June 10, 2019
It was in predominantly Asian Flushing, New York that 21-year-old Emily Luong first began to notice the stares that she and her boyfriend, Deeptansh Chadha, would attract when walking hand-in-hand. They were a respectable couple by most standards; at the time, Luong was a senior graphic design major from UC Davis, and Chadha an international migration studies graduate student at CUNY.
They had met at UC Davis and had taken a class together, but had never spoken — until the two took a walk alone during a work training icebreaker. They found they shared political views and senses of humor. A hugless ‘is it a date/is it not a date’ conundrum forced them to have the ‘what are we’ conversation. They’ve been a happy couple ever since.
Luong came to an overwhelming hunch about the stares: they received so many because Luong looks Chinese, Chadha looks Indian, and they were visibly and publicly a couple. Her evidence was rooted in where the stares most often came from — people who appeared to be East Asian or South Asian. The stares increased in number when they were in primarily East Asian or South Asian neighborhoods like Flushing or Jersey City. In addition, when Luong had dated other people, who were either white or East Asian, she had never been on the receiving end of these double takes and stares.
Luong and Chadha, who have been dating for two-and-a-half years, are aware that their pairing is rare. Luong’s parents were initially unsupportive of their relationship, citing cultural and linguistic differences. How would Chadha feel at family gatherings where he couldn't understand the language spoken? Or what if he wouldn't be able to eat everything that was served? Would he smell like curry all the time? How would Luong keep Chinese culture alive?