Dear Brown Girls Who Were Bullied: Here are Five Things to Know

by Rupali Grover – 

Dear Brown Girls Who Were Bullied,

Just like mental health and domestic violence are too taboo to talk about in South Asian cultures, being bullied can be a difficult topic to bring up for brown girls—especially those who are trying to figure out their identities while living in America. Brown girls who have been bullied may not want to admit that they’re being rejected by their peers. Opening up about being bullied may lead some people to say things like:

“Everybody gets bullied. It’s no big deal,” or, “Did you do something to make your classmate mad?”

According to experts, a victim of bullying is NOT at fault. Despite some people viewing bullying as something that “all kids do,” bullying is still considered a form of abuse that can impact someone negatively. Adults, who were bullied as kids, may struggle with poor self-esteem, anxiety, depression, an inability to trust others, health complaints, or they may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Not much research has been done on South Asian women being bullied. The information on Google may not specifically apply to a brown girl’s situation. Based on my personal opinions and what I have gathered from other brown women, here are five things that you need to know:

1) Racism can fuel the fire behind bullying

My guidance counselor in 8th grade told me:

“Indian kids get straight A’s. I am sure they are respected and don’t get bullied.”

What the guidance counselor didn’t know is that South Asian students were told to “go back to your goddamn country,” or they were called “terrorists, Arabian sluts, sand niggers, and dotheads.” It’s confusing for a South Asian to hear these comments when they have been born and raised in America. It can be frustrating for an Indian Hindu girl to explain to her bullies that she is not the same thing as an Arab Muslim. When people say,  “I am sure your race had nothing to do with you being bullied,” they need to realize that a bully can use racism as a weapon.

2) Just because you were called ugly doesn’t mean it’s true

It’s a myth to think that all victims of bullying must look a certain way. If you look at pictures of teenage girls who have committed suicide due to bullying, you will see that there’s nothing wrong with how they look. Even though South Asian beauty is celebrated all over the world, your bullies may make you feel like there’s something wrong with how you look. Remind yourself that your bullies’ comments on how you look have no validity to them. Remember that Priyanka Chopra and Nina Davuluri are examples of attractive and successful Indian women who still got bullied.

3) Telling a victim of bullying to fight back doesn’t work

Another myth is that bullied kids are viewed as the weak ones who need to be more aggressive. But fighting back can aggravate the situation. There are kids who are bullied and fight back, only to get in trouble and look like the “bad guy.” Bullies can manipulate the teacher into thinking that they were the victim, and they may recruit other kids to gang up on the victim. When it comes to a 12-year-old brown girl having to face a group of male bullies, fighting back may not be the safest thing to do. We also have to take into account how a lot of brown girls were raised. Many brown girls are told not to do anything that would get them in trouble with the law. You can’t blame brown girls for choosing to not be physically aggressive because they don’t want to ruin their long-term career and future.

4) Being told to ignore your bullies doesn’t necessarily work either

Some people think that a bully will stop his or her behavior if you ignore them and act like you’re not bothered by them. That advice may work in some cases, but many victims of bullying will tell you that ignoring didn’t stop the bullying. If a bully knows that they can get away with what they’re doing, they will keep doing it. A bully may also justify their behavior by saying:

“How was I supposed to know that it was bothering you? You didn’t say anything.”

[Read Related: Eradicating Violence Against Women and Victim-Blaming in Kerala]

5) Adults can be bullies too

For those who say that “bullying is just something kids do,” your female friend, your boss, your co-worker, your romantic partner, your family member, or someone you hire for professional help can also be a bully. Adult bullies are more likely to use verbal and emotional bullying than physical aggression, such as name-calling, spreading rumors, getting other adults to believe lies about you, sending you repetitive harassing texts and messages or doing anything that helps them have control over you. Adult bullies tend to lack empathy, can be envious, or project their own insecurities on to you.

With all of that being said, you might ask me:

“What do I do then about bullying?”

First, believe the victim of the bullying and reassure them that it’s not their fault. When you tell a victim of bullying that it’s their fault or that they should just tolerate it, you’re implying that it’s okay for others to treat the victim badly. When it comes to children and teenagers, it’s the adult’s responsibility to protect and advocate for students who want to learn in a safe environment. If you’re an adult victim of bullying, you have the right to advocate for yourself and take the steps to keep yourself safe from an adult bully.

