Do you speak Indian?
It is the first sentence she learns to dread; dreads the sheer ignorance dripping from it, the willful blindness that accompanies this question, the way it makes her feel like a tiger in a cage being asked to perform a trick.
(The next question always is, oh can you teach me how to say something?)
She wishes she could answer by sticking her tongue out (or maybe, sticking two fingers in the air, that should shock them all right), but whenever she tries, her mum pulls her aside and tells her not to make faces, be polite. She cannot understand why she needs to be polite, it’s not as though they’re making efforts to be polite.
Her twin only pinches her and shakes her head at her. Just do it, for mum. Be brave.
So when she puts the Sorting Hat on her head she makes a simple wish: send me where they will understand. Send me where they know.
The Sorting Hat gravely commiserates and tells her Ravenclaw would be the best place for her.
She wonders, for the first few months, if the Hat got it all wrong, if the Hat wasn’t just as bad as the rest of them - sticking her with kids just like her, the ones who stick their noses in books all the time, fond of learning, fond of knowing. Overachieving minorities, she’ll call them, self-deprecatingly, in years to come.
But then at Christmas, when she goes home, she realizes that in all these months she’s never once heard it. Do you speak Indian? Do you speak Hindu?
Not once has she heard them say that word, in a voice dripping with contempt and hatred. Paki.(But I’m not from Pakistan!)
And she finds she does not miss hearing these things.
People look at her and Parvati and wonder how they could have landed up in two very different houses. They are not so very different, to the distant observer at least. They giggle over crushes, they play dress up every now and then, sigh happily over elaborate robes in Witch Weekly. Not different at all.
Padma only shakes her head and smiles at people when they ask her how she and Parvati came to be sorted so differently. It’s in how we solve problems, she says and leaves it at that. They don’t need to know, after all.
If they wanted to know, they could simply observe and learn.
(For notyourexrotic who wanted to hear more about the Patil twins and why they were sorted into two different houses.)