by Nur Kara
Here’s an ode to us brown girls, in plural, because we’re not a homogeneous bunch. To us girls commonly-quoted as Indian, yet originate from the Indian subcontinent of South Asia as Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Bhutanese, and Sri Lankan. Just because our corrections don’t actually fix your cultural illiteracy doesn’t mean that it’s okay to keep generalizing us as “Indian.”
To some of us brown girls, unmistakable with our braided hair and portable aroma of biryani and aloo ke parathe. To some of us, clad from head to toe in the loose fabric of shalwars because who says that we have to care about this fashion ka funda? Should we wish, we can be the Kareena Kapoors of Bollywood, the Mindy Kalings of your clever, weekly sitcom, and the Benazir Bhuttos of charming, political prowess. Some of us may be a voted-foul chocolate brown or a hyper-beautified cappuccino, but being lovely isn’t contingent upon being fair. No cream can color our widespread fame and talent.
Speaking of talent, we’re each fluent in one of 85 languages, can sing undiscovered scales, shake our hips at a moment’s notice, and still succeed as the greatest doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists, artists and writers. Yes, our role indeed extends beyond the kitchen, and not all of us have inherited our mothers’ and grandmothers’ magical hands. With a bit of effort and essence, we’re sure to have you craving and raving about even our first gulab jamuns. Just don’t be fooled by our sweets served to you with our even sweeter smiles. Being shrewd businesswomen is also second nature to us. We know how to get you begging for a bargain.
This is an ode to all of us brown girls who aren’t always, and don’t need to be spoken for, by any man of any relation. Don’t blame our cultures and religions for being oppressive, for it’s not that scripture has sedated our societies. It’s, instead, that some of our male counterparts make the choice to view us as simply that – counterparts. We were endowed with the curves to set them straight. That is our gift that we don’t ever need to give, and out of honor and self-respect, we can similarly make a choice to not be convinced of otherwise. We damsels rise above distress.
So here’s a final salute to us brown girls, the girls who are far more than “exotic” can even begin to describe. We are what lies beyond your jests and eye ogling, not to be contained in the 4-by-6 photograph that may show up among matrimony matches. Try getting to know us, in all of our glory and glam. We certainly won’t disappoint.
Nur Kara is a medley of Indian ancestry and East African heritage, though also carry the labels of “female,” “Ismaili Muslim,” and “first-generation American.” Being part of refugee history and having lived through these various lenses inspires her to similarly share in others’ stories. A self-coined “skeptiste,” she questions the uncommonly questioned.