Hindu Swastika, Jaipur, India by Floppylion
Originally uploaded by Floppylion
Even if it involves fudging numbers.
The concept of a land far far away becomes woefully inapplicable in the case of desis. From the remote islands of Fiji to the never ending animated satirical world of the Simpsons, you’ll find a desi everywhere.
Global desi presence infuses a lot of familial pride into a desi. More importantly, every time the desi feels a lack of <insert latest Apple gizmo> or a conversation topic he can always rely upon that aunt in New Jersey, or that uncle in the bay area or that cousin in the UK.
Being everywhere also allows the patriotic desi media to take pride in a US senator having Indian roots or on an English film on Mumbai putting Bollywood on the world stage (the Kodak theatre stage really :P) . This national pride is also enthusiastically reflected on a desi’s countenance when explaining the goings-on in a SRK film to a non-desi.
Note that settling amongst different cultures does not deter desis from doing the same things everywhere, like opening a grocery store, starting a motel or playing the only sport they know. Don’t be too surprised if you ever get to watch a cricket game between Italy and Ghana with a Singh bowling to a Patel.
Desis, very much like white people working in book stores and coffee shops, hope to use Masters degrees as a gateway to the real America. But very UNLIKE white people, desis always get ONLY into engineering degree programs.
You have to bear in mind that Asia produces a gazillion college graduates every year or more accurately a gazillion engineering graduates. A Master’s degree is a gateway to the American dream. In other words, an American degree is a definitive way of scoring high on one’s reputation as well as feeling unique among his/her high school friends.
The journey begins with out realizing the huge unforeseen identity crisis lying ahead. It comes as a shock to the desi to find hoards of other desis in United States. The after-shocks are pretty serious resulting in partial or complete loss of uniqueness he/she felt all the while.
Desis start retrofitting their feeling of uniqueness by comparing several traditional parameters of reputation like: Urban upbringing in India, reputation of the undergrad institution etc. People from Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Hyderabad and Bangalore start re-affirming their faith that rest of India is just rustic and they alone have read PG Wodehouse. Similarly, people from IITs, BITS Pilani and NITs instantaneously start looking down upon the rest of the folk. Computer Science folks re-enact feeling/acting superior over say, Civil and Mechanical engineering branches. A complex social hierarchy of position and superiority emerges.
This goes several steps deeper: When desis from different universities meet, they instantly run US News ranking comparisons to see who is likely to emerge superior. Universities outside the US News ranking list will almost certainly be considered not to have Wikipedia entries.
Desis who do not have a Master’s degree from United States are considered to be at the bottom most of this pyramid. These people will be pooled under a ‘contractor/consultant’ category and are perceived as some sort of pollutants/diluents to American society and culture who should have never been issued American visas in the first place.
However, everything returns back to good and joyful times when desis are visiting back in India. The very fact that the degree/person is from a ‘foreign’ university/country , no matter which one, restores normalcy. It is important not to get intimidated by this maze of hierarchy. Desis, often, celebrate their Master’s degrees by having them printed beside their names on Wedding invitations. Attributing some sort of superiority to this degree on the invitation is likely to quench the desi thirst for feeling unique.
For all the vagueness in the choice of words in Indian English, Desis have a well defined set of words to describe the color of skin. Matrimonial sites routinely ask the applicant to mention if his or her skin is “Very fair“, “Fair“, “Wheatish“, “Wheatish-brown” or “dark” ( You are not the only one reminded of likert scale. Also note, only ONE of the five words actually says dark).
Desis love lighter skin complexion. Anything you make/sell realize this love is bound to make you richer. For example, the most compelling feature google has provided in its picture managing software Picasa , is something called ‘fill light’. ‘Fill light’ makes dark pictures look bright and clean, making them ready for uploading to orkut.
Matrimonial websites are another illustration of this huge importance of lighter skin. “A tall dark handsome doctor” is likely to get lesser attention than “A not-so-tall BUT-FAIR non-doctor.” If you are a matrimonial website, you are promised a 10-fold increase in success rates, simply by making pictures of all your members glow brightly (just like the ones on TV ads).
