What’s with the South Asian inferiority complex?

Published: May 5, 2012

I believe that the denial of one’s background maybe associated with the stereotypes that are applied to the South Asian community.

As a Pakistani who has lived most of his life in Canada, I have had many experiences in which I have observed the often bizarre and complex ways of the South Asian (Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh) community. One of the most prominent of these is their ability to deny any connection with their background. 

Now, keeping in mind that this does not apply to all the people in the group mentioned earlier, it certainly does cover several of them.

Once, when I had just entered my teenage years, I had a Pakistani girl tell me that all the people who lived in Canada but were not born there (immigrants) were “FOBs” – an FOB being an acronym for the derogatory term “fresh off the boat”, implying that the person is a refugee.

But in her ignorance she forgot that she too was not born in Canada, but in Kuwait. After I pointed it out to her that if her theory was to be followed, she and her whole family would be labelled FOBs, she retracted her statement.

This incident gave me an insight into the mind of  individuals who suffer from this inferiority complex. It showed that these people believed that they would raise their social profile by degrading their backgrounds.

Another time, when I entered high school, a girl sitting beside me told me that she was British; this seemed odd considering the fact that her name was Kiranjeet. Apparently she was born in England before her parents were deported to India before coming to Canada as refugees. In my opinion, I would consider her an Indian-Canadian at best since she had no roots in England or any other part of the UK.

The part that I fail to understand is that how can someone, in this case, be British when they have no connection to the UK other than their place of birth. In my view, England is only her birth place; it’s not her culture, it’s not her race and it’s not even her place of residence.

I have never experienced racism in Canada, at least not in the Greater Toronto Area where I reside. However, it is surprising to see that some people in our community feel that they are superior to others just because they (or their parents) moved to Canada before them. Let us not forget that the only people who can legitimately claim to be natives of this land are the Aboriginals.

Furthermore, a large group of South Asian-Canadian individuals feel that having the ability to speak English instantly makes them an intellectual. In the end, English is just a language. It may be the lingua franca, but it is still just a language. It has nothing to do with the amount of education a person has.

Take a look at Hu Jintao, the President of China and one of the most influential and powerful people in the world; he holds all his press conferences in his native language.

To suggest that our people are plainly just embarrassed of their heritage would be wrong. I believe that this denial of one’s background may be associated with the stereotypes that are applied to the South Asian community. Some common examples include generalising “brown” people as hairy, saying they smell like curry, or calling them terrorists.

I feel that these should be taken lightly, especially if you live in a large metropolitan where minorities form the majority. Most of the people only use these terms as jokes, and just because someone says something it doesn’t make it true anyway.

In addition to this, the countries that are associated with us are the third world countries; with corrupt governments and a significant amount of the population living below the poverty line, these nations are usually portrayed negatively in the media.

Another important thing is the English-speaking accent associated with our people. To put it lightly, it is not the most desired or attractive accent in the world.

I feel that people in the South Asian community should embrace their backgrounds instead of running away from it. I do understand people lying about it because of the existence of stereotypes, however by doing so, they only make the situation worse. They need to realise that this attitude does not help in getting rid of the stereotypes.

We have many things to be proud of. Even if our countries are currently suffering and being portrayed negatively, we must not forget our roots. We need to focus more on the positives, such as our culture, religion, family values, and the historical heritage of our country.

Being a Pakistani, I realise that life in Pakistan may be difficult at this moment. However, our country is still producing world class students who provide a reason to hope and hold our head up high with pride.

PS: For all the Pakistanis living in Canada, when you visit Pakistan next time please name your Facebook photo album something along the lines of “Pakistan 2012” or “My trip to Pakistan” instead of “Paki-land”. I find it offensive.


Umair Haider

A pre-med student, hoping to become a doctor one day.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • BlackJack

    Certainly an article that stereotypes South Asians in Canada, if nothing else. The behaviors exhibited by your peer group can be observed in several 2nd generation immigrants in US/ Canada/ UK – but in no way represents the vast majority (I was one such a kid, so believe me, I know); the parents are the ones who need to decide on how to present their homeland to their young ones, and make them comfortable with their origins; they often don’t do this so that their children can assimilate themselves into a foreign culture and environment more easily. I actually find that the present generation of foreign-born desi kids are more aware of Indian culture and language due to easier access to content and communication with people back home – so the issue, if it exists, is diminishing in its impact. The other pointless barb was targeted at South Asians who choose to speak English; your assumption is that English is a foreign language for South Asians, which is incorrect. Why being able to speak English in Canada would make one an intellectual is beyond me. Your example of Hu Jintao is fatuous – he isn’t even an immigrant and has nothing to do with the subject of this blog.Recommend

  • Qasim

    Great work! :) I live in Dubai and once asked a little brown kid where he was from (expecting he would say India or Pakistan), instead he said Canada, I said ok what about your parents, he said MAYBE Pakistan, lol. inferiority complex muchRecommend

  • http://www.netmagellan.com/ Ash Nallawalla

    There are too many generalisations in this article. You can find all kinds of South Asians to illustrate any point.

    I was born and educated in India in English-medium schools (whose teachers literally beat it into us at times), so I spoke English in India more than any local language until I left in 1973. My parents were both graduates who didn’t have an arranged marriage, so they used both English and Marathi at home, depending on the seriousness of the discussion. I was admonished to do my homework in English, but discussion of the meals was in Marathi or Gujarati.

    Having lived in NZ and Australia for most of my life, I am content to identify myself as an Australian. I served in the RAAF, so in a theoretical future war with India, I’d defend Australia (with a walking stick in the not-too-distant future) :)

    I am not “proud” of anyone’s achievements other than my own and I’d encourage others to think about that. It is too easy to take credit for someone else’s ancient achievements and pride can be misused to foment hatred.

