cause me so much hurt and loss of respect for my own fellow countrymen and then for an American to become my pillar of strength and her family to make me one of their own. I have realized that national barriers do not exist if only we accept everyone and look at everyone for what their values are and how they are as people, not because of their color, passport or caste. ..can never forget those moments when the only solace I had was one in the faceless sheet of my pillow as I buried myself in my bed, afraid that I would crack if I so much as looked at my fellow mates, their hostility moving the very air around me. It was in these dark moments when I so wanted to go home, be with my true friends, and in the arms of my mother, that an average American person became my friend, her family became mine, and they carried me through it all.

The Snyders have been the one reason why my mother does not have her blood pressure raised everytime she sees me upset and angry. It is because of them and the support of PSY's incredible faculty and staff that I could survive and put on a happy face when my mom saw me on camera. During the whole of last year, and there have been members of the faculty who can attest to it, I went to them in desperation because I couldnt find one friendly face on campus. I lived in denial, even refusing to face my problems in my personal life simply because that support from back home was essential to my sanity here. But even then sometimes it wasnt enough. Even though I am an Indian, it hasnt been hard to feel what an American student would feel when a foreigner comes to the States and then makes fun of him/her in his/her own country because I was made to feel like that myself, by my own fellow Indians.

And still the madness continues. After a summer back home, it was really a deep desire to see things fall back in place. The new apartment, new semester, new roommates and the Snyders have really helped me rejuvenate myself. But again I guess me being so close to an American girl doesnt really qualify me for any gallantry awards back home, does it? At least thats the vibe given here by my Indians.
Remember the pre-departure seminar I talked to you about? Its not all just nonsense and arrogance. It does happen, those values and teachings are drilled into everyone who comes here. And proof of that was delivered just 3 days ago. Well, I already knew that because of my own experience, but now so does the average American.
It was a sick moment when 2 Indians made fun of and harrassed the one person whom I am indebted to for changing my life and making me feel loved and wanted here. Just because she was wearing an Indian dress which I got for her and shes a typical fair blonde.. thats why these 2 people chose to corner her and really make her cry.....

Its not fair to me, and most certainly not to my friend, because she has the right to be at this university; the right to be in her home more than any one of us internationals. These guys wouldnt like it if you or me went to their houses and started taunting them over their habits and race and culture.. so why in the world would an Indian come to the United States and then make fun of an American? Because they eat beef? because they have a different taste in clothes and food? Because they arent 'reaally cultured'? How can anyone make that judgement? Corey's response to my half post earlier is the reaction of my friend too, when such an attitude was thrown at her in reality, and so is my reaction as well. I hate the way that we, as Indians or any other internationals can even think that we are so much more smarter and deserving than the Americans just because of something trivial. Heck, most of the people at Penn State York have been the best people Iv met ever. I cannot imagine a better father figure ( apart from my dad) than Dr. Rodney, our chancellor. It all trickles down from him to everyone else. Does this love for Penn State York thus make me a lesser Indian? A traitor? a rebel? in my view heck no! I am just a person who cannot see someone for their nationality or race or caste or color. True, I take time in making friends, but then if our wavelengths match, then its friends for life. Amongst the very closest people in my life is an American girl and her family where I go to church with them, enjoy their food, have fun with their dogs, and just feel at home. Is that reason enough for other Indians to therefore target my American friend just because she proudly wore the Indian clothing I got for her? Arent Indians wearing western outfits? Maybe someone should pick on them about that... I wonder how cool these people would have felt right now if the people at PSY hadnt shown them the support to adjust in the first place.

At some point, there will be a meltdown, and noone can take this treatment for long. Penn State gave us this opportunity to come and study here guys, dont shoot yourself in the foot...belittling everyone else is really belittling yourself.


Corey Baughman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shantanu Rajadhyaksha, Senior said...

Corey I dont mean to really portray Indians in a positive light here. I havent completed my blog and would really hope you read up on the rest of it and then comment. Its in fact meant to be a direct attack on the wrong way that Indians conceptualise America, Sorry for the confusion, I should have just added the complete blog

Shantanu Rajadhyaksha, Senior said...

Sorry to offend you

Corey Baughman said...

I'm sorry thought you are so arrogant. If you do not like it here, India still has room for one more.

Sara Hilton, Admissions Counselor said...

What a thought-provoking post. I'm really glad your experience here has been a good one, and not like the one for which you were prepared. You're a great addition to the Penn State York family!

Shantanu Rajadhyaksha, Senior said...

I love it here, and thats why I dont like it when my own people would carry such an attitude, I just want to point that out to them

Gaurang Bailoor said...

its sad to know that internationals(indians to be more specific) have become so ungrateful for the opportunity that they have recieved. i dont really know wat CULTURE are we indians really so proud about, 'cause such behaviour is nowhere near the same of a cultured one.
good blog tho

Anonymous said...

Matthew Sutton August 31 at 10:42pm
Hey I wanted to post a comment on the PSU Blog post you posted the other day! Unfortunately I can't login but I wanted you to know my opinion! here is the comment

Shantanu my friend, what an amazing post and story! I would love to talk to you more about this sometime. It has really opened my eyes to see a different perspective that is sometimes clouded. You have all caused a wonderful impact on the campus and we honor your presence here! Good job and good luck! See ya around!

led said...

an eye-opener to say the least....its sad when there are news flashes everywhere bout indian's being given bad treatment abroad and here we see indians giving the same treatment to them....its not bout ppl from a different country....its bout ppl in general....respect the person for who he/she is....not what country he belongs to

Hunter B. Schenck said...

I really like your post, it's eye opening, I had no idea but now I'm really glad you were in our Art class so you could meet your American friend. You'll always have friends at Penn State York (and main campus too)
see you on facebook, most likely :)

Anonymous said...

hey, shantanu! nice to know!
but i think indians are very friendly ppl,
i m sure u didnt give them a chance, if u wud have u wud never be disappointment,
me i have been here, in U.S. for 2 years and so far, whenever i see an indian on the road they always give me a smile back.
i dont knwo what you experienced but i m sure u didnt heck give it a try!
this is just truly sad, how u r discriminating to you r own ppl!
whats even more sad is that, americans, even though being from diff culture and upraising, they never leave a racial public comment! (corey! u r right (: )
its sad that your racial to u r own country, its just suprising to me, that such ppl are still alive
seems like being 21 doesnt give u brains.
P.S. u r in a need of nationalism, go back .. to india and learn something! remember 26th of july and learn something, before bullshitting abt u r own ppl

i wud love to argue on this reply!