Dear India

Jade Sharma

When white people ask me where I’m from and I respond I was born here, and they still wait for an additional answer, I know they’re thinking: “REALLY, WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” because what they are really asking is why I’m brown. Sometimes I let the awkwardness hang in the air so as to harsh their PC buzz. Then I relieve them: My parents are from India.



Dear India,
I just wanted to be normal. I didn’t know what normal was cuz all the other kids were white. When I was eight a friend invited me over and I almost cried because I had no clue what “pot roast” was, and I still kinda don’t.


Dear India,
I cried the day Kurt Cobain died.


Dear India,
When I was a kid you made me sick. I remember being feverish and staring at the ceiling fan going round and round.

I remember having to shit and puke at the same time and trying to decide whether to shit on the wall and puke in the toilet or shit in the toilet and puke on the wall.


Dear India,
I’m sorry I said when I was four that a cow being god was stupid


Dear India,
I learned about what karma was from a white girl tripping balls.


Dear India,
I’m not proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, but I’m not proud to be Indian either cuz how can you be proud of something you have no control over.


Dear India,
I memorized the words of Jack Kerouac: “So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?”


Dear India,
It’s me, it’s not you.


Dear India,
Why do you have to make it a crime to be gay? You’re not even Christian. Why don’t you have any social welfare for your starving children when you having a thriving middle class? Is it because your raw ambition can’t be stifled by having heart?


Dear India,
When I got a rave in the New York Times not one family member called. They equate money with success and there was no money. Like there was no money.


Dear India,
At some point, you realize your life isn’t really yours and it was selfish to think that, because from the moment you’re born you’re supported by other people.


Dear India,
My parents came here to make money for you but I chose art, which they saw as of a symptom of not having a basic understanding of how currency is used for trades and services.


Dear India,
Even though Gandhi is on your walls at the Post Office and on your currency, I’ve heard behind closed doors my Hindu relatives that talk about how Muslims beat their wives. I’ve seen how the women serve the men, no matter how educated they are. I’ve seen how women judge each other on everything from whether she smiles enough to how she nice her clothes are. “Strong-minded” is not a good thing for a women to be.


Dear India,
C’mon. Get your act together. I know you have warmth in your heart and love in your spirits, so why do you still gossip?

In America, they ask me where I’m from. In India, they charge me American prices.


Dear India,
I wish I found you as fascinating as the middle-aged white women who compliment me on my thick dark hair while they’re holding Jhumpa Lahiri books, who read about exotic spices, and brilliant saris, and I know it’s not their fault, so I smile.


Dear India,
You sound fascinating in a PBS documentary, but when I think of you all I think of is having a hot butthole.


Dear India,
I saw the Taj Mahal being polished and across the street there were children naked playing in garbage.

I saw construction workers climb barefoot up scaffolding and not wearing helmets.

When our cab broke down, the mechanic repaired it with whatever loose ends he had, including a piece of gum, MacGyver style.

I saw a business man yell at a little kid for asking for food.

I saw a beautiful woman strolling down the street at dawn on a cobblestone street and it looked like the cover of Vogue.


Dear India,
If you did anything for me you made me realize that no one would give a shit about me. I had to make them give a shit about me.


Dear India,
The weather was always dismal, but the people dressed in colors like hot pink and turquoise. The backs of trucks were painted with drawings and had little tokens hanging from them. I wondered if you live in a constant dismal place if people artificially make it colorful.

When I got back to America all I saw were gray dull cars that stay on the gray dull roads and park in between the lines and everyone looked gray going to the jobs and it was quiet. It was never quiet in India. There are no cows or elephants in the middle of the street in America.

And that’s how I feel every time I remember Trump is president.

I want to hide in your Himalayas because I’m more connected to you now than ever. I can’t just tweet a thought like a white girl and go about my day. I suddenly have to have a political agenda all the fucking time because of you. I’m not a political person. I watch “Bones” re-runs at night.


Dear India,
I don’t want to hate you. And I don’t want to exploit you. I wish I felt something when I hear your name. But like how my parents have to deal with me being a reliable disappointment forever and not having the option to cut me off, I can’t shed my skin and so I’m sure this will be a lifetime of us both being embarrassed by one another.


Dear India,
I know you could do better in terms of having a better representative. I know because my family tell me every time how badly I dress and ignore that I am a writer and probably imagine I eat cereal and watch television all day.


Dear India,
Your flag is lame.


Dear India,
I know right now some kid is dying in your shantytowns. I know right now a rich businessman who is gay is being pushed into an arranged marriage and will be forced to live a life of stifled desires and self-loathing. I know I’ve been given the money and education in America to be critical of the political and social norms, which makes me hate myself a little more.


Dear India,
I’m sorry people worked so hard to afford me the opportunity to be educated here, and I realize my categorization of you is based on an American moral compass, but that just makes me hate myself a little more.

There’s a passage in Huck Finn where Huck is contemplating turning Jim, the slave, free, and he believes that if he does he is doomed to eternal hell, but he still does it, and that’s this Emersonian notion of Self-Reliance: to believe what is true and good in your heart despite whether or not it aligns with the social norms of our times is what being an American is about for me.

And I know Martin Luther King learned his teaching from Gandhi, but that’s what I think about when Martin Luther King says he has a dream …

Or like when Larry Flynt said: Sue God because I didn’t invent pussy, I’m only taking pictures of it.

Or like when I hear that staticky voice say: One small step for humans …

There’s no part of me that doesn’t feel an emotional pride for my country.


Dear India,
When I touch down at JFK and hear the pilot’s steady Midwestern accent say, “It’s now 3:45. Welcome to New York City. It’s 74 degrees. Hope you enjoyed your flight.” I’m home. This is my fucked up home too.


Jade Sharma is the author of Problems. She lives in New York. She works as an on-line writing coach and workshop leader at Catapult and as a private content editor and freelancer, living the unromantic, unhip dream.