No child, teenager, or adult is obligated to put up with people bullying them. You can get support and help for your situation. Remember that the bully’s actions are their responsibility and have nothing to do with you as a person. Being a victim of bullying doesn’t determine your self-worth and value as a person.


Rupali Grover is a licensed clinical professional counselor who has worked with survivors of sexual assault and trauma. You can catch her writing on elephantjournal.comintrovertdear.com, and survivortoday.org.

 

 

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

‘Date Night’ — A Short Story

For BGM Literary’s third short story of the year, editor Nimarta Narang is excited to share Ankita Saxena’s short story titled “Date Night.” Chronicling Anapurna’s dates with Oscar, the story delves deeper into Anapurna’s relationship, well, relationships, as we learn more about her family and her parents. Saxena, a British Indian poet and performer, has also recently launched her debut called Mother / Line

 

It is Saturday night. The drizzle has left Anapurna’s hair a little wet. She walks in and scans the room. The waiter at the entrance pauses before speaking, as if also unsure what she is doing here. At that moment, she remembers she has left her umbrella on the tube. Fuck. 

The booking is under Annie, she says — and the waiter pauses again, as if unsure how such a light name could belong to such a dark girl. She remembers then, that whatever happens, the clocks will change overnight. Tomorrow, daylight will squeeze into a smaller dress size, diet all the way through winter.

Follow me, he says, suddenly in a rush, grabbing two laminated menus from his podium. He reminds Annie of the black cat that crossed her path earlier — its back slightly arched. She did not know then, or now, whether to feel scared or lucky.

He places the menus on a round table for two in the back of the restaurant. 

Oscar arrives like a train, leaving only a breath of silence before opening with the customary: Hi, sorry I’m late. It is nice to finally meet you. By the time he arrives, Annie has already read through the menu in Italian and English. She is deciding between the prawn and the spaghetti, but of course — it is never down to the best option.

In the next moment, she is standing, smiling, extending her right hand, and then her left arm, for a sideways embrace. He smells like cologne, of course, and as their cheeks bristle, he feels like rain. 

So, how has your week been? She starts, adding Did the curry turn out well last night? A mark of familiarity, a gesture that this is something more than small talk. Yeah, it was suitably spicy. My flatmates were very impressed. He pauses, and takes a sip of the tap water that has by now appeared on his left-hand side. I like your look, a polite way of expressing surprise at her low-cut body, blazer and culottes.

Annie orders the prawn in the end. Better conversation starter. 

They talk of holidays to Spanish seaside resorts, getting piss drunk and spilling onto the streets from one bar to the next, with the same light thrum of English pop songs playing in each. They talk of his work trips to Belgium and Buenos Aires, the time he was nearly mugged in Lagos after taking one too many unknown pills from strangers. These are extravagances Annie has never known.  

Would you take a random pill from a stranger? he asks, and she thinks of her mother, which she hoped would not happen this early in the conversation. Her mother, who gets ‘drunk’ from half a glass of wine, her austere façade crumbling to a giggling mess. Her mother, asks time and time again what people mean by kissing strangers on the lips in nightclubs: how do they trust them like that?

No, she says, I like being in control. 

Oscar shifts his weight forward on his chair and lays down his cutlery like a declaration. They have had a glass of wine each by this point, and something about her caution makes him bold.

So, what’s your story?

My story? – the last prawn hung on a fork like a question mark.

[Read Related: ‘The Eid Party’ – A Short Story]

Annie does not know which version to tell. Oscar is both familiar and from a different world. In one breath, he talks about his immigrant grandmother; in another, of Yacht Week with his university friends and the time he trashed his parents’ house when they were ‘away’ for the weekend. 

Annie cannot imagine trashing her parents’ house. At the age of 11, when she got into her first-choice secondary school, she realised how easy it was to please them. She got good grades, did not cause any chaos, and in return, they left her alone. All her friends would envy her for her harmonious relationship with her family. But it was not difficult with a little pragmatism. She was never too deliberate about being ‘good’ — she just had no desire to be ‘bad’. In return, she had her own set of keys from the age of 14 and returned home often well after they went to bed. 

