"Traveling doesn’t just broaden your horizon but also gives you the patience and tolerance to deal with different types of prejudices. These prejudices have often surprised me during my stays in seven countries.
I was born in Pune and moved to Singapore at two. When I started school, I was the only one in my class who could not speak Mandarin. Even though I went to an English medium school, my parents were called in by my teachers about my poor Mandarin. But the weirdest moment was when one of the African-American students in my class called me ‘dark-skinned’. In retrospect, I appreciate the irony but at the time I was only five.
In first grade, we moved back to India, and lived in Ahmednagar for a while. This turned out to be a drastic culture shock for me. In Ahmednagar, the other children in my class expected me to know Hindi. Also, no one sat next to me in the bus because I was a Christian non-vegetarian, and this was somehow considered a bad thing by the children in my class. After six months in Ahmednagar, we moved to Mumbai, where we lived for eight years.
Growing up in Mumbai, I realized that people judged me even before they got to know me. But once they got to know me, they liked me and got over the whole ‘she seems like an NRI’ notion’.
I was happy to move to Kenya from Mumbai and I went there with an open mind. I felt, however, that there was a lot of prejudice against Indians who had just come from India. I went to a school where most of my schoolmates were Kenyan Indians, who were raised to believe that Indians from India are crude and impolite. They even had a nickname for us: ‘rockets’. I was extremely disappointed because it seemed that they had made an almost conscious choice to not learn anything about contemporary India or Indians.
When I went to study in Canada, I came across some people who assumed that just because I was from India, I wouldn’t speak English well. It surprised them when they realised that I, in fact, did.
But I still believe that my stays in Vancouver and Pune were my easiest moves. People accepted me and the stereotyping wasn’t as harsh. This may be because Pune has become a cosmopolitan place and people here are aware that cultural stereotyping is not acceptable. "