Am I an Indian?

A tale of identity in Canada.

Adesh Fr
Brickbat
Published in
5 min readNov 11, 2023

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Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

People at work assume I am an Indian. I work in Barrie, Ontario.

So, how’s it like in India?’ they ask. ‘Oh, really? I thought you were from India.’ they say.

But I am not from India. And I tell them that. And it’s not their fault, I look like one. It’s not my fault either because I am from Nepal. India and Nepal are connected by land. It’s not like a Norwegian is being mistaken for an Indian.

Since people think I am one, I want to know what looking like an Indian means.

I first do a Google Image search on ‘Indian’. It shows me news results based on my current location from sites like CBC and Barrie Today, and from popular sites like BBC and The New York Times. I see images of Sikh people and famous CEOs. I even see a photo of Justin Trudeau and his family in Indian dress doing Namaste.

I go to Bing. I search for the same thing. It shows me pictures of South Indian and Bollywood actors, and models. Guys at bright places with shiny black hair, expensive sunglasses, and stubbles. (Google feels like a desktop without the internet, compared to Bing.)

And I also see a search result called ‘Indian Actors Wallpapers’ with a photo of an apparently good-looking dude.

Do people really put these faces on their wallpaper? I wonder. What type of people do that? From which country do they look like?

So looking at Indian actors and models, I smile to myself at the fact that I look like them — Shiny black hair, expensive sunglasses and clothes.

Then I realize that when people at work confuse me for an Indian, they are unlikely to be confusing me for a Bollywood actor. Otherwise, they would have said, ‘So, how’s it like in Bollywood?’ ‘Oh, really? I thought you were from Bollywood.’

So I go back to Bing and search ‘indian normal man’.

Now the result shows low quality photos of men who resemble me when I look at the mirror: Pale brown skin, unmanaged hair/beard, bad light.

Hmm…makes sense that Canadians mistake me for an Indian, I tell myself. But I think I should try to look more like those movie guys. If you are a city, be New York City.

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