Culture Borrowing: I Adopted India For a Night

Culture Borrowing at International Night

I look forward to International Night at my children’s elementary school each fall. The only thing that would make the event better for me is if the Westboro Baptist Church would picket the event for brazenly celebrating diversity. For the last two years, I have walked around to the different tables the families from Iran or Guatemala adorned with their distinctive history and native food. I tasted ox bone soup from South Korean natives and enjoyed Italian cuisine. The premise of the evening is to share your family’s unique culture with the rest of the school community.

Culture Borrowing

I was born in Brussels, Belgium. For some reason waffles and chocolate didn’t strike me as culturally significant enough to set up a table, despite the fact that I could have had my own tawdry fun decorating the table with Manneken Pis (The Belgian Piss Boy). Instead of heeding the suggested structure of the event, I decided that since I’ve always wanted to cook Indian food, I would adopt India as my borrowed country and set up shop at International Night. I mean, sharing your PERSONAL culture was really more of a suggestion than a rule, right? My heart, albeit not my heritage, was in the right place.

A few of my friends were all, “What? How does that make sense?” And I was all, “It doesn’t really, but I already borrowed authentic Indian clothing! I’m gonna rock the shit out of my sari!” I was mildly aware that adopting India was a little off-beat, but what would we be if we didn’t even try? Right! Sensible! Where’s the fun in that?

Culture Borrowing

As International Night unfolded, folks looking to make conversation would inquire, “So, what is your connection to India?” I unabashedly told them, “None. Well, except my fondness for buffets at Indian restaurants.” “Aren’t you from Oklahoma?” “No, just my family.” I met some really nice Indian families who graciously commended me on my homemade chicken tikka masala. They did, however, let me down gently at the end of the evening by confessing that I wasn’t really wearing a sari as I had told everyone I served a bowl of biryani rice to, but still looked hot in the salwar kameez I had on. Details! Details! Geez! Can’t a girl hijack someone else’s culture without having to know everything about it?


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