    So I am cool with young migrant Canadians to identify themselves as Canadian. There are plenty of people left in the subcontinent to look after all the cultural heritage.Recommend

  • maz3tt

    be happy with who you are is the best way to live. trying to become successfull is not the problem, not trying and then getting the inferiority complex is. after success , forgetting your roots is also the one of the problem of south asian.Recommend

  • Brown Guy

    I’m a Pakistani-American born and raised in America, and I consider myself American first and English is my first language.

    I think South Asians in Canada are quite different from the ones in America.

    South Asians in Canada don’t really assimilate, I mean I’ve been to Mississauga and people their speak Punjabi or Urdu most of the time whereas in America, all first generation Americans speak English as their first language.

    Perhaps this is because America is a melting pot whereas Canada is a mosaic of cultures.

    It doesn’t matter if you were born in North America or not you can still be a FOB.

    FOBs come from every culture, in latinos, east asians etc.

    Chicanos feel superior to Mexican immigrants in America, just because they were born their.

    If you migrate to a country you must assimilate and respect the local culture, so I don’t think what you’re saying is negative.Recommend

  • rj

    English is one of the official languages of Canada. If a South Asian immigrates to Canada and does not speak the language of the country, it is frustrating and irritating. i have often walked into shops and restaurants, where the servers will immediately assume I am Punjabi and start talking a mile-a-minute in Punjabi.

    South Asians who immigrate here must do so for are reason, namely to offer their kids a better future and to enjoy a better life. What do they do when they come here? Practice female Infanticide (this is happening mainly in the community from Punjab and even amount South Koreans). They try to bring in their antiquated customs from their home countries (an attempt by Muslims to bring in sharia law in Ontario), get involved in trying to harm other Canadians (the Toronto 16 due to their religious indoctrination), the Sikh extremism in Canada (Air-India bombers for whose trials the Canadian Taxpayer was dinged)

    Why should the youth not feel proud of where they are now? If they need to assimilate in society and feel comfortable, I see no problems with them speaking English, identifying themselves as Canadian. The inferiority complex rises within you, when you are offended by these people. Of course we will find the odd crazies in there, but overall most Asians are aware of who they are and where they come from. I work with Chinese, Indians, Pakistani’s, Nigerians, Ghananians, Bangladeshis, Italians, Greeks, Vietnamese, Iranians and Lebanese, the great thing about Canada is how we can enjoy the diversity, I get to talk to all these people about their countries and most of them will have something negative to say about the political/cultural situation in their nations (except Italians who are blinded by love for Italy) and will admire the food (we are all foodies) of their homeland. The point I am trying to get across is that being critical about the political/social situation in my country does not mean I have an inferiority complex, just that I recognise defencies, but am not brave enough to address them by staying back in my homeland and fighting the social evils.Recommend

  • Vijay K

    Interesting observations and I agree with the author. This complex seems to be more ingrained amongst kids in UK and Canada. However I have not observed this in kids in USA who seem to be very proud of their heritage (you should see them dressed in Indian dresses and taking part in dances during India day celebrations all over USA). Indeed, even though I am a US citizen I still say I’m Indian (and so do many of my Pakistani friends who say they are Indians too, for what ever reasons), maybe because Indians in UK and Canada went as blue collar workers, while a good number of Indians are very well placed in USA. Consequently, the host community looks at Indians in a different light in USA as compared to UK or Canada. Having said that, other communities too have undergone the same eg the Polish in UK or Italians in USA, who have even had to disguise their identities by even changing their names.Recommend

  • chacha

    Look at the other side of the coin. In Nirad Chaudhari’s autobiography – he asked his muslim neighbour in Calcutta – what is your favourtie fruit. He replied ” Arab ka Khujoor! ” – a fruit he had never eaten

    I leave you guys to interpret this.Recommend

  • Maria

    I think your generalizations are a bit unfair. I am born in Canada but I speak fluent Punjabi and some Pashtu which are the languages of my parents. We have a strong connection with Pakistan because we travel there often but at the same time we are proud Canadians too. When people ask me where I’m from, I can confidently say that I was born in Canada and Canadian but I am of Pakistani ancestry. Also in Canada, people often ask what part of Pakistan my family comes from because awareness of ethnic groups in Pakistan is also well known. I very pleased to discuss Gujranwala and Peshawar with my other Canadian friends. If anything, I hate it when people confuse me with other south asian races or middle eastern races because I enjoy my own heritage. I find that the identity issue has a lot to do with families who don’t teach their own children the value of their culture and heritage. Most decent well settled families do not shy away from their heritage, especially if they have been in the West for decades but it is generally new immigrants ( by new I would say 10 years or less) who are desperate to identify with some western country. This is not only in South Asians but immigrants from all poor Third World countries including Africans, Indians, Middle Eastern people etc.Recommend

  • Khan

    its not about how u identify yourself but how others identify you, and the fact is that other people will always identify you as desi. that very thing is hard coded into our genes. i am a Pakthun living in Austrailia (for past 20 years) and i love to introduce myself as Pakistani & Pakhtun, thats because i am in love with my blood.Recommend

  • Umair


    I must make somethings clear, in no way does this apply to the vast majority, but it does apply to many people who fit this profile, as for the fact that people believe speaking English will make them appear educated. again this applies to small group of people, mostly these people are new immigrants and since their grasp on the language is not as strong as the local people of these countries they develop an inferiority complex. English isn’t a foreign language to us South Asians, in the little time that i spent in pakistan, i learned how to speak english fluently and am more comfortable speaking, reading and writing in english but i havent forgotten urdu and any time someone wants to speak to me in Urdu, i comply with their request, thanks for your input.Recommend

  • Umair

    @Brown Guy:

    I completely agree with everything you said except for the part that people in Canada don’t assimilate, while canada may be a mosaic of cultures. My family and most of our family friends are very well assimilated and have no problem with either english or urdu.Recommend

  • Umair

    @Ash Nallawalla:

