An idiot’s guide to dating Indians

If you have an India and an internet connection, you’ve probably seen Andrea Miller’s Huffington Post article “How to date an Indian (advice for a non-Indian)”  based on her relationship with a man from New Delhi. An excerpt:

Before getting to “how,” let’s start with “why.” There are obvious reasons one would want to date an Indian, such as how successful and professionally desirable they are. Indians dominate as engineers, doctors, lawyers, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. They make up a large proportion of our graduate students — just walk around the campuses of Harvard, Columbia or Stanford or and you will see these incredibly attractive brown people all over the place. Which leads to point number two. Indian people tend to be really good looking. According to Wikipedia*, “India holds the highest number of Miss World winners, only to be tied with Venezuela.” (*That feels a little like citing The National Enquirer but I am going to go with it.)

Most Indians are innately gracious, social creatures; they highly value friends and family and have a calendar filled with various holidays and occasions to celebrate, which they typically do with gusto. Those endless jubilant dance numbers in Bollywood movies pretty much channel the Indian soul. Moreover, Indian men love to dance. If for no other reason other than you want someone to dance with you (or without you for that matter), date an Indian.

Oh yea, I almost forgot to mention: one more big bonus when it comes to dating an Indian: communication with cabbies. Think I’m kidding? New Yorkers: Just imagine if you could stop a taxi during the 4pm transition time and your date could say, in Hindi, “Hey brother, will you please take us to Spring and 6th?” You’d find Laxmi did indeed smile upon you.

Read the full article here, and please, read the comments too.

I’m pretty amazed that The Huffington Post would provide a platform for such a piece. (Like all Huff. Post pieces, this one has reaction tabs to click on; why isn’t there an  “offensive crap”  category?) And I am amazed that the author of the piece is the CEO of a (hopefully, soon to be bankrupt) relationship advice site and magazine. This kind of writing would be problematic whatever the ethnicity of Miller’s partner. As commenter emj1983  says,

I’m just an undesirable [not!] and culture-less white guy, but I agree that this article is reductive, cringe-inducing, and condescending. If someone tried to “woo” me straight out of the gate by taking a superficial and homogenizing interest in my culture, I’m sure my (thick) skin would crawl. Humorous generalization can be a laugh riot if done well– in a non-cliche or particularly insightful way– but this really misses the mark.

It could have been funny or provocative if it had not employed so many cliched generalizations, or had done so with a self-parodying sensibility. The author is married to an Indian guy, and finds him and his cultural interests desirable, even charmingly different from her own– fine, great– but it was misguided to try and draw from her experience a bogus, predictable field theory of fool-proof Indian seduction strategies. Who would ever use this as a guide?

Writing a satirical send-up of any group’s generalized habits (Indians, white people, black people, whatever) requires a deeper, more nuanced perception of stereotypes, a fresh intelligence which provokes both thought and laughter. This article lacks that freshness.

And here’s an Indian-American woman’s perspective (commenter Amita Swadhin):

This is the most racist thing I’ve read in a long, long time. I’m shocked that you thought it appropriate to publish on Huffington Post. If you really believe you can make a generalization about a people that number well over a billion (if you count the diaspora), you are incredibly ignorant. This isn’t dating advice; it’s an example of how to take one’s own personal experience and apply it to an entire culture and ethnicity. I’m Indian-American, and I can safely say that a) my own experience differs greatly from what you’ve written above, and b) I would describe every aspect of my culture that you’ve arrogantly written about QUITE differently than you do.

And I am amazed that a number of people (including many many Indians) seem to find nothing wrong with this piece.  One (Indian) commenter says:

Andrea, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s a nicely written and funny article. As someone who moved to the United States in ’03 I totally understand a lot of things you wrote about.

For other people who disagree with her, RELAX. She shared her experience, thoughts, opinions, in a very nice manner. Disagreeing with her shouldn’t equate to blasting her and making a mockery of the person or their thoughts. Or else someone might stereotype Indians as having no sense of humor or tolerance!!

