I have been reading since I was 2 years old, the books quickly increasing in difficulty and plot line. I have also been an Indian since day 1. Unsure why these are correlated? read on.
Now they say your self schema forms around 4 months, and I knew I was a hardcore Indian by them, so it was strange when I read books and imagined white characters.
It started with Enid Blyton's "The Magic Faraway Tree" where I imagined Joe, Bessie and Fanny to be white characters, and I presumably did that because of the picture on the front which should explain them, but I also imagined characters not on the cover as white, and they continued to remain white till the end of the book. I was not really troubled by this because I didn't even realise.
Lets skip a few years to age 7 when I started reading " The baby sitters club", by now my ability to imagine white people had become pretty solid thanks to the "F.R.I.E.N.D.S" reruns on TV so honestly I didn't even realise I pictured Claudia(The only asian girl) as white until it was mentioned explicitly that she was and I had to alter my mental image. Despite having a picture as a reference I still Imagined her to be a white person. Why? Because it was easier and I had seen so many of them whenever I switched on the television.
I lived in India. The second most populated country in the world, I brushed shoulders with them everyday. Yet I could not picture them in my head.
Lets talk about Black Hermione. I truly pictured her as white person in the books. She was from London, had thick frizzy hair, and was a girl. How did that scream white? Literally thousands of woman from London have frizzy hair of all colours and shapes. So why on earth did I imagine a white pre pubescent young girl.
I realised it's all about the representation.We are so used to seeing white people act in hollywood shows, main stream books written by white people -therefore there character too must be white, where did my imagination go wrong- and with all the cover art being represented by white people.
I mean you would obviously picture Padma patil as Indian,but what if she was mixed race and honestly looked more white than Indian, would you imagine that?
That's why I love the fact that Bollywood actresses are getting into main stream hollywood, With Priyanka Chopra in Quantico and Deepika padukone in XXX:The return of Xander cage and not to mention shows like Fresh off the boat, Master of none, Black-ish, it makes me feel hopeful, knowing that kids reading these days and watching shows, have so many types of people to imagine,of all colours and races making their experience all the more enriching.
It's taken 18 years of my life to realise what I'm doing , but I'm slowly unlearning how I read, and adopting a more diverse way of looking at things and honestly, just imagining that people of my race can too be the main characters of a book without having to name the whole book about them.
And just to be abundantly clear, I do not hate white people or anyone of the white race, and nor do I blame them at all, this was entirely my inadequacy to picture things differently that just stemmed from the lack of representation when I was younger.
Thinking about all this made me wonder, am I alone in viewing the world like this? or do other people feel the same way? confused by the tiny white characters acting out scenes from a book? let me know in the comments.