    I understand what you are saying, I have a Canadian passport and let me tell you this, it makes travelling much easier than if i had a pakistani or indian passport. So, technically my nationality is Canadian, but i have seen people who were born back home lie and say that they were born in Canada, i’m not making generalisations, i’m speaking from personal experienceRecommend

  • Ali

    If someone who is born in America then he/she is American. He might have South-Asian roots but still he is an Asian. So I disagree with the author here.Recommend

  • Ali S

    @Brown Guy:

    You’re right about the melting pot vs. mosaic part. I myself am a naturalized Canadian-Pakistani and most people there (from the South Asian community or otherwise) are quite content with practicing their own native cultures and languages – there’s no pressure to fit in to ‘prove’ that you’re Canadian.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Let me clarify my post – I agree that South Asian kids who are born in foreign countries would identify themselves with that country; however, the vast majority do not try to hide where they are originally from, or feel ashamed of their origins – which seems to be the purport of your article (else why the reference to an inferiority complex?). Note: Here I can only speak for Indians – who of course do represent the vast majority of South Asian diaspora.Recommend

  • Para Shankara

    If you were born in Canada, other Canadians identify you as a Canadian, you receive all the privileges of being a Canadian, yet you don’t see yourselves as a Canadian – there is something quite wrong somewhere.

    This is a very troubling article. Recommend

  • Sara

    i think what the author was trying to point towards was how some people consider it as a status symbol to say that they belong to a certain western country and the reason behind this is that they consider south asian countries as inferior. the reason why they affiliate with their western nationalities is because it helps them boost their self esteem while in reality a person’s nationality adds nothing to their self worth. I’ve seen this phenomenon in some cases, although i think the more educated and enlightened group does NOT do this, its only the people who need their western citizenship and great english accent to boost their self esteem. Recommend

  • Nadir

    Errr…who are you to establish who is British or not? Canadian or not? There could be many reasons why some one is associating themselves with whichever country they like. The fact that you are looking at peoples last names or there skin colour and establishing whether they are Canadian Indian “at best” is highly derogatory. Its your biases on display that you conclude that they are ashamed off their identity. Who are you to establish their identity based on what you think it should be?Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    A big slap on the faces of burger bacha foreign born Pakistanis who think that it is ‘kewl’ to bad mouth Pakistan look down upon locally born Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Hasan Awan

    One thing more he failed to mention is the inferiority complex of colour where Pakistanis especially do everything to have their connection with a white race or Arab or Persian race and amazingly they make fun of their friends based on skin color or Indian connection. The most interesting part is that most of them dont know that less than 5 percent of Pakistanis could be non natives while most of them are native people and they still feel ashamed of their heritage and color. A small message to my Punjabi fellows is that you are not Arabs and you are Punjabis from King Porus to present you have a huge history and you should be proud of Brown color and dont make lame Arab or Persian connections. When Alexander attacked Region of Punjab more than 2000 years ago the first thing he noticed that natives of Potohar region and King Porus was well above Six feet and still some of my people connect this with Arabs and that is ridiculous in my view..Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    From now on all Pakistanis living in Canada should speak in their native languages Urdu/ Punjabi etc…Hu Jintaao Zindabad!Recommend

  • Syed Mohummed

    Assalam u Alaikum,

    In my view, anyone who is born & bred in any other country then his parents, has a never ending love for his birthplace & continues to associate himself/herself with that country even he/she had shifted to his own country or any other country in his childhood. So We shouldn’t generalize everyone as those who despise their south Asian background, but this shows their love & feelings for their place of birth. I was born in Jeddah & I proudly tell everyone that I belong to two countries, Pakistan & Saudi Arabia & my love for Karachi & Jeddah is the same! :-)


  • Imran Con

    When someone lies about where they’re from I usually laugh on the spot and probably poke fun at them for it. Because I really don’t care what the answer is. It’s generic small talk to me like a cashier at a store asking me “how are you?” The answer really doesn’t matter.Recommend

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11375793199898765321 Pakistani 1414918

    There is truth to this article. However I’d like to point out that it’s only the Western countries that they can claim to be from. For example if they were born in China and spoke fluent Mandarin, they would still hold short of calling themselves “Chinese” because no one would believe them.

    This is because in Western countries, by law there is no distinction between ethnicity and nationality. It has been made politically incorrect in the West to distinguish the two. That is why people born and raised in Western countries try to take advantage of this theory thinking having Western citizenships changes their ethnicity.

    Silly people. But what also bothers me is this hijacking of the term “brown” by South Asians. As if the word refers to the people of the subcontinent and not people (ie North Africans, South Americans, Midddle Easterners) of brown skin tone. Sometimes they do it to hide the fact that they are for the most part black. Black skin tone is very common in the subcontinent especially India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and to a lesser degree in Nepal and Pakistan. Recommend

  • Critical

    I think you’re not looking at this in the right perspective….
    I’m now working in US…
    My manager is an American,but he has asian(aka Chinese) looks….But he says he’s american because thats the country which is reflected in his passport…
    One of my co-worker is Pedro Cordano…He also calls himself an American,not a Latino…same with the case of a coworker with a German sounding name….

    In my school days,there are a big hullaboo when Kalpana Chawla became the first female astronaut from India…One of my teachers questioned us why should Indians celebrate her when she has renounced Indian citizenship and accepted American citizenship….

    Will pakistanis find it ok if I call Abdus Salam as an Indian scientist because he was an Indian citizen before 1947??….

    Regarding speaking English,this was a custom which was introduced by our English masters who made it compulsory to learn English to get government posts…
    However,you should know that currently most of the scientific advancements have been done in English speaking countries….
    During my visit to Germany,I saw that all of the software professionals in Germany had a solid command over English,even though Germans never spoke English and are pioneers in automotive industry…

    Regarding guarding our regional language…You should note that Abdul Kalam recited transcipts of Tamil poet in European Union and Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressed the UN in Hindi….

