#DesiRepDiscussions - Indians Are More Than Just Their Names by Sumedha

Hey guys!
Over the past couple years, the #DiverseReads movement has gained momentum and people have become aware of reading books that have characters that are not just cis straight and white. After All, this world is a huge place and there are many different, diverse people here that are not straight or white. They have been poorly represented in media for a long time and that has taken its toll.
Desis are an example of such oppressed voices. We have not been represented in a good light in the western media, but, thankfully, that has changed in the last few years and with emerging authors such as Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Tara Sim, Dhonielle Clayton, Sabaa Tahir etc, hopefully, people will see us in a better light and begin to understand our culture more.
The purpose of this discussion event is to make others aware of the lush, beautiful desi culture and to tell them more about us. So, for the next few days, my absolutely amazing friend, Prags from The Inkedin Book Blog (who, really, put all of this together) and I will be sharing various essays by desi book people – bloggers, bookstagrammers, twitterati etc for you guys.
I hope that you learn something new by reading what we have in store for you here and that you enjoy it. Thank you for stopping by!

Hello! On #DesiRepDiscussions today, we have the amazing Sumedha who talks about how Indians are just more than their "exotic" names. An amazing post if I do say so myself and I hope you have fun reading it!

Indians Are More Than Just Their Names
- Sumedha

Hi everyone! I'm Sumedha from The Wordy Habitat and I'm so glad to be guest posting here to talk about desi rep in books. 

Nowadays, there are a lot of Indian characters in books not written by Indian authors. And I'm super happy that we're being represented. Indians have become a huge part of the economy worldwide and you can find us in most places.

But even with so much mention, it's only the names. We see characters with Indian names or description which alludes that the character is Indian but what I haven't seen is more to the character.

Being Indian isn't limited to our different names, it's much MUCH more than that. The characters that I read about don't speak about Indian traditions or things that are normal to us. I see them portrayed as any other non-Indian character in the book.

Even when we see them as close to main characters, such as friends, I have never seen any mention of Indian lifestyle.

For example, here are a list of things that are VERY normal to us but I haven't seen mentioned at all:
  • Indian kids calling elders other than their family Uncles and Aunties.
  • Our penchant for very spicy or very sweet food.
  • Indian food, in itself, and our preference to it.
  • Our gods.
  • Our festivals, which we have an ABUNDANCE of. Diwali, Dussehra, Holi, Ganesh chaturthi etc.
  • Castes within us and different castes having different traditions and beliefs.
  • Our love for classical music. And I mean Indian classical music.
  • Phrase/words in an Indian language.
  • Bollywood!
I know that Indian families in other countries still follow our traditions and beliefs, and they really appreciate it as well, but I don't see any of that in books. The representation seems partial when you add an Arjun or a Pooja but none of their Indian quirks.

I completely agree that it's very easy to go wrong while representing us, but I bet any Indian wouldn't mind sitting and providing you details for hours if you ask.

To get you started, on how the smallest things can be mentioned but make a difference on the portrayal of character, here are a few things that have been ingrained into me as an Indian, of the cast Brahmin:
  • I am pure vegetarian. I have never eaten an egg or meat. People do, if they want to, but according to our tradition we don't.
  • I don't buy shoes on Saturdays. When I asked my mum years back, she said it was because Saturdays were somehow meant for giving and that you give shoes on Saturday so we don't buy them.
  • I also don't buy black on Saturdays because it's bad omen.
  • My family doesn't buy anything on Tuesdays. Why? I don't know, but I'm made to follow that. Basics such as groceries is okay, but we try not to buy anything more unless it's absolutely required.
  • Every time I buy something new, except shoes, I place it before (the picture/statue of) God and pray for blessings. Every time. If I get a prize, that as well.
And so on. There are so many things.

But this is what I mean by these small quirks and habits which I don't see in books. I'm not asking for exactly me to be represented, but I would love to see more than an Indian skin colour and name. Otherwise, it does feel like partial representation, I won't lie.

Just reading an Indian character saying they're busy and can't come to a party because they have a "pooja thing" that they HAVE to attend instead of another excuse, would make me unbelievably happy. All I look for is a sentence here and there.

I would like to conclude with the request to all authors to consider adding a little more to Indian characters' traditional sides.

Are you Indian, or just someone not American or British? Are you happy with your traditions etc being represented in books? What do you think about diversity rep in books? What would YOU like to see more in future books?

Connect With The Author:

What do you think of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement? 
Have you read any books/ watched movies that celebrate the Desi culture?
Do say hi to Sumedha ~ she'd love to hear from you!

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