Sanjay (26) was born and raised in The Netherlands. He now works as an Information management Trainee at the township in Amsterdam. He identifies himself as a mix of Indian and Dutch. His parents came to The Netherlands 4 years before he was born. They started an Indian restaurant/pub in Arnhem.
I have a little sister (22), she is really similar to me. We are really close, and even when I had my own room, I always slept in the same room with her. We are always there for each other.
Growing up it was different because they have such a different time table than other parents. They didn’t have a 9 until 5 kind of job. During the day they would be there for us, and in the evening they always have to work. My mom would prepare food, or I would make something for myself, or order some fries. I didn’t see them in the evening as much as other people did see their parents. Their social life is also different. Other people’s parents are free on the weekend, but my parents worked on the weekends because it’s the busiest. In the evening when having dinner, it would be me and my sister. When they came home we would have a small second dinner, and then we would hang out with each other.
I didn’t mind, because I didn’t know better but it would be nice to have my parents around more. You don’t see each other as much, because as a kid I was at school.
Having dinner with your family is really nice, but it would only happen 1 or 2 a week.
My parents didn’t know the other parents at school that much, because they weren’t free at the same time. If they would be invited to a barbeque for example, they wouldn’t have time to go there anyway because they had to work. There weren’t a lot of people who worked there, so they had to work there. I worked as a dishwasher. One time, I was a waiter, but then I dropped a lot of stuff so I never did that again. I also helped with catering, when heavy stuff needed to be lifted, I was there. I also filled in when they needed someone on the weekend.
I had a lot of freedom, and they told me that if you needed to do some stuff for your studies then you have to do that instead of working in the restaurant. Education is important to my parents, and they wanted me to have a good education. They didn’t push me like stereotypical Indian parents, but I was a bit of a difficult student. I didn’t do a lot for school, I was a lazy student. If I worked for it, then I would get good grades. That was a struggle that my parents had.
With my mom, I’m really close. With my dad, it’s different because he has an alcohol problem. There were weird moments. They provide, but they weren’t really present like other parents do. It becomes tricky to create a bond with my parents. I’m really independent because of the way I grew up.
Other people call their parents when something is up, or they would go to their grandparents and I didn’t have that.
Other people call their parents when something is up, or they would go to their grandparents and I didn’t have that. My family lives all over the world, and my grandparents live in India. My friends text with their parents every day, and I don’t text them that much.
I went to a catholic school, there weren’t a lot of colored kids, soI didn’t fit in. In my class there weren’t any and in the school itself there were only a few. Where I lived was a predominantly white neighborhood. They were also all into football and I wasn’t into that, so I didn’t fit in. My parents also weren’t into football either, but they were into cricket and no one knew what that was.
Kid culture is also like: fitting in what ins normal and normal for them was not normal for me, because we were from a different background. People didn’t get me because I was a different kind of person and the culture was also different. My parents also couldn’t really relate with the other parents of the other kids. They didn’t get invited for anything because of their whole schedule and also because they didn’t know what Indian people are like. They didn’t understand it, and I think they don’t know what to do with it. I didn’t feel really discriminated against. But I always get compared to Black Pete in primary school, I didn’t see anything problematic during that time but now I get it.
And when there would be a fight, they would always use something against me. They would make fun of me being colored, they would have something extra to say and I didn’t make fun of them being white. And that’s unfair and I was annoyed. You have something that you can’t do anything about.
My home life was so different, and It’s also a cultural thing. One time when I was small, I came home crying and I would ask my parents: “Why aren’t we speaking human language at home?”. I’m referring to Dutch, because I thought that was human language. And at home I thought we would speak something different.
I didn’t feel really ashamed being Indian but more inconvenient, especially at primary school, because it would be easier if I would be Indian in India and Dutch in The Netherlands. In this case I was like: “Why am I all the way up here?”. My role model when growing up was Batman. But I didn’t really turn out like Batman. Apart from that I didn’t have many other role models, I was finding everything out by myself. There were a lot of other role models for other kids like: football players. I didn’t have that, because they didn’t look like me. Batman also didn’t look like me, but he had a mask and he was black.