    Instead of blaming the other language,lets try to constructively develop our languagesRecommend

  • Haroon

    For my purposes, I am Canadian (born and raised), and when i fill out any relevant application form that asks me this question, i give the same answer. Even when i am talking about my background/ethnicity with a person, im still Canadian. But if it makes it easier for the other person to digest, im indopakadian. Either title dosent bother me because above all, im muslim and thats what I value and cherish the most. I know this article focuses on nationalities but personally i would be happy being callled any of the above. As far as languages go, speak what your most comfortable in.Recommend

  • Umair


    Thank you Sara, You completely understood what i was trying to say, this only applies to a select few NOT the majority. I couldn’t have said it better myselfRecommend

  • It Is Strange

    Yeah, what is it about Pakistani ‘race’ that interprets any connection with the West or India as suffering from cultural aggression and imperialism and willfully surrenders to Persian/Arab/Turk influences? Could it be that influences have been beaten deep into genetic level where slavery and freedom is confused from birth to death…

    We don’t find too many Indians complaining so regularly like that. So give ‘South Asian’ a rest and figure out what makes Pakistani psyche so distorted even when a person is brought up outside of Pakistan.Recommend

  • andleeb

    Pakistani kids have so much to be ashamed about (except nuclear weapons). We will always carry that baggage.. the Indians are sending satellites, their economy is booming, while we are still beggars.
    Why aren’t Indian kids ashamed ? Because their girls are top in the world, and our girls get notoriety for acid attacks. Can you dare to face the facts?Recommend

  • Confused

    I don’t like to identify myself with any culture. I do appreciate it, just like I appreciate lots of historical events, but that’s the extent of it.
    I do not like people running to me with pride that someone of their skin/country tops the world, or people running away from the idea that someone of their skin/country bombed innocent people. There is no simple relation, especially in Pakistan where there is a large class disparity. There is no need to be accountable or commendable for your race or your past, only for yourself and those close to you.Recommend

  • Pollack

    “a large group of South Asian-Canadian individuals feel that having the ability to speak English instantly makes them an intellectual”

    How can any person claim to know how thousands of people from a particular group feel? Did the author take a census? The whole article is full of stereotypes which is actually worse than the attitudes which the author is criticizing.Recommend

  • kdp

    Chinese President and President, Prim ministers, Autocrates of hundreds of countries give tspeech in their native language BECAUSE THEY DO NOT KNOW ENGLISH. AS SIMPLAE AS THAT!!!!! South Asian speaks English becuase thats the only language he can speak with his fellow citizen of another state. A fact for India and to some extent PakistanRecommend

  • Raj

    I have lived here in Canada for over two decades. My three sons are Canadians first and their mother tongue is English by all means. They follow Canadian sports and one of my sons has been drafted by a top University Football team. Majority of Pakistanis call themselves Indians while applying for jobs and mortgages. It all boils down to the level of loyalty of parents to their adopted country. If parents still worship their home lands in their adopted countries then children are bound to be confused whether it is Canada, UK, USA or Dubai. Recommend

  • Amb

    Actually ppl think calling themselves american or british will automatically turn them into Caucasians ….they hate their brown colorRecommend

  • mashrooom

    pakistani even pretend to be indian sometimes , you know that na ?Recommend

  • Nobody

    I agree with you on some points, disagree on others. I’ve definitely come across South Asians with a complex about their roots, more so in the UK and Canada as opposed to the US for some reason (I think one of the earlier comments pointed out a possible reason for that-the class that migrated to the UK and Canada was apparently different from those who migrated to the US). I never understood the reason behind it and find it rather sad. I myself am a US born Pakistani, but I have a really strong association with Pakistan and visit quite often as I have family there. I like telling people I have Pakistani roots when people ask me. I speak Urdu quite well, and have never felt ashamed of my culture. This is largely due to my parents.

    I disagree with you when you try telling someone what their nationality should be. It’s not for anyone else to judge that, or even care to be frank. Also didn’t like the ending; just you find it offensive, doesn’t mean I do, and being a Pakistani American I have the right to decide what I call my Facebook album (technically, anyone else does too, we just find it more offensive coming from someone with NO ties to Pakistan-outside intrusion). Paki – pure, Stan – land of….Pakiland. Not offensive, just a bit corny in my opinion.
    Anyways, interesting read just the same. Cheers!

    P.S. To the Indian gentlemen pointing out that some Pakistani call themselves Indians, I actually shuddered a bit. What a shame! Can’t understand why anyone would do that and I’m rather glad I haven’t crossed paths with anyone like that. Recommend

  • Maria

    @Hasan Awan: I don;t know what Pakistanis in Canada like to “have their connection with a white race or Arab or Persian”. If you were in North America, you would know that Arabs and Persians are looked down upon more by mainstream Whites than South Asians. This is especially true in the US. As for Punjabis in Canada, I have seen that most people who have Punjabi background are more proud of it because it is associated with a good work ethic. While you will see Arabs, Somalis, Afghanis, Persians etc on welfare or state khayrat, you won’t find many Punjabi speaking people of all faiths on welfare. It doesn’t matter than Punjab was part of the Persian Archamenid Empire over 2000 years ago or that Islam was there 1000 years ago, Most Pakistanis know that Sind, Baluchistan and KPK has even more racial mixing than Punjab. I don’t think it matter to Punjabis how much of their blood is mixed or not. Also mainstream Canadians think that Punjabis are bigger and better looking than the majority of South Asian races.Recommend

  • Zubair

    I always scream I’m from Pakistan at the concerts, no complexity here from my side. Although I don’t get offended by term Paki which literally translates to ‘of pure’Recommend

  • ayesha_khan

    Hu Jinato’s speech delivered on China Radio was in Chinese. What is the relevance of that to your article?Recommend

  • Saeed

    First world problems. Huh!Recommend

  • Zalim Singh

    @ Big Rizvi

    A big slap on the faces of burger bacha foreign born Pakistanis who think that it is ‘kewl’ to bad mouth Pakistan look down upon locally born Pakistanis.

