Three Continents, Three Generations by Rajpreet Heir
India: He has to be a Jat Sikh. We’ll know what village he comes from, the history of his family, and you’ll be marrying from within. Think of how happy you’d make everyone.
England: Dating around is okay, but make sure you’re dating Indian boys. That’s how people are doing it here these days.
America: I’m not sure that I want to marry someone Indian. Women aren’t valued enough in this culture and I want out. It’s my decision and not your business. There are oceans of convenience between myself and both of you.
India: So you’re going to break hundreds of years of tradition and be selfish and hurt your family and its reputation and set a bad example for your younger girl cousins just because you think some American guy is cute? What if whomever you pick doesn’t even end up being good for you anyway? Sikh men have good family values.
America: I haven’t even visited you! You’re outdated and too controlling.
England: Careful now, girly. Don’t go too rebellious on us.
America: 1776. That was a good year, wasn’t it?
England: Get over yourself.
Friday Night, Getting Dressed
India: Your bra strap is showing. Your Bra Strap is Showing. YOUR BRA STRAP IS SHOWING.
England: That skirt is from Topshop isn’t it? You shop there because you miss us, don’t you? You miss that time you went with your massis to pick out clothes while you were visiting when you were sixteen. You go to the Topshop in Virginia to buy a piece of England. I’m touched.
America: Yes, England, going to Topshop is a Valentine to you. That was such a fun afternoon.
India: Your tank top is much too tight, you whore.
England: If you miss us, you could visit, and find a spouse while you’re here like your dad did in the summer of 1977. You haven’t visited us in six years. You could meet someone and end your stress.
India: Your dad got engaged when we told him to, just like a good son does. You’re not doing that.
England: Chill out. If you’re too forecful, you’re going to lose her. She’s going to be late for the party.
America: My friend thinks I need to wear heels more often; hold on, let me find them.
India: No sports. If you sweat, and it’s not because of the steam from the dhal you’re cooking, you’re doing something wrong.
England: Come on — cricket, netball, and football are okay. Things are changing. How is she supposed to be thin and ready for an Indian family if she doesn’t work out?
America: I’m almost underweight for your information, partly from the stress of all this. I’m not working out to impress future in-laws. I play American football because I’ve always played it, because you two weren’t around enough.
England: Are you saying you wish you knew us better? Am I getting that right? See India, she’s coming around.
India: You didn’t try hard enough to get to know me. You tried with England, with your Oasis CDs, those Princess Diana school projects, Paddington Bear on top of your bed, and Beatrix Potter books on your shelf, but you ignored me.
America: I’m sorry, India. If I’d been about you and only you, I wouldn’t have done well in school, wouldn’t have made friends, wouldn’t have lived alone in two major cities, wouldn’t have learned how to take care of my finances, or have learned how to drive.
England: She’s right, you know. She lives a life her grandmothers could only dream of.
India: And where has that gotten her? She’s done a lot so far, I suppose, to you Westerners, but who she marries determines the next decades, and if she doesn’t go my way, or your way, England, she’s on her own.
America: I’ve kind of been on my own the whole time.
Rajpreet Heir lives near Washington, DC, and is a third-year in George Mason University’s MFA program, where she is the sole recipient of the 2015-2016 Nonfiction Thesis Fellowship. She is an Indian British American and writes about growing up in Indiana. Her family did indeed move there because India was in the name.