Don’t Judge Me

Last week had an odd theme, and a particularly unsettling one for my American bones.

On three separate occasions, three totally unconnected people complained to me that the prestigious school I work for was going downhill. And the reason was simple, the school has started hiring more… Indians. The most awkward part all three people complaining were Indians.

It was a mix of odd racial self-loathing that I am particularly uncomfortable with, as my national makeup has ingrained in me that belief that a person’s race or creed has nothing to do with their abilities. But here, Indians worry about children being taught by Indians because it somehow means the education is inferior. I just don’t get it.

The first instance was as we were walking through the bazaar one day, and we stopped by a tailor shop because we heard his daughter was very good at informal Hindi lessons. This was not our tailor, but a tailor very keen to have our business, so he apologized for his daughter being away and invited us up to his house for tea. We could not resist the chance to see the inside of a locals house, so we accepted. He led us to a flat right above his shop, and sat down with us as he put his wife and daughter to work on brewing our tea. In the conversation, which contained many awkward pauses because Merideth is better with talking to new people, while the tailor was more interested in talking to me, the man. The conversation veered towards our school, which, as an important industry in the town, is an important subject to locals. He spoke of his daughter, the one who could teach us conversational Hindi, and said that she had once worked in an official capacity for the school, but worked there no longer. The reason, as told to me, was that the “new Indian teachers” were opinionated and stuck in their ways, and they became very angry when the daughter would correct the teachers or teach in a different style. I have no proof of either side of the story, but the implication that the Western teachers were golden and the Indian teachers insufferable was clear.

A few days later, we had parent-teacher conferences, and I had a long talk with a parent whose child was falling behind in his classes. We talked a lot about his motivation and his problems with homework, and she discussed that she was concerned with the influx of “Indian teachers” because she wanted her son to have a Western education, and that Indian teachers were just not capable of providing that. I have heard horror stories of Indian public schools, that all teaching is drill and kill memorization, and that English consists exclusively of summary and highly formulaic writing. If these tales are true, then I totally understand part of the concern of this parent. But, her dismay went beyond educational styles. She was worried about the lack of exposure to Westerners, as if part of the high price she pays for the school is so that her child can be around Western teachers, and become acclimated to a Western way of life. It seems oddly self-loathing to me.

Finally, we had a visit last night from the daughter of the ay-ya whom we let go because it was not working out. She came to try to petition for her mother, using the totally ineffective “But we are Christians” argument, but also spent some time complaining of the Indian teachers at the school. Apparently, the Westerners who come to teach here are unfamiliar with how things work servant-wise, and were willing to pay a much larger salary. When more Indian teachers were hired, the Indian teachers knew the standard rates, refused to pay higher than the standard rates, and told their western friends that they were paying too much, so the base salary of an ay-ya dropped for the whole school. The daughter of our ex-ay-ya was not impressed.

So everyone around me seems glad for me to be here, but it seems like a hollow victory. I get judged by the color of my skin, and I never want anyone to judge me that way, even favorably.

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About the Author

I moved to India. I mean, why the hell not, right?