More than this, Annie cannot imagine her parents being ‘away,’ that too, with just each other for company. Their marriage, and everything that came with it — discussion over discounted items in the supermarket, loud Saturday morning calls to old relatives, their hands joined in monthly prayer — always seemed more ritualistic than love. On family drives, Annie would sit in the back seat with headphones plugged in, watching for signs of love. Maybe a casual hand on a thigh? A sideways look in the mirror. A laugh over an in-joke. But every time the music quietened, all she could hear was her mother cursing at her father’s driving, her father demanding directions, or, more often than not, the silence of people who have nothing more to say to each other.

One Valentine’s Day, she sent them on a dinner date to the new Chinese restaurant on their local high street. She and her brother put on a movie at home, and they returned well after the credits, faces giddy like new lovers. But the next morning, they were back to their usual selves — her father complaining about the bill, her mother complaining about the way he treated her family.

Annie and Oscar talk of hobbies then. She mentions dancing at university. He mentions winter sports and cooking. She cannot imagine anything worse than falling on ice.

She notices the restaurant has thinned behind them, all the old-fashioned wall hangings suddenly visible, like shells in low tide. Everything alright Sir? Ma’am? the waiter asks, and they request the bill, going Dutch as she has been trained to do by now.

Outside, the rain has stilled, leaving large puddles reflecting the streetlights. Annie slips inside her coat, imagining slipping into his — the baggy weight of it, the cliché. He places his hand instinctively on her lower back, laughing as the splash of a puddle makes a small smudge on his suede shoes.

As they near the station, he extends the hand to an arm again, and this time she lets her body bend in the fold of his, noticing suddenly how thin her jacket is, how little fabric and skin separate their bones. 

She does not say, I do not know how to be more intimate than this. Instead, she rubs her palms against his spine, and then draws back quickly taking her and her shadow into the darkness. 

***

What’s your story? The question plays back in her head. They have come to see an exhibition. It is precisely six days and 15 hours after their first meeting. They walk side by side, Oscar slightly behind, Annie’s shoulder occasionally and intentionally pressing into his chest. 

They glide through the gallery like a pair of ducks. She has never observed still objects so close to someone else. She is fascinated by how long he looks at the sculpture, and how he takes her around them like a waltz. She notices how well-dressed he is for the gallery in his light blue chinos and black coat. She notices, once again, his cologne.

She had come to this gallery last with Zeina and Chrissie — Zeina in a rush to get out the door and get some food, Chrissie taking pictures of every painting to send to her boyfriend. Annie always felt peaceful around her friends — each of their habits etched into her like a chant from childhood. Zeina started adding flat peaches to their shopping list in the second year. By the time they graduated, the kitchen cupboard was stocked with Molasses, Sumac, heaps of chickpeas. Annie imagined growing up with Zeina and her sisters, and when Zeina facetimed her mother in the middle of their flat dinners, Annie almost felt she had.

And Chrissie — who stuck to Annie from the first day of uni, later introducing her to all her theatre friends, saying: this girl is an angel. Once, before a black-tie ball, she had shown Annie how to read her eyes: your eyes are long, not wide, so you should draw your liner thick on the lid rather than with wings. That night, she felt like Beyoncé. When Annie was shaking uncontrollably the morning she was expecting her university results, they both gathered around her. She nearly asked them to open the email — don’t be dramatic, Zeina said, Chrissie on the other side smoothing out Annie’s hair out like a bed.

What do you think of this one? Oscar asks, looking at an abstract piece. She cocks her head, It looks like a city. 

Really? To me, it looks like the peaks of mountains. 

Annie remembers stories of the college ski trip — the hot tub with the whole milky way in view, the excessive drinking, reckless life-changing accidents. What would she do with a world like Oscar’s? What new perspective could he offer? 

Oscar takes that moment to put his hand around her shoulder — her skin tingles unexpectedly under the layers. 

Or a face, maybe. See, that jagged streak of red could be a smile.

She relaxes. He starts pointing out the chin and the eyebrows. They laugh. It is a chaotic old woman, they decide. It is always easy to find faces in abstracts. 

Later, they go for a walk by the river. He asks her about her job. She says all the buzzwords. Product manager. Start-up. Incubator. He asks her what she loves about her job. 

