Hindu Swastika, Jaipur, India by Floppylion
Originally uploaded by Floppylion
Even if it involves fudging numbers.
Its the middle of the work week. Quite possibly a none too exciting Wednesday like this one. Its actually been a rough day and you could do with some dessert, like some cake maybe. Yeah?
That cake could be the easiest cake you will find & eat if you are in the vicnity of a desi neighbourhood, because invariably every night when the clock strikes twelve, some desi in some apartment somewhere near you is celebrating their ‘surprise’ birthday party which they ‘ve probably been expecting since their last ‘surprise’ bash. The only genuine surprise that they can encounter is * you * actually showing up (no worries, you’ll still get a piece of the cake).
As the birthday week approaches frantic calendar invites start doing the rounds amongst desi pals. Email servers work overtime and everyone finds lots of ‘maybes’ on the original invite (with good reason). Great care is taken to keep the operation under wraps from the overly eager birthday boy/girl. Again with good reason; after all its only fair to want to feel surprised after they’ve surprised so many of those pals themselves.
Right, so once you find your way ( hint: its the apartment with countless shoes stacked outside) to this rather subdued yet wild-weekday-midnight-desi-party-apartment, you’ll probably have to get in line. No, not the cake eating line. Its the cake feeding line. Desi custom dictates that all party attendes fall into a single line , wait their turn to feed the special boy/girl and then and only then take their piece of cake . At this point, you may not be faulted for thinking that this bears uncanny resemblance to a temple you visited (right from taking your shoes off…) but the similarity doesn’t end here. Feeding etiquette mandates you to not just feed but also apply some of the cake on the hapless birthday boy’s face. Token resistance will be offered but you will find it easy to overcome.
Since you were not there from the start, you’ll probably have missed the preceding rough rituals of cake smothering (sometimes a special cake is purchased just for this purpose) , the brutal birthday bumps (everyone gets a fair chance to get one real hard kick in) folowed by the cake cutting and song singing. Admittedly these are fairly common birthday rituals but the desi twist is to get hold of other easy targets and subject them to the smothering and the bumps. This really is a “let the games begin” like announcement marked by uproarious laughter replacing the nervous titter of the room. If that sounds appealing enough, you need to up your desi friend count pronto.
Constant exchange of midnight surprises spices up weeknights and also keeps desi social equations straightened out. Tabs are kept on who attended, how many cakes were brought, which groups were responsible, who left early etc. These determine the course of future surprises. Like everything else desi, there are variations; sometimes one special night is not enough (yes, you guessed it : birthday week baby!) and sometimes you get invited to the surprise party by the birthday boy himself.
Desis love placing people. The placing exercise is all about identifying the social, economic, intellectual, spiritual, aesthetic class to which the person belongs. Perfect strangers with whom there is no business what so ever are subjected to this perpetual exercise. Desis are so good at it that is ingrained into every single aspect of their lives starting with their very names.
Indian names are very much like IP addresses. An Indian full name can give you the ancestral village name, caste (sometimes sub caste), the generation, linguistic affiliation, the professional background, and the exact social class to which the person belongs etc. Desis are very good at parsing these names and placing them in the exact social strata or geographical location they come from.
Indians also use social appearances, attire and other paraphernalia like markings on forehead, number of threads in a sacred thread, design of rings and other jewelry to place them in a caste or a sub-caste. Brand names of clothes and dressing are used to put them in an economic class.
Cellphones and cars are another biggie. The size, color, brand, the size of the screen, the resolution of the camera, the ringtone on the phone, the cautiousness with which the phone is handled, the frequency of changing to a newer device are all signals to flaunt their class and desis are adept at reading them. Desis make it a point to include pictures of themselves holding expensive cellphones or standing beside high end cars in their portfolio.
More recent cues to place people have been people’s accents, hair styles, visa statuses, the countries they have been to, schools they have gone to, foreign degrees conferred upon them, companies they work for etc. When desis check facebook/orkut profiles online, they most certainly check for all the above cues along with their tastes in music and film. A degree from an ivy league school, an americanized accent, a little goatee, a liking for Coldplay or Death cab for Cutie are sure to get you placed you up there.
But to get yourself placed in a totally uber category, you should be dating/married to a white person or at the minimum having lunch/coffee with a non desi.
Desi inquisitiveness is a complex phenomenon, ridden with emotional highs and lows,replete with dramatic twists and turns. Peskiness, curiosity and an unbound spirit of inquiry go a long way in trying to satiate this inquisitiveness.
Not that desis mean to be overly enthusiastic with their inquiries; it is just that their well-intentioned selves care so much for you , that the proverbial nose-poke into your business turns out to be as feeble as having a feisty festoon.
The inquisitiveness also happens to be selfless, with the inferred information and the carefully deduced conclusions shared amongst fellow pursuers of knowledge. The experienced experts throw in their own enlightened judgments into the mix and the purists apply a liberal dose of “Indian traditions” on top of those judgments.
