- Hetal Avanee
living the diaspora life
DIASPORA (/daɪˈæspərə/ dye-AS-pər-ə):
a scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locale. Historically, the word diaspora was used to refer to the mass dispersion of a population from its indigenous territories, specifically the dispersion of Jews. Whilst the word was originally used to describe the forced displacement of certain peoples, "diasporas" is now generally used to describe those who identify with a "homeland", but live outside of it.
"What does 'diaspora' mean?" I was asked the other day. Pretty sure this person whom I'd just met found my writer site, Twitter, Insta, and TikTok accounts upon which I proudly state "I write diaspora Desi fantasy".
First off - damn! I thought I had separated my non-writer from my writer life better than that. Guess I need to try harder :P
Second - they could've google that shit. I love googling stuff. Is that a writer/analyst thing? Maybe, but I took the time to explain what being diaspora means to me.
For me it means living a double life in a sense. There's the very Indian, culturally embedded child inside me who looked forward to pujas at friend's houses every [other] weekend, Navratri every fall, and celebrations hosted by our Gujarati Samaj (an organization that hosts charitable, social and religious services for the Gujju Desi community). It means loving wearing my Indian outfits for those functions but containing my anger when they are appropriated for TV or movies by non-Desis because I was made fun for wearing them to school as a kid. It means patiently fielding questions about said outfits, the "red dot", and "do you speak other languages?". Being diaspora means growing up different than what the kids around me considered "normal", and trying not to cry in front of them when they made fun of me for being "other".
"Oh that's great." Pause. "And how long have you been in the US? Your English is really good. I can hardly hear your accent."
I seethed inside, smiled outside. "I was born and raised in Ohio. Lived here all my life."
Her eyes went blank and I could tell my impassioned diaspora explanation had fallen on deaf ears. She smiled and nodded but offered no apology for her misstep, no more conversation, and walked off to join others.
And people wonder why I hate socializing? I didn't want to be at that party anyway! It was my husband's job to take our boy to the pool party but he couldn't for reasons and so it fell upon me.
Saturday, not mentally or emotionally prepared to dive into being around people, not even dressed properly for sitting by a pool while my kiddo played with his friends in the water, I unexpectedly had to tread this social situation. My anxiety left me unprepared. And then that up there happened.
Telling you I couldn't run away fast enough from the party doesn't express the depth of my discomfort as I grabbed my kiddo right after Happy Birthday was sung and he'd devoured his cupcake and ice cream.
I used to have more patience with people about these conversations. I used to thoughtfully answer every question that crossed their mind. Is it my age that's made me less tolerant? Is it the plethora of information available on the internet that makes my answers shorter? Instead of asking me, the 1 Indian woman you just met, why couldn't you educate yourself? Why is it up to me to teach you?
Hell, did she treat every Desi woman at the party the same as she had just done me?
Although I'd love to never have to see this woman again, she lives in my neighborhood. Our kids are friends. Kinda.
Gods grant me patience.