    Bad mouth Pakistan? One need not to do it. Pakistanis themselves working hard and doing it:

    Targetting Hindu and Christian women- supreme court closing their eyes.
    Hiding Osama.
    Killing Hazaras and Ahmedis
    Persicution of Baluchis.

    Last month I was in Germany. Here all the restaurants named “Indian” are run by Pakistanis. Dont you see the shame here? Nobody wil lvisit a “Pakistani Restaurant” in Europe. Till Pakistan improves, no Pakistani will be proud of this nation.Recommend

  • Zubair

    @Zalim Singh no one visited the Pakistani restaurant in Seinfeld too. XD Recommend

  • Tariq

    @Hasan Awan

    Your are absolutely correct ! When I was young all kinds of people would tell me they were Arabs and I believed them all. There must be more Arabs in Pakistan than in the whole Middle East !! Now I realize that it is mostly fabricated ancestry because we are ashamed of our origin and wanted prestige and aura of being Arabs.

    This not only a Pakistan thing. I met Turks who are of Greek ancestry who claim to be pure Turks. Actually if you study the history of Turkey very few of the population are of Turkic or Mongol origin. In Japan Koreans hide their identity.

    It is the same with conquered peoples throughout history. They lose their self confidence, feel inferior, ashamed and identify with their oppressors. Whetther it is Ancient Britons conquered by the Romans or Indians by the Moguls. Recommend

  • bangash

    Very accurate article. I frequently find Americans of Pakistani origin looking down upon Pakistani immigrants just because they were not born and raised in the US. So what if you are born and raised in US it doesn’t make you superior in any way.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    It is the same with conquered peoples throughout history. They lose their self confidence, feel inferior, ashamed and identify with their oppressors. Whetther it is Ancient Britons conquered by the Romans or Indians by the Moguls.
    Interesting! So what DO the Indians call themselves (not the Pakistanis – that they asire to be Arabs has been well established). Maybe the 1.2 bn resident Indians call themselves Central Asians since the Mughals came from there? Actually Rome was also a city state and no one outside Rome called himself a Roman – so both your examples are at the same level of accuracy. My friend, only Pakistanis try and establish fake ancestry, Indians are quite content being Indians. Recommend

  • stenson

    @Vijay K: Trust me but I don’t know who comes up with this myth of Pakistanis calling themselves Sri Lankan or Indian. It’s not true any more than other myths like that Arabs in US call themselves Israeli to avoid tensions since many Westerners don’t like Muslims. Honestly the only Pakistanis who would ever call themselves Indian would be perhaps those who migrated from India but the majority of native Pakistanis would be offended by being called Indian. Try teling a Pashtun or Baluch that e looks”Indian” and wait to see how you are slapped!Recommend

  • Pollack


    “P.S. To the Indian gentlemen pointing out that some Pakistani call themselves Indians, I actually shuddered a bit. What a shame! Can’t understand why anyone would do that and I’m rather glad I haven’t crossed paths with anyone like that.”

    It’s really simple. Foreigners can’t distinguish between Indians and Pakistanis and Pakistan has a reputation as a country with lots of “terrorism issues” and issues of religious fanaticism. So it’s logical for a Pakistani to pass off as a Indian when in a foreign land to escape the stigma of Pakistan. Do you understand it now? If you don’t, to put it crudely people from Pakistan are seen as a physical and cultural threat by many western societies.Recommend

  • fus

    It is odd that only ppl who claim that Pakistanis sometimes call themselves Indians are Indians. If it help Indians to feel superior by making these claims then good for them. I have worked with many Indians, they are good people just like any other person, nothing exceptional. Beside when you live in US or Canada, calling yourself Indian or Srilankan does not help even a bit. Those ppl who actually look down on Pakistani would feel pretty much same way if you are Indian or Bangladeshi.Recommend

  • Maria

    @Pollack: Perhaps you don’t know this but many Pakistanis would be offended to be called Indian looking- this is especially true in Punjab, KPK, Kashmir and Baluchistan. Yes there are plenty of people in Pakistan who look South Asian and a lot of people in Karachi originated from India but native Pakistani people think they are by and large more handsome than other South Asian races- whether this is true or not can be debated. Yes some people will argue that a Madrasi or Tamil or Bihari from India person is better looking than a Punjabi or Pashtun or Baluch from Pakistan but different cultures have different ideals of beauty or handsomeness and most Pakistanis will not consider a lot of Indian looking people beautiful or handsome. This is the simple reason why a Pakistani wouldn’t call himself an Indian.Recommend

  • Azad

    American Born Confused Desi (ABCD)

    Last 50 years in human history is characterized by Global Diaspora of 250 million people who have left their countries of birth in pursuit of better economic prospects.
    Their children have been brought up at home where the cultures and values are different from the host countries values and traditions. This has led to confused identity of younger generation
    We need to foster in younger generation that we live in complex world wherein you need to not be pigeon holed into exclusive single identity. You can be an Indian by birth . Muslim by religion , American by nationality. None of them can be mutually exclusive of each others.We need to be comfortable in having overlapping identities which connects us to the greater world .
    Most of us of Indian descent used to be mocked in 70’s as coming from country of starving people. Now the Pakistanis are bearing the prejudice in western countries which makes them hide their true identities. This is sad and not a thing to be criticized. Recommend

  • Vijay K

    @stenson: Im speaking from personal experience, not hearsay. Sorry if that rankled you, that was not my intention. In this regard, please also see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udgvm64toWI. He is a Pakistani, and this if from a Pakistani TV. Thank you sir.Recommend

  • indian

    @Maria: It is very sad to say Your knowledge of indian diversity is very poor. India has many races. India too has punjabis, sindhis,kashmiries just watch their cultural programs.
    When you say pak-punjabi we compare with Indian punjabi
    When you say pak-sindhi we compare with Indian sindhi.
    When you say pak-kashmiri we compare with Indian kashmiri which include pundits also and so on
    When you say pak-mohajirs we compare with Indian UP/bihari muslims.
    beside that there are same ethnic groups like boharas, memons in mumbai and karachi.
    India has more races then paskistan just travel
    By the way madras today known as chennai is capital of tamilnadu means madrasi are tamils only same race no difference.
    The main point is “it is very difficult for the west or americans to understand these difference”
    My question to you is “Can you identify the nationalities of people from south-east asian countries like thailand, malaysia, indonesia, myanmaar, vietnam and so on .. ?”
    If you can identify them with their nationalities then you are a true legend. Recommend

  • malik

    Why do Pakistanis call themselves as South Asians ? Excuse me ! Is there a country called South Asia ?