She remembers getting the offer in April of her third year. She was at home, in her bedroom. She had been juggling applications and interviews with finals preparations for three months. The phone call comes as a shock. She is expecting an email. She starts screaming at the top of her voice. Guys! Guys, I got the offer!

What? What? Her mother, always the first to listen, appearing from nowhere in a sudden gust of elation, jumping with her until their feet are sore. Her brother bolting up the stairs: What? How much are they paying you? Her father pausing the football downstairs, What? What? 

Later that evening, the family meal — spicy chicken, a rare bottle of wine. Her heart is full. Her parents laughing across the table. This is better than any grade she has received.

I like the stimulation. She says. How each day is a new challenge. 

[Read Related: ‘About the Author’ – A Short Story]

***

Do you want to grab a drink?

Annie has learnt the art of sculling through bar queues — how you must pick a corner edge and gradually navigate inwards diagonally, shoulders guiding you through like oars. 

I’ll get this round. 

You sure? 

You paid for the gallery tickets. Only fair.

Once a group of bulky, beer-breathed men appeared behind her, laughing loudly over her head. Excuse me, two G+Ts please, she yelled over their grunts. You alright, love? one of them slurred into her hair, his T-shirt exposing muscles like hedges lining his arms. We’ll get her those, he said, one bulbous hand on her waist, another extending his card to the slobbery bar top. She let him pay. Grabbed both G+Ts shiny on the counters, drained half of one by the time reached Chrissie, pristine at the back of the queue. Some old creeps in this bar. Let’s go find your boyfriend.

When he drove her to university the first time, her father switched off the radio halfway through the journey. You know, Beta — you must be careful in the nightclubs. Men can be mad. Don’t drink, shink there. They can put things in them. 

I know Papa. Relax.

Just be careful.

Months after, she found Zeina at the corner of a club, pulled her up by the elbows, hair matted with sweat, eyes dilated. Annie — what is happening to me? Nee, am I drunk? Anapurna — don’t tell my mother about this. Zeina, who had never had a sip of alcohol. Never intentionally. 

***

She orders two Espresso Martinis — Oscar had posed with some in his dating profile, and it’s time she made an effort. 

When she returns, he is on his phone, smiling.

Sorry, those were my friends. They’re getting wasted tonight.
A party?
Yeah. Rob’s flatmate’s 25th.
You should go!
No, no. I’m here now.
We could go together.
Really? You’d be up for that?
Yeah.

***

The Uber drops them off by a semi-detached house on a dark street lined with lamplights. Just before they enter, Oscar touches Annie on the waist turning her around. She is conscious of the thick layer of faux fur between them.

You sure about this? His breath leaving a cigarette trail in the November air. My friends can be intimidating. She lets her chin fall on his chest, Come on, I’m cold. 

Inside, there are fewer people than she anticipated. It is less a party, more a circle of friends passing around pringles and tin cans — lights on, the vague attempt at bunting, the bass of speakers filtering from another room.  

In the presence of friends, Oscar is louder; more sarcastic. He introduces Annie by her job description — Annie works in tech, by Southwark — the first time she realises he cares. They meet Johnny, who is doing a Ph.D. in Literature, and Elisa, who has just come back from six months abroad. Annie scans the circle, realises she is at least three foundation shades darker than the rest of them. In her fur jacket, heeled boots and red lip, she is also the best dressed.

She posts a dancing girl emoji in her WhatsApp chat with Zeina and Chrissie. Guess where I am? 

Oscar takes off his coat. I’ll be back soon, he says, slipping through an arch underneath the stairs. Annie makes small talk with Elisa — So where did you travel? They talk of backpacking in Cambodia and Vietnam, You know how it is on a budget? I need to go back there sometime, spend a few months in each place. Annie pretends to understand. Other friends float over — Michael who has beautiful long hair, and Lucy, who is a newly-qualified lawyer.

She walks over to the window — if she squints, she can make out train tracks buried beneath the room’s bright reflections. She watches the quick passage of tubes rubbing bodies for a few loud seconds, before going their separate ways. 

Behind her, Oscar comes over with two plastic cups. Punch he says, gesturing to a large bowl on the TV stand. Annie remembers the housewarming party she and Zeina threw after university, both their mothers calling them to ask about the food arrangements. Ma, it’s fine – you don’t need to feed people here, she said, still impulse-buying a few boxes of Tesco-branded samosas and tortilla chips for nachos. What kind of people will they think you are if you don’t even give them food? 

