They made me perceive my own culture as exotic; little boarding school white girls in pinafores more familiar to me than the brown girls on my playground. My people were relegated to spicy kitchens and turbaned attics, were given magical yogi powers and the ability to calm all strife with the word “ohm”. We were no longer simply “men and women”, we were “rajahs” and “ayahs”. We did not understand any greeting but “namaste”. They reduced the entirety of India to a single, farcical character replicable as a Bengal tiger-owning fakir in every children’s novel and bedtime story. They did not understand us, and so they reinvented us to suit their understanding.
(And through their understanding, we understood ourselves, and we understood that we were different – strange, abnormal – and did not belong in normal society. We were exotic.)