You don’t know me, but you will.
It doesn’t matter what my name is. That’s not what this is about.
This is about being a woman:
A woman of color.
A woman of color far removed from her home country.
A woman of color who is an ‘international art student’ in the United States.
I often think about the word “minority”. As an Indian in the USA, I am categorized as such. “She is part of the minority.” – one average sized person who constitutes a tiny portion of a group who has already been labeled small. Little. Lesser. And female.
Sometimes I go to parties. Because no college story is complete without that-thing-that-happened-to-you-at-that-party, I guess I’ll give you something to chew on. Every party that I go to, I grab a drink. Because alcohol will most definitely make that armpit of an apartment in Mission Hill bearable. Then I take a deep breath, and I talk to people. We exchange names (they attempt to pronounce mine a minimum of three times) and then they notice – she has a funny accent. And they scrunch their eyebrows together, squint their eyes at me, tilt their heads and ask me “So where exactly are you from?” Which is actually code for “Why are you here strange human?”
Here begins the dichotomy of living in two places at once. And the majority of the turbulence comes not from the 18-hour flights, but from the body I was born into (hint – it’s of the brown variety and has a vagina).
Since it’s not 1870 anymore and I don’t have to rely on those dodgy homing pigeons to receive news from home (uh thank god), I occasionally log on to something called the World Wide Web and can access information on what is happening on a daily basis in India. Imagine that! Sometime last semester, I happened upon a film – India’s Daughter. It spoke of a brutal gang rape that occurred in Delhi a few years back when I still lived in Mumbai. Every man interviewed in that documentary – the rapists, politicians, lawyers – blamed the woman for what happened to her. They said she should’ve known better than to be out with a male friend at night, because having strange men and metal rods shoved up her vagina is of course exactly what she should have expected for such abominable actions. I watched this film from the Artist Res at MassArt, wrapped in a blanket I got at Target while it snowed outside. I watched it from a physical space that was about as “American” as it could get. And I was faced with the fear, the fury and the grief of dealing with something so close to my heart yet so far from me. I had to deal with the fact that I would soon be heading back to a country that was home, suppressing my feelings of terror and convincing myself that my view of home wasn’t tainted.
But here is where I will tell you that things don’t suck all that bad, after all. How, you may ask, as your eyes roll at this crazy foreign female. How can this traumatic experience be the silver lining? Well, it is, and I want you to remember the reason why – it is because I am an artist. Because you are an artist. Because of this wonderful thing called Art.
I dealt with my fear and anguish at the treatment of women in my home country, by making photographs about it. And I showed them to people, only to find out that it was exactly these photographs that could help combat the issues that caused so much suffering for my race and gender worldwide. I could communicate with Americans about my “minority” and give confidence to the women I photographed. My art was important. And so is yours.
So I will leave you with the most empowering thought, artists – We have been given the tool to tackle every issue in existence in the entirety of the universe. Let’s use it.