Annie’s mother would begin a cooking operation each time her friends came over for the weekend: chili chicken and noodles, pasta with an onion-fried tomato sauce, vegetables baked in cheese sauce. Get the nice stuff, not discounted, she would say, pushing her daughter to make a last-minute trip to the supermarket, returning to a dry-cleaned house, each unnecessary item hidden like lightbulbs inside drawers.

Zeina was the only friend who was not considered a guest. In the absence of any relatives outside the Middle East other than an uncle in Canada, she adopted Annie’s as her own. She would arrive on Friday evenings and eat what the family ate, not leaving until Sunday morning, when she needed to get back to study for her Monday morning seminar.

They would stay up until two or three in the morning, lying on Annie’s beige carpet, drawing pictures and coded messages with colouring pencils in the cork underside of her desk. These are for our eyes only — Annie would say — write whatever you want, no one will see them. 

Once, Annie’s parents were fighting downstairs, the odd word occasionally slipping into focus like letters in the last row of an opticians’ screen.

You have no bloody right to –
Why do you always have to bring my mother into –
I don’t care if the kids are –
Oh, so I’m – am I? 

Zeina got up early the next morning as if nothing has happened. You know me, Annie, I can sleep through anything, between toothpaste gargles. 

***

What you looking at? Oscar asks, following Annie’s eye-line. She is reminded of the art gallery — how they learnt to observe minutiae side by side, read the other person’s gaze. She wonders at what point her parents forgot to do this.

Annie tells him about Zeina and Chrissie, about her family — how her mother was the one who pushed her to start dating at the age of 24. You have to live your life Anapurna. You cannot use me as an excuse for everything. 

She talks and talks until the drinks evaporate, and she reaches for him with the abandon of prayer, nerves racing to her toes, chest aching, neck pulsing. 

***

What’s your story? Oscar had asked barely half an hour into their first conversation. And what could she say? 

Liberal Londoner in trendy tech job OR
Second-generation immigrant with traditional family values

As they walk in the bright sunlight, three weeks after their first date, Oscar squeezes Annie’s right earlobe in his index and thumb.  

Are you always this cautious? 

The park’s molten brown foliage shimmers in a large, grey lake, where a dog has plunged into the cold water, creating ripples that land within metres of their feet. 

Only when I am worried I might slip.

The hours after she hears of her parents’ separation, Annie does not tell anyone. Annie, come look at this. The girls are watching Zeina’s cousin’s wedding videos. How unfair is this? She curls up with them, comforted by the lack of questioning. They remind her of her father — always there to pick her up, never bothered about the details.

Chrissie is trying to explain the situation to the co-director of her play. He gaslighted me. Are you even listening? 

That evening, her mother calls her, cool and blabbering. It’s only been a couple of months. We didn’t want to tell anyone until it was official. We didn’t want to distract you. The words months and official repeating in her head for weeks to come. She remembers the night she got her job offer — how could her mother have laughed like that on the verge of separation? How could she have lied for so long?

When Zeina finally finds out, she moves into Annie’s bed. Don’t worry. I won’t let you down. Later, Annie slips away to the sofa and lies there all night, ghost-like in the green of her WhatsApp screen, trying to memorise the timelines, her thighs rubbing against each other, sweaty in the August heat.

She does not answer her mother’s calls for another two months, until the day before she starts her job, and her mother, as usual, makes up for it: I have so much faith in you, Anapurna. You have nothing to worry about. Call me in your lunch break. Or whenever. I love you.

***

What’s your story? Oscar will ask again. And what will she say now, three weeks into knowing him? And what will she say to all those who ask after him?

Afraid of ending up like her parents OR
Afraid of not ending up like them.

Experienced in heartbreak, in friendship OR
Hugely inexperienced in intimacy, in love.

In the winter sun, the birds are creating raucous in the trees. The dog is shaking off lake water, more alive for having taken the dive. 

Where should I begin?   

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By Ankita Saxena

Ankita Saxena is a British-Indian writer and performer. Her debut poetry collection Mother | Line, releases in April 2023 with … Read more ›

Brinda Charry’s Debut Book ‘The East Indian’ Tells a Tale of Race and Resilience

brinda charry

“I was the only one of my kind, so it was fitting I spent time alone.”

