Rethinking Your Identity
and reading race as an Indian
Thank you for signing up to my newsletter. So, the last month was difficult for me. I lost a family member and shortly after, I fell sick with dengue and was diagnosed with a health problem, so not much reading was happening and more Netflixing. I’m sure you guys have faced reader’s block! I have been re-reading a lot of books for comfort during this year, finding solace in what I know is already good. So, I tried doing that again, but when you are down, it is tough to concentrate. A show that really helped me is Outlander. It is a historical drama about a woman who goes back 200 years in history by mistake! So you get to travel and immerse yourself in a whole new world very easily.
The health diagnosis made me start thinking about identity. I would have to change who I was to put in effect certain lifestyle changes. No longer could I be the type of person who very proudly gorged on junk-food without any consequences. So the first book I read to get me back into my reading habit was non-fiction - Atomic Habits.
Atomic Habits by James Clear changed my life. It was recommended to me, and now I am recommending it to everyone I know! We all have things we want to change and new habits we want to inculcate. One of the most interesting tips he puts forward is that to change one’s habit, one needs to change one’s identity. So it’s not enough to say ‘I don’t smoke’ or ‘I am trying to quit’. It is better to say ‘I am not a smoker’, or ‘I am a person who is into fitness’. So that every time you do an activity that aligns with this new identity, you are creating it. He also advocates making habits easy to do and attractive. For example, removing all junk food from your home. Or if you love watching TV, only allowing yourself to do so after exercising. This is just the tip of the ice-berg- there are 300 pages of this! So go read.
It certainly helped me a lot as I cut sugar in November and altered my diet due to a health diagnosis. I started making my new diet more attractive by researching new recipes and even buying an amazing sugar-free protein based ice-cream called Get-A-Whey! It tastes as real as the real thing.
The book is fantastic and here’s a link to his weekly newsletter.
As I’ve said before I read in bouts. Once I am interested in a topic, I dive deeper and find books that have obvious comparisons and that are similar to one another.
So a friend told me about this book Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and convinced me to read it. I had heard mixed reviews, and so was skeptical. The book is about a black babysitter who is falsely accused of kidnapping a white child. After the event, she starts dating a white man who was present during the ordeal. It turns out that her new boyfriend and her boss know one another - I won’t give more away. But the book talks about how black people, and especially black women, are treated in America.
The book talks about racism that is not overt, but is covert, that is couched in friendliness or liberal righteousness. Whether it is a black fetish (having only black friends or girlfriends), or pretending blackness doesn’t exist, or complimenting black people for seemingly normal things.
I then re-read Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah. I really loved the book because it is not only a love story but also a wonderful and nuanced commentary about race. The narrator Ifemelu says she became black when she entered America. She had grown up in Nigeria, where she was just like anyone else. I had the same experience when I went to study in America. I suddenly became ‘Indian’ and brown in a way I never was before.
My Indianness stood out in America and became a topic of conversation, whether it was someone expressing surprise over how good my English was or the fetishisation of how beautiful things from the East are - when in fact there are nuances within all art forms, faces and cultures. Not every brown face is beautiful, not every piece of traditional piece of clothing is spectacular etc.
Both Such a Fun Age and Americanah talk about the subtle racism that occurs in America. And both books assert that colour blindness is not a way to avert racism, rather engaging and honest dialogue. I loved how accessible both authors made this dialogue.
These books really did open my mind and made me think about how I responded to the race issue when I lived in America. Part of the reason I love being in India is because in general, I don’t have to prove my Indianness or speak for a billion people. No longer am I the token minority in a classroom or at work. Just one in a sea of faces :)
So last month we started helping students with their college application essays. We started with having it be one of our classes and then went on to create a one-on-one programme. I have to say, it’s been very fulfilling. I am a full older sister with lots of cousins, so I’ve been doing this kind of work pro-bono for the last ten years. I think teenagers have a bad rep, because personally I love working with them.
We also started a Instagram live series on freelancing for writers available on our IGTV.
The podcast was featured in a lot of listeners’ top Spotify binges and continues to do well. We are recording new episodes starting Jan.
Production is under-way for quite a bit of new content, and we couldn’t be more excited- more on this later.
That’s it from me for now. Next time, I will be writing a newsletter on ten lessons learnt this year. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these books or in general.