In the factors that inform these conclusions; education, caste, achievements, job, salaray levels, relationship status and religion figure prominently. The connections drawn between these are bizarre yet probable; flippant,yet elaborate. Sample this : “How can someone who only has a bachelors degree, not be from a lower caste and have a white girlfriend, when they just got laid-off ?!!?”
If you are subjected to desi inquisitiveness, you are walking on a fine line between desi adulation and desi abhorrence and there is no real recipe to successfully negotiate through it. Conform or take a stance. In case you decide on the latter, don’t reveal it all at once in the interest of keeping everyone hooked. Desis like to play it like a video game – just enough challenge and just enough reward, at all times.
If all else fails, you can always huddle with other desis. On the other hand, if you want to kick-off your own career in the curiosity business, you just need find the flame within you and start bartering information.
Desis love to keep their romance under wraps for years on end, even after the remotest of their acquaintances have guessed and gossiped heartily about their relationship status (and gotten well beyond bored of it).
In the arsenal of the clandestine desi love birds , we find vehement and often rational denials (“My friend, really? Of all people YOU think I’m seeing HER??!!??”) , well-conjured up alibis (” I needed to be there to pick up her roomie, yaar”), carefully thought out excuses (” See you guys later, I have some urgent work!” :P) and a trusted confidant(e) (akin to a magician’s assistant, picked out from the audience to add to the authenticity of the trick).
As a rule of nature, everything gets old over time. But the never-say-“yes, we are an item” desi couple flout this law by coming up with newer (and lamer) excuses ; some of which, put to shame classics like “the dog ate my homework”. Even the peskiest of your friends, with all their coaxing and cajoling skills, can at best get a relative percentage value of commitment from either of the two ( “Maybe 60%, I am seeing her and 40% she is”).
With the cat never, ever let out of the bag, it suffocates and chokes to death. Often, such occasions are marked by the unsurprising announcement of the wedding, with a sense of ‘thank god, its over’ feeling overwhelming friends. Details of the well-guarded stealth operation are revealed from then on, dispelling common desi romance myths (the newbies at the game take liberal notes of all those early morning dates which fooled literally,everyone 😉 ) . The couple and the confidant(e) basking in the smugness of it all; living happily ever after.
The business acumen of your average desi is unquestionable, but there are only a chosen few of them who have seen the real path to enlightenment. And these desis will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to emancipate you from a life of ignorance and ostensible poverty.
That path is Amway and its many other smarter- than- thou variants which will literally make you sell magic cool-aid on your way to making astronomical fortunes and enabling you to win the next marathon you compete in (just a friendly side effect).
The products are so potent that their effects instill an overwhelming amount of self-belief into an otherwise “god- fearing, regular, middle-class” desi. Almost overflowing with this unshakeable confidence, these desis courageously masquerade around in shopping malls, restaurants, parking lots and airports alike in a determined effort to accost people who are perfect strangers to them, but look like wrethched souls who would want to make an extra buck or two in their lives. Sure! Who doesn’t? All you need, is “an open mind” 😉
The enlightened ones are curious about your interests and hobbies, your planned retirement age and your phone number, amongst other things. They might have also seen you in college or their wives might need ” your help” on a flight. And they are only too eager to share their details with you since they’ve been chatting with you for an entire minute now!
Opportunity knocks your door several bazzillion times until the door finally caves in or of course you agree to attend an elightenment session with their established guru, who will draw elaborate diagrams and make grand presentations on how you can achieve ultimate financial freedom in your lives. Why work so hard, when all you have to do is sell stuff to people who will in turn be elevated to the oh-so-sought-after “early retirement” status ?
The fairy tale lives of these fortunate desis are full of happiness and success derived from selling products for the betterment of humanity. Hang out at the Macy’s nearest to you this weekend and you could be a chosen one too, all you have to then do is…BELIEVE. No wait, sell actually 😛
Come, come!! Read this , read this!
Get the drift? Repeating a word or a phrase is the most preferred way of stressing importance , being polite, being assertive, passionately agreeing, requesting a favor and expressing a host of other ‘semi-sentimental,semi-coaxing’ , confoundingly warm desi pleas.
Successive use of a word comes up in all kinds of social situations including ordering at restaurants (“bring two,two”), welcoming guests (“sit,sit”), appreciating someone or something (“good,good”) and any other circumstance under which a desi needs to be nice.
Generally, the simpler the word or phrase is, the greater its chances of getting successively repeated. For instance, a word like ‘education’ is disqualified due its length, but a ‘study,study’ or ‘work,work’ could easily be used as an alternative. Also, if the desi is at a loss of words and/or wants a conversation filler, #35 might come in handy.
You can easily verify #35’s existence by saying something nice /wishing a desi .Expect a beaming desi and a profuse expression of gratitude,”Thank you, thank you!”
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