This line from “The East Indian”, the debut novel of historian and author Brinda Charry, stung as I read it. 

Growing up in suburban Connecticut, being the only brown face in a room has never fazed me. I was always the little brown girl in the corner with waist-length hair and a name that made every teacher pause, but the feeling of “otherness” captured in this line was something I knew all too well. 

[Read Related: The Culture Series Part 1: Descendants of Indentured Diaspora a Look at Fijian Representation ]

This feeling isn’t unique. It’s the same experience of many immigrants and first-generation South Asian Americans, and that of the main character of “The East Indian” as well. 

While a work of fiction set in the 1630s, the novel paints a very real picture of immigration and race in the United States today and the human need to belong. 

It is the story of Tony East Indian, inspired by a real person documented in the country’s archives as the first known East Indian in the American colonies, but who is otherwise a work of the author’s imagination and research. 

The son of a courtesan from the Coromandel coast of India, Tony unwittingly finds himself as an indentured servant in the plantations of Jamestown, Virginia at just 11 years old. 

He accepts “Tony” as his first name — though he doesn’t care for it — because a fellow Tamil once suggested others in the world would find his real name “too hard to utter.” Then he adopts the surname “East Indian” simply because it is thrust upon him when he arrived in Jamestown. The protagonist can no longer even recall his birth name, but soon, he accepts it as a thing of his past. 

Over the course of the novel, Tony lands at the center of scandal as he works to establish a new identity as a physician. All the while, he also struggles with isolation, prejudice and the challenges of trying to maintain pieces of the culture he carried with him from abroad. 

He is confused as to why Native Americans are also called “Indians” and many colonists simply label him a “moor,” a term used for North Africans or anyone with darker skin, with no context for India or its people in this new world. 

He, feeling disloyal to his “many Gods,” converts from Hinduism to Christianity, believing it will give him more credibility and a sense of connection to his peers. He begins to eat meat and spend time at taverns, all in hopes of belonging, and assimilating with colonist ways.

As he comes of age and furthers his physician’s apprenticeship, Tony also begins to ponder questions of race and social class to no avail. He reflects: 

“I would talk to Doctor Herman and try to understand the reason behind white skin and black and brown and, more important, what greater distinctions of wit, sensibility, and soul the differences in hue signified. I read and was taught by my master the new ideas put forth by men of learning in England and Europe on the workings of the bowels, the brain, the blood; the causes of migraines, melancholy, and madness, but I never got closer to understanding the real meaning behind what they called different races of men, and if such difference exists in any profound sense that really matters.”

Overall, in “The East Indian,” Tony becomes a man. He learns of the world’s cruelty and its kindness. He learns to work, play, love, hate, scheme, grieve and care for himself and others. But, like most immigrants, he still longs for home. 

“For home is singular and unique. Everywhere else is but a stopping place, a bed in a stranger’s house, eating off plates not one’s own, an unfamiliar view from a casement,” Tony said. 

When attempts to head West and find an ocean back to India fail, Tony accepts that returning to his motherland is unlikely and resolves that he must learn to adapt.

He worries his love interest, born in the colonies, will not relate to him, for “her heart did not ache for another place beyond the sea” and also wonders what the future of his children will be. Nevertheless, he is never defeated. 

“I would thrive wherever the wind laid me,” says Tony. “[I] will be my own shelter, my landing place. Like a snail, I will carry home on my back, find it where I happen to be, make it from what I bear inside me.”

This resolution to resilience is one many in the South Asian diaspora may be familiar with, especially those descended from British-East Indian indentureship like Tony. 

Leaving or even kidnapped from their homes with little to no hope of return, thousands of Indians faced journeys fraught with violence, condemnation and injustice trying to create new lives and identities away from their homeland in places like Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, and Jamaica. However, like Tony, they also found the strength and courage to survive and establish their own cultures and communities. 

While no details are known about the real Tony East Indian, Charry weaves a compelling coming-of-age tale that takes him as well as readers across three continents. 

The novel, like life itself, has fast and slow moments, but it is filled with vivid, historically accurate depictions of the colonial world and moving moments that keep you rooting for the main character’s triumph. 

