In Kerala, I was definitely a spectacle everywhere we went. I know that it wasn’t just the fact that we were pushing around a stroller (very rare to see anyone pushing any baby on a stroller either in India or in Sri Lanka), or that I was a Chinese-Vietnamese woman walking around with a brown-skinned, seemingly Indian man with a baby… or even the fact that people would quickly come to the conclusion that because of the two people pushing the stroller around, that this baby was a MIXED “Chindian” baby – a very unique and interesting “thing” to look at!
I got stared at a lot. And it was definitely because in their eyes, and in their country, in a sea of Indian people everywhere, I was a minority, and so because of that, I stood out. As Chris always likes to say: Indians are the biggest “starers” in the world: they stare with little discretion and have zero desire to hide the fact that they like to stare. They likely think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with staring. So everywhere we went, people stared at me, turning their heads, their eyes constantly lingering on me and every move I made. On our first trip to India, I tried my best to be modest and cover my back and shoulders for the most part with a shawl, but it got really sweaty and disgusting after a while, so I eventually just abandoned it. I tried it maybe once or twice on this trip and finally just threw in the towel and gave up. Regardless of whether my shoulders were bare or not, people were still going to stare at me and think I was some interesting object. So what was the point of trying to be modest and cover up, anyway? After the first couple days, I got over it. But people still insisted on peering into the stroller to see my little Pookster’s face. Others got protective over her, especially when the sun would occasionally get into her face, and start waving at us to cover our baby and prevent the sun from shining directly on her.
But as soon as we landed in Colombo, all of that changed. Suddenly, I realized that no one was really staring at me anymore, and that if anyone was looking at us, they did it very discreetly, or they focused solely on my Pookster. So the next time anyone tries to make the statement that Sri Lankans are “basically just Indian,” my reply back will quickly be, “Well, no, they’re a totally different country and ethnicity. And also, Indians have ‘staring’ ingrained in their culture, whereas Lankans actually are able to exercise some discretion.”