It was India's Republic Day and I was in full spirit gear -- well, as much as I could reasonably be on just another busy day of classes in college: orange and green nails and a light blue sweater. I walked to my classes with Hindi music blasting through my earphones, my each step infused with patriotism. It was an interesting juxtaposition: I was trudging through snow and admiring the way the snow remained on the bare branches of the trees while daydreaming about the celebrations that were no doubt flaring up all over my crowded and swelteringly hot home country at that very moment.
I was in the brightest of spirits having just read a Buzzfeed article entitled 60 Things Defined Your Childhood In India for Buzzfeed's special on Republic Day. Chuckling to myself, I had the urge to share it with all my friends... whom I then realized would understand none of it. I wasn't fazed; I was still beyond excited. It was rare to find a mainstream article on the Internet that came close to describing my life as it was back at home in India.
Meanwhile, my roommate was on a mission to find a job. "Babysitting... hey, these people pay handsomely!"
"Oh, really?" I exclaimed, suddenly awakened from my statistics homework-induced daze. I'd been searching for a job too; an extra wad of cash in the hand wouldn't go particularly unwanted.
"Here, I'll send you the link."
I didn't consider for one second that on paper, babysitting was an inherently foreign concept to me. I had never babysat, neither had any of my friends. Babysitting wasn't common; in fact it was never an option at all back home, much like working as a waitress in a nearby coffee shop was foreign to us all. It was confusing and theoretically brand new to me, much like watching snow fall from the sky. I had never seen a red solo cup being sold at any store in the entirety of my country but I still knew exactly the situation in which I would see them, and Skittles weren't sold in India at all, though I knew the slogan and flavours by heart. With all my sudden patriotism, it still took me a solid second of thinking to remember who the national animal of India was, while the Bald Eagle popped into my mind within seconds of visualizing the American flag.
Did this make me somehow... American? Not at all. I was even more aggressively Indian after coming to college; somehow upping my passion for all things Indian and subjecting my new friends to the choicest Indian Trivia without them asking, a preventive measure, I suppose in hindsight, against accidentally losing some of my roots in college. It did, however, make me think. I hadn't ever had a radiator in my room before my first day in my dorm room, but I still clicked my tongue and showed my mother how to operate it immediately on walking in as if it were the most obvious thing on Earth. Sure, a knob isn't too hard to turn on sight, but my reaction to my mother not immediately knowing was more intense than it should have been.
I asked some of my friends what they thought American culture was.
"Um... it's diverse?"
"Hah! Junk food! Kidding, except for the super health conscious vegan crowd."
I wasn't sure what it was, expectedly so, as I had been here for a mere matter of months. But whatever American culture was, it had permeated the media extensively. The Hunger Games speak of the dystopian and conflict-ridden world... of North America. I grew up on Archie's comics. Most of the movies that came to define my teenage years -- the ones I can quote off the top of my head -- are American. The only movies that I can think of that are set in India and reach wider audiences portray us all as artificially heavily-accented poverty-stricken stragglers, with the odd rags-to-riches story that further puts the rest of India a rung below the One Named Lucky Protagonist. I can name more baseball teams in the U.S.A. than I can name Indian hockey players, and it's our national sport. I can name 60 percent of the states in the U.S.A but only a few in India.
I must clarify that while I am not a political activist and general knowledge veteran, this should not be chalked up to my ignorance or rejection of my home culture. I spend my time on the internet and sifting through the media in a completely unbiased way. I read Indian newspapers. I do not consciously devote my time to reading about any particular country. And still, my knowledge and understanding is largely America-based. I knew more about President Obama's political campaign than about the leader of the political party about to win India's imminent election, and the little I knew I had picked up from John Oliver's broadcast on HBO. Irony at its finest.
And this is okay. This is acceptable. This is expected, even. I am currently in America, and it is one of the largest superpowers worldwide. It's not America's fault that they have really grasped understanding of mainstream media worldwide and made their own space on it, fair and square.
All I'm saying is that it may be time to diversify. With the world's access to media accelerating at an incredible rate today, I want younger children in India and everywhere to grow up on the media they have available to them and still see positive role-models just like themselves on television, in books, and on the internet. I want Buzzfeed posts celebrating all nationalities to be featured on the front page on a regular basis, not as an exotic and foreign celebration of a nation on one day in the year. I want my Tumblr dashboard to be as filled with just as many posts about the horrors in Nigeria and Syria as they are about Ferguson (and rightfully so).
Diversity isn't about tearing down America's place in the media. It's about making some new ones for some other countries too. A simple Google search of hairstyle tutorials even with the region set to India shouldn't pull up solely tutorials and infographics that require hair products only available in America. U.S.A, keep your presence, it is much appreciated and adored. But let's start representing other people in a positive and desirable way too!