It’s nice to have a role model, and yeah I missed it. It would suck because when we would be roleplaying Lord of The Rings, there was nobody I could be because no one looked like me. I would be Frodo at Carnival, but I don’t look like him at all and I don’t even like him as much. One time I was Harry Potter, but I didn’t look like him but every other white kid could pull him off way better. I was kind of annoyed because the color of my skin didn’t match the persona I was trying to emulate. Other people would say: “I could be Aragorn.” And I would think: “Yeah, of course but I could never be Aragorn myself because I didn’t have the same skin tone.” I thought a lot about this, the other kid also didn’t look like Aragorn either but it could never be me. It’s a barrier.
In high school it got better, because I went to gymnasium which is a higher education in high school.
I did two years of International Relations, I didn’t like it and then I went to International Business. I wanted to do that and then I got good grades, it didn’t feel like I had to do it. In 2020 I finished my Masters for Strategic Innovation Manager.
Representation is very important and it would be so nice, for example: Black Panther is very cool, now there is also a kind of African superhero. It’s so cool because if they would look up to Superman for all these years for example, who is white, and now it’s time for a Black superhero.
Media is important, as a kid you’re pretty much shamed by the media. I watched a lot of TV and where you learn a lot. If your parents aren’t around that much, your role models come from TV even more. It’s nice if someone then looks like you on TV, I was looking for someone who looks like me.
But the Indian kid was always a nerdy one. They were also called Sanjay, and I knew two other Sanjay’s which were in the kid show. I was always thinking: “Why is he always into math?” I wasn’t into math at all.
The Indians in the media were always a comic relief character, for example in The Simpsons “Apu Nahasapeemapetilon”. He has a funny accent and in That 70’s Show they have “Fez”. They are always a funny kind of a person. I used it also as a coping mechanism when I was a kid, I wouldn’t be surprised if I also played a role like that. I thought that we were supposed to be funny. I never felt like Indian people could be very cool. They wouldn’t have any cool stuff like Leonardo DiCaprio, wearing a leather jacket. We would have Aziz Ansari, he has a funny face and he is joking around all the time. You don’t feel taken seriously in the media. We don’t have an Indian Chris Hemsworth, who is really cool. We don’t have an Indian Thor for example, the only Indian you see in superhero movies is the taxi driver in the movie Deadpool. Which is again one of the comic relief characters. It would be cool if there is a cool serious character, which didn’t play in a Bollywood movie.
Back then I thought the stereotypes were okay because I didn’t think a lot about it, but I felt and asked myself: can’t Indians be handsome and cool? They were always funny looking people. That sucks, because you don’t necessarily want to be a funny looking person. As a young boy you want to be and feel cool. You’d rather be a cool dude than a clown.
A lot was in my own head, that people thought that I was the stereotype they saw in the media, but I think every Indian person has heard the “Thank you come again” joke. “Hey can you do the Indian accent”, or they would say that the Indian accent is funny. Yes, I can do that because I’m pretty good at doing accents. But it can be annoying, because they would think that all of the culture you have is funny. We do have some cool stuff. It’s primarily that they say that: “Oh in your culture, cows are holy and you have a funny way of talking.” That’s the part most people know about.
In the media, it’s all about that. You don’t see as much of the cool stuff, like the “Holi festival”. You know about it, but it doesn’t come back in the media.Yesterday I was talking to a friend and she did know what the Holi festival was, but not really.She knows about the negative stereotypes, it’s impossible to not know about it. And people who don’t know a lot about India itself, they would only know about those negative stereotypes. That would suck because I’m not one of those people.
People think what they think, what can you do about it? I think it’s a bit ignorant if people think that people are certain stereotypes. They should read more on Wikipedia. You can’t really force people to learn, they have to learn for themselves and some people just don’t learn. Then don’t chill with those people.
I’m really interested in different cultures, so I try to hang out with those people and it would be quite fun.
If they think that I’m that stereotype, I try to tell them something cool about India. Most of the time, they don’t know and they are surprised that there is also cool stuff in India, because they only see what’s in the media. People then change, because much of the time it also comes from a place of malaise. I don’t think most people are not out to be dicks. I think most people are accidentally a dick because they don’t know that what they do is a dick move. So, treat them like they are not purposely being a dick, but treat them like they don’t know stuff yet. I’m like: Okay, so you want to know some cool stuff about this “Holi Festival.” for example. They are like: “Wow, that’s cool”, and I’m like: “Yeah, educate yourself!” haha. I feel like that’s a nice approach. Otherwise, if they think that Indian people are kind of shitty and you are also being shitty to them while being Indian, then they would think more like that.