1. More people lived in your house than you knew what to do with.
I grew up in an apartment with more than 8 people living in it. It included my parents, siblings, grandparents, and my aunt and uncle at one point. We had scheduled timings to wake up to use the bathroom and shower so people would not be fighting over it. From this experience, I learned to appreciate the fact that I had a roof over my head. Regardless of the number of people living under one roof, it made me realize many people have it a lot worse out there.
2. Your name was often mispronounced.
All throughout my childhood, my friends and teachers mispronounced my name. I never corrected them, either. I also had an unusual nickname, which my parents called me by in front of others. People didn’t know what to call me, and it got to the point where I wouldn’t even bother to correct them anymore. Somebody else would just get it wrong, too, and I’d have to start all over again.
3. You learned to speak in your parents’ strong accent.
I would have to say an English word with an accent in order for my parents to understand me. For example, instead saying “five”, I would have to say “pive” or instead of “seizures”, I would have to say “scissors”.
4. Whenever you had family sleeping over your house, you would often sleep on the floor on a foam mattress.
It was not cost effective to book hotel rooms if you had family members visiting. No matter how small our place was, we still managed to find space for everyone to sleep on. More often than not, space was on the floor.
5. Your parents never used the dishwasher to wash dishes.
The dishwasher was just an extra cabinet where you stored utensils and tupperware.
6. You never used the dryer for clothes.
We sometimes hung our clothes outside to let it air dry or on a clothing drying rack rather than using a dryer. According to my parents, the electricity bill would be too high and our clothes would shrink if we used the dryer.
7. Swiffer? Mop? Try old, raggedy clothing.
We turned old t-shirts into mops to clean the floor. I felt like I got my daily workout and lower body strengthening by squatting to mop the floor.
8. You didn’t understand why other people didn’t use the stainless steel tongue cleaner from India.
This was the best invention ever! I would feel incomplete with my oral hygiene if I went a day without using this product. I also never understood how to brush my tongue with my toothbrush the way my peers did.
9. You always brushed your teeth before breakfast.
I got confused why my other friends completed this task after breakfast. I felt like if I brushed my teeth after breakfast, I would be digesting my food with my stank breath from the night before. If I ever forgot my toothbrush, I would use my finger to brush my teeth.
10. You willingly put oil in your hair.
I went to school with tons of oil in my hair. I also rocked a braid as well. My parents did not care how bad the coconut oil smelled, as long as I was maintaining “strong, healthy hair”.
11. Your doctor visits were minimal.
My parents and grandparents used Indian remedies to treat any cold, especially with the use of turmeric, ginger, honey, and milk. Our medicine cabinet contained Vicks and Iodex, and going to the doctor was a rare occasion.
12. Your family would often tell you that you were “too dark.”
I would scrub myself with a washcloth thinking I would become a couple shades lighter. In India, it was thought that the lighter your skin complexion was, the prettier you were. Boy, was it tough for me! I would put a lot of baby powder on my face to make myself look “white”. However, as years passed I’ve become comfortable in my skin color and who I’ve become.
13. You would bathe using a step stool and a bucket.
I grew up in a household where my grandparents and parents took showers the way people in India did. They would sit on a step stool, and have a bucket filled with water, and use a cup to pour it over themselves. Even though I was born and raised in America, I prefer taking a bath the Indian way rather than standing to shower. I know I’m not old, but I think it’s great for energy conservation purposes.
14. You didn’t have to go to the temple every Sunday, because you had a small temple in your household where you were able to pray daily.
My mom had one entire room dedicated just to God, and if you were menstruating, you were not allowed to go into that room. Growing up, I prayed every morning before going to school and at night.
15. Your parents were superstitious.
I was not allowed to cut my nails at night, nor was I allowed to wash my hair on Saturdays or certain Indian holidays. My parents are big believers in astrology, and apparently my stars’ alignment meant that I had to wear this gold ring with a red stone. I strongly disliked it, so I flipped the stone facing my palm. Also, for birthdays, weddings, and holidays, whenever we give money to others, we always have to give an extra dollar for good luck.
16. You recycled before it was cool.
In our household, we re-used grocery bags as trash bags. Also, in middle school, I went through a phase of thinking lunch boxes were not cool anymore. All my friends would throw away their brown paper bags, while I had to bring mine home so my mom could pack my next day’s lunch in it.
17. There was a stash of Taco Bell hot sauce in your house.
As embarrassing as it sounds, I took packets of hot sauce from Taco Bell to use for our meals at home. We had a whole jar filled with different Taco Bell sauces to use when we would make Mexican food at home. I think so many Indian families took extra packets that some Taco Bells started keeping the sauces behind the counter.
18. You referred to any elder as “Uncle” or “Auntie.”
Any older male or female that I met were automatically called “Uncle” or “Auntie”, whether or not I’d ever see them again. Calling them by their first name was forbidden and was considered disrespectful.
19. You’ve seen your dad, uncle, or grandfather rocking “lungis”
Lungis are a long sheet of clothing that’s wrapped around your waist so it looks like a long skirt. I’ve seen my dad wear it after he’d shower and pray.
20. Your friends’ interest in “going out for Indian food” left you nonplussed.
Can you say variety?! No! I had Gujarati food 5 times a week, the only time I had non-Indian food was the weekends. However, when I went off to college, I started to appreciate Indian food a lot more because I did not have it as often.