    A Bangladeshi will proudly say he is from Bangladesh, an Indian will proudly say he is from India (and proceed to talk about Yoga and Gandhi and Bollywood) but it is Pakistanis who call themselves South Asians. This term South Asian is bandied about so often that, in US, South Asia has become a euphemism for Pakistan.

    Pakistanis running ‘Indian’ restaurants in Germany and in US is passe. Now, in New Jersey, Pakistanis have started this new trend of running ‘South Indian’ eateries making Idlis and Dosas ! This is the pits, I tell you !!Recommend

  • deal with it

    Totaly agree with maria and pollack
    I would rather like to die the day I pose as an indian..when it comes to looks and general dealing with the people we are much better than them in all the aspects. I laugh when I watch an indian movie and all the goras r in awe of the indians .cmon thats not real…..Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/ahsanzee ahsan

    i never quite understood why people would consider the term Paki as derogatory and offensive… until i read this


  • SaQiB

    A treat to read…….. really!!! its near to impossible to read something worthy on ET (as it is flooded with news and articles either promoting liberal fascism or degrading the Islam/Pakistaniat of our natives)…… beautifully written article with a very nice theme……..Recommend

  • Stewie Griffin

    You’re pretty ignorant about Pakistan’s diversity.

    Does India have Pashtuns and Balochis?Does India have Hazaras and Gilgitis?Does India have Makhranis and Seraikis?

    India might have a few Pashtuns, but nothing compared to pakistan.

    People saying that Indians and Pakistanis are the same are ignorant, besides Punjabis,Sindhis,Kasmiris and Muhajirs no other ethnic group in Pakistan is similar to Indians.

    Pashtuns and Balochis feel closer to Persians and Afghanis while Gilgitis have more in common with western Chinese people.

    South Indians and Pakistanis are completely different, in fact we’re not even the same race. (Pakistani= Caucasoids South Indians=Australoids)Recommend

  • salman

    Pakiland Pakiland Pakiland….i think it sounds cooler anyway. and while im at it, I’ll be taking a trip to K-Town soon!Recommend

  • Stewie Griffin

    I live in America and I don’t know any Pakistanis who call themselves Indian.

    There maybe a few, but most Pakistani-Americans are proud of their heritage.

    Go to Devon Avenue or Gerard street and most Pakistanis aren’t ashamed of claiming their Pakistani heritage.

    In America even Cubans,Arabs,North Koreans and Iranians aren’t ashamed of claiming their heritage.

    There’s very little racism here in America, in the New World nobody cares where you’re from or what your parents do, they want you to define yourself.

    I see some Indians getting a kick out of Pakistanis calling themselves Indian.Recommend

  • Indian

    @Stewie Griffin: I already explained things to maria. Just read them again carefully. I said India has more races than pakistan. I clearly mentioned about common races. Did I mention south indians and pushtuns are the same? No. So why are you telling me? Indians know better than you. Because 65 years back we were the same country called british india. Don’t teach us about different races of subcontinent. We are living here for past 5000years and to understand the races you should know the history of the region. If posible try to read the history. Regarding balochis, hazara, pushtoons we never claim them to be indian, we know there distinct racial character and history.
    So try comparing pak pushtoons with afghan pushtoon,
    pak balochis with iranian balochis,
    pak hazaras with afghan hazara.
    Read history of that region and you will get all answers. Funny part is you will get non-islamic monuments in that region also, ofcourse they are in bad shape today. My clarification about common races is for maria to understand that india has many races beside common races with pakistan. These common races and names create confusion in foreigners mind. I gave example of south-east asian countries to understand the things. Recommend

  • No offense

    madam this article and the overall debate is not about who looks good or bad. its about your racial identity. May be the pakistani your are reffering to might be very good looking and may be featuring in all top playboy magazines of world but the Tamilians and the south Indians are recognised for their work and talent.
    but the fact is fact and the pakistanis refers themselves as Indians abroad.Recommend

  • Indian

    @Stewie Griffin: For your information most of the pak population(around 70%) lives on indian border states namely punjab and sindh. So rest of the part mostly balochistan and pushtoon region have very less population density. I think pakistani punjab has 60% population of pakistan. Do you know pak’s national language urdu which is born in Up, Bihar region of India? Yes pakistan has adopted indian language as national language. We have common history and culture so know many things about each other. Pak people watch our movies and their artist, singers work in mumbai. My point is if non-brown person starts telling me about racial difference in indian subcontinent then i will just laugh at him. India has genome sequencing technology. Recommend

  • no mystery

    Check the definition of ‘Indian’ mate amd you will know. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=indianRecommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/ahsanzee ahsan

    @Pakistani 1414918: Brown has’nt been hijacked by South asian its a simplification of anthropological roots plus it hasnt been adopted by south asian rather other nations call us by that. It isnt based on ACTUAL colors. Most Chinese and east asian nations arent ACTUALLY yellow yet they are refered to as yellow. how every dark someone from south asia may be they dont come under black unless they have african ancestory. You may see a lot of very fair arab, turkish or isreali people but they also come under “Brown” because they are ancestrally linked to certain brown people. I hope this clarifies the situation to youRecommend