One of the first reactions, desis hear when visiting folks back home, is a value judgment of how “fair” they have “grown” since the last visit. A trip to the US/UK may be deemed to be a huge failure if the visiting desi doesn’t show a significant improvement in his or her skin complexion.
NBC sitcom, The Office immortalizes this love for fair skin in their Diwali episode. Michael Scott walks in with his white girl friend. Kelly’s desi mom compliments that she is very fair. Scott replies, “She is very fair. Very fair and very kind.” So, if you are an unemployed WHITE actor or writer in Los Angeles or New York, know that there is a whole world of desis and Bollywood waiting there out for you !!
Desis love Friends. It is often their introduction to American Television. It is also one of the few sitcoms they watch on Indian Television before setting their foot on the American land.
Watching Friends is often viewed as the first step you can make to integrate yourself into the American society. For all the handicapping desis have for moving along in the American society, Friends gives them the most accessible insight into the seemingly impenetrable personal lives of Americans. and thus it gives them the perfect opportunity to brag about how they are not total FOBs and they know enough context for the phrases: “How u doin’?” and “We are on a break.”
As much as Friends newbies are welcome to the fan club, they are faced with a critically important question after the initiation ceremony: “Who did you think is the funniest character among Friends?”. Serious friends lovers find “Chandler” or “Phoebe” as the only acceptable responses with “Joey” on the borderline. “Ross”, “Monica” or “Rachel” as a response will be seriously frowned upon. FOBs not to be confused with “Who do you think is the sexiest?” for which Rachel is of course the only response.
A little more seasoned TV-sitcom loving desis will find it fashionable to say that they no longer like friends and they have moved onto other shows like Scrubs and Seinfeld, that are less popular among desis.
As an FOB, be warned that you have an expiry date before you can finish watching all 10 seasons of Friends. You will be entertaining pretty serious doubts about your existence and the efficacy of your life in United States, if you have not watched at least one season with in the first six months.
Desis revere the classical language Sanskrit. But unlike whites, among whom liberal education is popular, desis never get a serious chance to study classical languages. Added to that, the priestly high class and all the scriptures have created a perfect aura around Sanskrit over the past several centuries.
An occasional forwarded email or a news paper article exhort praise on the sound, the beauty and the perfect grammatical structure of the language, pushing desis into deeper levels of shame.
The inability of desis to formally learn the language, the high reverence held by the culture and the deep connection it has centuries old traditions and scriptures, make desis crave for authentic-Sanskrit sounding names for their kids.
This simple and genuine craving has far reaching implications like (a) identity crisis among kids who grow up in a alien culture, (b) pushing non-desis into embarrassment for not being to able to say the name right, (c) delayed customer service because of unpronounceable and undecipherable names (bingo! offshoring helps.) (d) and of course plots like The Namesake.
Potential examples of victimizable names include: Pradhyumna, Manognya, Yeshashwini, Viviktha, Shragvi etc.
Desis love Gold. That is obviously a massive understatement. Desis love gold more than women love chatter, TV soaps and gossip; more than men love cars, ESPN and beer. As a culture, desis love gold more than the song-dance sequences of Bollywood and possibly more than emigrating to United States or United Kingdom.
Memorable events like weddings are littered and glittered with gold. The bride and the groom parties compete in their display of wealth and ornamental jewelery, at times, making it looking like arms race between US and USSR during the cold war era.
Gold takes precedence over utterly-butterly delicious Indian food during festivals like Diwali. TV ads show women drenched in gold double their body weights making you wonder if Karanam Malleswari is no accident.
When two non-desi women meet, they usually talk about career, family or a relationship (or may be that red-carpet dress Laura Linney or Charlize Theron wore for the Oscars). Desi conversation inadvertently begins in gold and ends in gold. The verbal crossfire may even trespass into jewelery for men from the more common conversation about bridal jewelery.
New theories suggest this strong affinity for gold may have to do with the roughly the same location of Au on the periodic table as India on a Mercator projected world map.