This is perilously close to being grateful that the article cited  “complimentary” stereotypes about Indians.  Wake up!  That the stereotyping in this case happens to be (mostly) positive is of little consequence; exoticizing a people in this manner is to make them the Other (versus “ordinary” people). A mindset that is ready to label a billion Indians “gracious, social creatures” is just as capable of labeling them smelly beasts.  Stereotyping  robs a person of his individuality; does it really matter if the mugger is smiling or spitting as he’s relieving  you of your valuables?

The sole positive thing about this idiotic article is the hilarious How to date… responses it has spawned. Too many to mention here, but  this calculated-to-offend-everyone-on-the-planet piece on The Awl, titled “How to date a white bitch (advice for the non-white dude)” is a MUST.

19 responses to “An idiot’s guide to dating Indians

  1. Ouch. I can’t help but cringe reading those excerpts. I can’t believe that they would post something like that either. So not cool.

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  4. I guess the objective was to get as many people to read and generate traffic. So they placed a flame bait and it worked. sigh!

  5. I thought most of the people took the article much too seriously! It seems you cant write anything about indians without people getting insulted in way your would not think possible.
    Frankly, this is the first time that such an article has actually come out. The generaly perception is that indians dont date; they wait for their parents to fix their wedding. I think this is the observation that is most relevant to more than 75% of the country.

  6. @ amy: Yes, the Huff Post went from cool to crap in the fifteen minutes it took to read that piece. Hopefully they’ll post a really awesome piece to compensate!

    @ Dilip: Sigh indeed! I am so disappointed with the Huff Post.

    @Revathi: Umm, no. The Huffington Post, where the article appears, is widely read and well-respected; for them to legitimize this sort of writing is really not acceptable.
    As for the point about the cliche of all Indians going in for arranged marriages–surely there are better ways to respond to such an assertion than to trade in one set of stereotypes for another?

    • Most indians accept partners proposed by their parents. This is cultural and is not a tirade-nothing racist about it except if you think that dating is better than having arranged marriages.

      • I think you are conflating several unrelated issues here. This piece isn’t about arranged marriages, it is about stereotyping a people, and that is what some find racist, regardless of context (which, in this case, happens to be dating).

  7. Neel Shah’s response is hilarious. Especially “vanilla wafers”. Lol. And Cloister banging. Rofl.

    Had read both and glad you blogged about it. I found her piece so offensive, it was disgusting. I have a whole post in my head about the “all Indians are smart” crap. Really?? WTF is that about? Um… is that like all people who are Jewish are good at math? Or all Chinese?

    And for people to actually be happy with that. Jeez.

  8. @ Shripriya: Yes, both the piece and the responses were so problematic.

    Please put that post in your head on your blog!

  9. Haven’t tried going with an Indian woman but my male friends who have, have had mixed reactions. Indian girls can be too shy and have certain tabboos which they find hard to cope with.

  10. Whoa! That is such a distasteful article! I can’t believe the author would write such a highly stereotypical post and disguise it within a how-to banner, and I can hardly imagine Huffington Post’s agenda in this matter.

  11. Variety is the spice of life.I love Indian food and their culture.
    would love to date an Indian woman

  12. Hmmm. was with you until the end. How is “how to date a white bitch” any better than “how to date an Indian?

  13. @ Julie: Not sure if you read the piece I linked to at the end? Anyway, the “how to date a white bitch” piece is intentionally so stupid that it makes fun of itself. The premise, the terminology, the piece itself is ridiculous, and the author is fully aware of the absurdity of his claim–he’s mocking the futility of any “How to date on the basis of race” piece with this. It’s not meant to be a counter argument to the Huff Post piece at all, and is not at all racially motivated. Do read it and see!

  14. I’m dating an Indian…and this isn’t very helpful. He has helped me more than this article. He says that yes his family looks down upon us dating and possibly marrying, and if we were to go to India he would have to be careful because his family has a huge social circle, but that is the thing. It’s about newer times and accept-ion. Most Indians are married off and paired accordingly to how well they will get a long with their spouse’s family, since family there means very much to them. But seeing as how I will not have a problem with his family I am in the clear! And you shouldn’t date a man whether they are Indian or not for their looks or how smart they are. I love my wonderful boyfriend for the person he is, kind of awkward at time, cute at other. All that counts is we love each other unconditionally.

  15. I just read the Huffington Post Article. I am convinced it was tongue in cheek. Surely no one can be THAT naive!

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