  • Umer

    This piece is very childish, and hasn’t quite reflected ground realities of south Asian ethnicities in the westRecommend

  • Stewie Griffin


    Pashtun’s make up the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan, and only 7% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as a first language.Recommend

  • http://Turkey A-Gent Provocateur

    I live in Los Angeles, California and I have many Pakistani and Indian friends and they all look pretty much the same to me. If you take religion out of the mix there is no difference between Indians and Pakistanis. Recommend

  • Maria

    @Vijay K: Since you love to troll Pakistani news sites, you should also understand the character of a lot of media people who will stoop to any level to shock people. This quip by Najam Sethi is actually a quip against the government’s foreign policy. And he often speaks against Pakistan and the military because he is one of those liberal anti Pakistan reporters who has close links with India.Recommend

  • Maria

    @indian: Thanks for proving my own point. Punjabis, Sindis and Kashmiris make up a good chunk of Pakistan’s population. In your own estimation, they number more than 60% of Pakistan’s population. These ethnic groups are probably a small percentage of India’s 1.2 billion population – hardly 5 % or 10% maybe. Now if you think that these ethnic groups are the same as other races in India, maybe you need to open up your eyes and acknowledge the difference. By the way, we haven’t added in Gilgitis, Pashtuns and Baluchis who are nowhere in India. Back to my original point, most native Pakistanis would be offended if you called them Indian. I live in North America and I am offended if anyone thinks of my background being Indian or Middle Eastern or something I am not. It’s a question of respect.Recommend

  • Indian

    @Stewie Griffin: We know this. You are carefuly neglecting my points from each reply just sum them up you will see the same thing as you said.
    Regarding “only 7% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as a first language.” because it’s an indian origin language born in UP bihar region, pak local languages are punjabi, sindhi, pushto, balochi etc. But rememberf urdu is their national language so they can communicate with north indians. as it is similar to hindi or urdu of india. The only difference is they started adding local flavors. I means to say pushto, balochi, punjabi words. They also have more persian and arabic words than indian urdu. Indian muslims don’t use that much persian or arabic words. Indian urdu also has local flavors and it also changes from location to location. But that does not mean it creates communication gap. Ofcourse hindi does not have that mush persian thing but people understand the entire communication.
    Regarding “Pashtun’s make up the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan,” As time passes due to migration population demography, ethnicity changes. This happens all over the world. After few years the latin americans or the black people will have more population than the whites in US. You may see more number of spanish speakers in future which will be new development in american history. Same thing about pushtoons in pakistan. Do you know there are more pashtoons in pak than in afghan? Check pakistan’s demographhy pashtoon population has increased in last decades due to afghan turmoil. Remember pakistan has open border with afghanistan unlike India, iran or china. Recommend

  • Indian

    @Maria: Again you are doing the same mistake it’s not about you to identify own nationals, its for the forigner to identify your nationality. You may say there are different brown shades. That is why I gave example of south east asian country, can you identify their nationality? The anwer is No. why? because we fail to distinguish their racial feature based on their nationality as we do not have exact knowledge. What americans do? They never call them with their nationality they just call them as asians they may be from vietnam, japan, china, indonesia, myanmaar, phillipines etc. Americans just refer them as asians. It’s simple it is we disclose our nationality. Same is the case for mid-east country. We just call them as arabs unless and untill they inform their nationality. So do you understand the word “Desi” stands for? [Regarding pushtoons, balochis, hazara just read my earlier comment that will solve your confusion] Recommend

  • Great Indian

    Pakistani government and diplomats should spend time and effort to improve brand ‘Pakistan’. In this information age, brand value does matter. A country is judged not based on merit or reality, but based on carefully projected sugar coated image. This is marketing 101 lesson. Sashi Tharoor, one of the greatest Indian diplomat, once said the nation that tell better story win the culture war. Geographic Pakistan is blessed with an ancient civilization, a great culture, natural beauty, fertile plains, hospitable and externally beautiful people. In my opinion, If Pakistan elect a women PM in the next election, the image of the country will improve overnight. You people really miss Benazir Bhutto, the most articulate and confident PM you ever had. I do not think completely associating with Taliban cause will advance Pakistani national interest. There is no need to tell you what emotion does the word ‘Afpak’ generate in the mind of Westerners.Recommend

  • Dante

    I have one regret and that is I’m unable to speak pure Urdu. I try my best not to mix in too many English words but they ultimately come out like a machine processing meat.

    I wonder why so many Pakistanis have this habit of mixing the two languages in such a bizarre fashion? It gives off the impression that they’re unable to speak the pure forms of both languages.Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    @ Zalim Singh: Yes, that is the government’s fault. Common and progressive Pakistanis like me have nothing to do with this. Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    Agreed. Identity crisis.Recommend

  • Majid

    For a long time I was embarrassed and ashamed to be Pakistani. Just this week there was news about sex grooming by Pakistani gangs in the UK. It does not make one feel proud. Nowadays I more clinical and detached like a doctor without emotion. I just observe the symptoms and pathologies like a doctor. Unfortunately I can suggest a cure but the patient does not want to take the medicine. Recommend

  • stenson

    @Majid: Save the drama- do Indians feel ashamed about being Indian when US TV exposed a big ring of child abusers in Calfornia? It was horrible how they tried to chat on line with underaged US girls and then they met them trying to get sex. The same nonsense has happened with other ethnic groups too. Do Americans feel ashamed to be American when sexual deviants hurt and emprision young women like the Dugaard case where a young girl was abducted and sexually abused for over a decade in a home prison? There are bad criminals of every ethnicity but your game of trying to portray only one group as bad is illogical!Recommend