It is this authenticity and compassion that makes “The East Indian” an invaluable modern work. There are no known first-hand accounts of the indentured or South Asian colonists in America. The only proof of the mere existence of many are the generations that have come after them. 

With several years of research put into it, Charry’s “The East Indian” serves as a rare realistic portrayal of what life may have been for these individuals; the hardships they endured, and the strength they embodied. South Asian or not, it is a rich history not only worth reading but sharing and celebrating. 

To learn more about Brinda Charry and her professional work visit her website. The East Indian is now available in print and audiobooks from all major book retailers.

Featured Image: Author Brinda Charry was born and raised in India before moving to the United States for graduate school two decades ago. She considers herself “a novelist-turned-academic-returned-novelist | Photo Credit: Lisa Arnold Photography

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By Ramona Sukhraj

With a B.S. in Marketing from the UCONN School of Business, Ramona has made a name for herself publishing over … Read more ›

Moving on After Breaking up With Your Cat

“Take what you want//Take everything” reflects on a time with my partner and our cat, Layla. It’s a retelling of the chaotic night I adopted her. I didn’t know why Layla hid from me. When I chased her around, it scared her more. “Take what you want//Take everything” juxtaposes our first night, filled with misunderstanding, with the rest of the time we spent together. My fond memories call back to the loving moments Layla and I shared.

Such memories defined us; they reverberated in my partnership. I wonder if my partner, like Layla, only remembers her fear of me, over our shared moments of love. The title, a Kanye West lyric, is an acknowledgment that their happiness together–without me–destroyed my sense of self. When I see their photos, I wonder if I can see myself reflected in their eyes. I wonder if they still keep kind moments of our time together.

[Read Related: Artivist Poem Essay-Studmavati]

Take what you want//Take everything

I remember when she would look at me from behind a laundry basket.

A small simple cat with green owl eyes. She was afraid of her new home and its owner. Shit, I remember the night I got her, she hid under my bed, in the middle just out of my reach for maybe 6 hours, watching me. She didn’t eat anything the entire day. When the night fell I was afraid she’d starve or come out and attack me. I was just scared. I didn’t have a childhood pet, I’m not white, I didn’t know what to do. I picked up the whole bed and yelled that she needed to move. I chased her into the closet with a vacuum cleaner. When she ran in, I called my lover and yelled to her that she wasn’t helping enough, she needed to be there to help me. That was our first day together, me and that cat. No one will ever have that memory but me and maybe her.

It was during Ramadan, my first year fasting.

Our problems had already begun by then. Enough so that I decided to fast and show retribution. I’d try to change into a more patient and understanding self. Like the Prophet (SAW) I guess. To become someone that my lover could feel safe around. Somehow, getting a cat felt like it fit into that picture. I’d be a cat dad, you know, gentle. We’d raise her. I’d fast and become New Again. Maybe I’d wrap an inked tasbih around myself and show I’m a man of God.

I don’t know how a cat remembers fear any more than I know how a lover does.

I know her body stored it. My cat’s must have stored it too. That first night, I wish I could tell her that I was afraid too. It doesn’t make sense that I was afraid really — I’m bigger, more threatening. We don’t speak the same language anyway, so how could I ever tell her? She learned to trust me though, in her own way. Her small bean paws would press on my chest in the mornings. She’d meow to berate me for locking her out some nights, or when I was away from home too long.

She lives with my lover now. They share photos with me, they’re happy together.

I saw my lover once, it was on 55th and 7th, Broadway shined blue performance lights over us. She wore a red sacral dress. She said her mental health has never been better. I think she was trying to tell me that she’s doing well, because she knows I care for her. I don’t think she was trying to say she’s happier without me. We don’t speak the same language. I actually think they are happier with just each other. And I loved them both, so it hurts. Sometimes, not all the time. And it doesn’t always hurt that bad. Other times it does get pretty bad, though. I probably owe it to myself to say that.

I look back at the photos, the ones of our life together, and the ones of their new life.

Two green owl eyes, and two brown moonlit eyes. I look for myself in them.

[Read Related: How Love Matures as you Grow]

By Umrao Shaan

Umrao Shaan is a short storyist, poet, and ghazals singer. You can find his songs on his Instagram. His other … Read more ›