  • Nobody

    Pardon me, but your explanation was quite unnecessary and a bit juvenile. What I don’t understand, and never will, is the need to deny one’s place of origin to a) pretend to be something or someone you’re not and b) do so to appease the fears, be they rational or irrational, of another. The problem with Pakistanis, foreign born or not, is they have no pride in their roots. Yes, Pakistan is a big scary monster plagued with problems given its current situation, but I don’t care. A Pakistani denying their roots because they’re ashamed is shameful; you’re only giving others the license to disrespect you even further. If you don’t have respect for your own country, you’ll never have it from anyone else either. I hope you understand MY point now. Cheers. Recommend

  • Majid

    Yes my friend even a ten year old knows that there are criminals in all ethnic groups. Our problem is that we are excessively defensive when critiqued. Stop rationalizing. Let go of your feelings of pride/inferiority and look at the facts. In the UK Pakistanis are over represented in jail by 2-3 times. Visit Bradford, Manchester or Birmingham when you next visit the UK and you will see what I mean. In Pakistan the murder rate is higher than the USA. The kind of pathologies we suffer from were observed by British colonial administrators over a hundred years ago.
    A minuscule minority of intellectuals are working to shine the light of reason and liberate us from destructive religious dogma like the European intellectuals did three hundred years ago. Join the march of history. Be the vanguard of a great historical movement. Be a revolutionary ! To being however you must be truthful and with sober eyes see our miserable condition. Recommend

  • Jai

    I think to a large extent it’s South Asian immigrant kids trying to fit in. A group mocks them as outsiders. When they join that group and mock other South Asians they no longer remain the subject of ridicule but become a part of the group. They are no longer the one being laughed at but are laughing with the group. Basically they themselves keep the cycle of racism and stereotypes alive. For eg. Russel Peters the stand up comedian who’s main act is to mock Indians. This general idea has been promoted that it’s ok to do racist humour as long as you are of the same race. They think it’s self deprecatory. Could not be further from the truth. Self deprecatory would be to mock oneself and have a sense of humour about yourself as an individual. To mock an entire race even if you are a member of the race isn’t self deprecatory but actually furthering stereo types. It is to give others permission to do the same.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Qasim: “reat work! :) I live in Dubai and once asked a little brown kid where he was from (expecting he would say India or Pakistan), instead he said Canada, I said ok what about your parents, he said MAYBE Pakistan, lol. inferiority complex much”

    You probably talked to a kid who was born in Canada. What if he has never been to Pakistan. He is just a kid, nothing to do with inferiority complex. Time to grow up, stop judging little kids.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Brown Guy: “South Asians in Canada don’t really assimilate, I mean I’ve been to Mississauga and people their speak Punjabi or Urdu most of the time whereas in America, all first generation Americans speak English as their first language.”

    There is nothing wrong with speaking Punjabi, Urdu with your friends and families. It is always good too know more then one language. There are many people working for US government as translators in IRAQ and Afghanistan and making close to $200K/yr just because they can speak and translate local languages. Some of them may not even get a job with Mcdonalds. People in US also speak Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Tamil etc. I know many who do. Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Majid: “Nowadays I more clinical and detached like a doctor without emotion.” You are letting outside problems effect your inside. A successful and liked doctor is one who can control his emotions and not the one who becomes emotionless.Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Nobody: “P.S. To the Indian gentlemen pointing out that some Pakistani call themselves Indians, I actually shuddered a bit. What a shame! Can’t understand why anyone would do that and I’m rather glad I haven’t crossed paths with anyone like that.”

    Some Pakistanis do it when they apply for professional jobs in some countries. . I have not heard any one doing that in USA. Recommend

  • Someone

    Hello, there were many instances in this article that irritated me. The fact is that a person’s identity is not dependent on their race. It is about who you are, where you feel comfortable, what you know best, and where you fit in.

    I’m of Indian origin. I was born and brought up in London, UK. My mum came here when she was two, from Nairobi in Kenya. My dad came here when he was eleven, from Tanzania. So they both went to British schools and related far more to Britain than anywhere else. All four of my grandparents were born in either Tanzania or Kenya. My great-grandparents were the ones who were born in India.

    In our family we still eat Indian food, have big Punjabi weddings, go to the gurdwara every Sunday, speak Punjabi BUT we are very much British. We have been living in this country for fifty years, and so of course we’re very British. That is what is engrained in us now. We have a British sense of humour, feel at home drinking a cup of tea, love this country because it is where we belong now.

    It would be ridiculous of us to try and fake a sense of Indian identity just because of the colour of our skin. Don’t get me wrong, we still feel strongly towards India, we still love India, but we are now British. When we go to India, we are not aware of the customs (I couldn’t even figure out how on earth the system of queueing at Bank of India worked), our head is left spinning from all the traffic, we have no idea how to barter prices effectively. We are not Indians anymore, because it is like a foreign country. What we are, is part of the Indian diaspora, we are sons and daughters of India with a great respect for her, but we live our lives elsewhere in another country. That can’t be changed.

    Home is where the heart is. And though I love India, I feel most at home when sitting in my cosy flat in London – only a mile away from my parents’ house, only half a mile away from where I went to school, watching British soaps and drinking tea as it’s raining outside. That’s my comfort zone, and British is now my identity though Indian was my great-grandparents identity.

    That’s not being ‘ashamed’ of your identity, it’s just the way it’s developed. When people say the are British or Canadian or American rather that Indian/Pakistani/Sri Lankan/Kashmiri, that’s because they ARE Brits, yanks, Canadians now. That is where their heart is, and I think you have to simply accept that as normal. There’d be something wrong if you were born and brought up in the UK and saw yourself as more Indian than British, despite never having lived permanantly in India!Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Raj: Majority of Pakistanis call themselves Indians while applying for jobs and mortgages.”
    I wonder why?

  • Vikram

    @Nobody: “Paki – pure, Stan – land of….Pakiland. Not offensive, just a bit corny in my opinion. Anyways, interesting read just the same. Cheers!”

    I always thought Pak=pure, not Paki., Calling some one Paki is considered an insult in UK, I think.Recommend