Thursday, October 31, 2013

That Day After Everyday

If you haven't seen the much talked about large short film by Anurag Kashyap, here's the YouTube link:

If you have grown up in India, I bet that you have either been at the receiving end of such kind of molestation or have witnessed it first hand. The disgusting autowallah who steals glances at you from his rear view mirror, the co-passenger in the bus who rubs against you, the office going uncle who pinches you in the metro, the cyclist who hits you while you are walking, the local unemployed youth hanging around the paan shop, and even the so called cops in the PCR van standing at the cross-section.

Detractors of violence say an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Okay, so what should a woman in the position of those in the movie have done? Gone to the police and get ridiculed, insulted and harassed? Left their jobs and secluded themselves in their homes? Waited for a good Samaritan to intervene? Just like all those very helpful by-standers, would the crowd come to their rescue?

I still remember my first few days in the Delhi buses travelling to college - there were days I'd be in tears by the time I reached my destination. And then I happened to meet a gutsy senior from another college on the same bus. She didn't know me but saw a guy trying to push me. She looked at me and said - What are you doing? Give him back. I was aghast. Was that possible? She handed her umbrella to me and said in a very menacing tone, "DO IT." 
I gave it to him nicely as the rest of the bus cheered (but never joined in) - I am dead sure he never had the guts to touch another girl again.
 That was my "that day after everyday". I never ever cried or got upset after that. I traveled armed - with compasses, dividers, umbrellas - I always had something with me to protect myself.

Till the time the law is not enforced adequately, women are not considered human enough to have the same rights as a man, and having a girl child is considered a source of grief, we are on our own. And to protect ourselves, if we have to take up arms against such monsters, we will - because we must.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Decoding Desis

You don't have to be in phoren (foreign) land long enough to know your desi pals. For the uninitiated, 'desi' is a term we Indians use for our fellow country men - it may or may not mean any contempt. Here's the Wiki definition.
(Afterthought: OMG, desis made it to wiki, now we have surely "arrived", haven't we?)

P.S. I am writing this post with a lot of hesitation so please take this warning very seriously.
If you cannot take a joke on yourself and are very sensitive about the whole Indian-ness and associated sanctity, this post is NOT for you. This post is just meant to sit back and smile in indulgence. I do not mean to offend anyone in any way.

Phew, with that halfhearted sincerely meant disclaimer, let's move on.

So, here is some dope on desis, which I have experienced personally in my various travels and stays in the supposed land of the billion dollar dreams.

  • In the first few days of your arrival, the sight of fellow desis makes you smile (within) in a very reassuring way. As soon as you spend a month, you come to the realization that we are just about everywhere. There are only so many reassuring smiles that can happen. In about 6 months, you show visible distress as soon as you spot loud speaking desis who are obviously not as politically correct in their behavior and attitude as you are. A year into your stay, and you think that the diwali gatherings at the Indian temple are best avoided because your Indian network is already too big (and did they say H1B quote was already full, how do all these millions make it here every year :D). One more year down, and it surprises you if you reach an event or a grocery store, or a tourist spot and you don't spot a desi. Where are all of them? Am I at the wrong venue?
  • A fellow desi who approaches you (in a store or a mall) with the opening statement, "Looks like I have seen you somewhere", is an Amway shark - who is looking for prey. He/She can make out you are the new blood in town. That statement is your cue - run, run as far as you can. 
  • A simple rule of thumb in choosing the best Indian restaurant is that if a lot of Americans visit that place, it sure is not authentic - tastes have been tempered with. The best Indian grub in town is served by desis, to desis, from desis.
  • It is culturally insensitive to ask desis what their Friday night or weekend plans are. Oil massage for our hair, threading, waxing, soaking and grinding rice and lentils for the week's dosa/idli batter, buying groceries for the week's cooking, vacuuming, and laundry are all not your idea of a regular weekend, right? Now, let's leave it at that.
  • Most desis often will discuss with each other how the glorious era of the Great Indian Cricket conglomerate is fast losing its shine, and that they think IPL (Indian Premier League) is such a short change for the real deal that apparently cricket is supposed to be. HOWEVER, these people will hurry home and watch the highlights of every single match they missed and will be updated on every single wicket!
  • Game Day, Super Bowl are events that most desis have adapted to. But how much ever interest we might feign, Cricket is THE religion. Refer the point above.
  • There's this great belief that the first 100 in the queues outside any electronics store during Thanksgiving are desis. That IS true. But every desi will swear that he or she has never done it. So who are those? Well they are the ones who just landed.
  • All those 7-11 jokes on Miss America don't really bother us that much. Back home, our parents insist on 'fair' brides for us in the matrimonial columns. And we are yet to have a 'dark-skinned' girl crowned as Miss India. Forget women, we wholeheartedly support Fair and Handsome (creme) for men too.
  • Just because we shop at sales events and are lifelong members of Sam's Club/Costco, we are not cheap. We are smart people. We pay our taxes on time - our contribution way higher than the average. (It is another matter that we are also s$%t scared of the law that is actually implemented.) Even in the throes of economic crisis, we fuel the cash flow by travelling and and buying all those chocolates and iPods for our trips back home.
  • Desis in general are very critical of fellow desis. We are easily embarrassed by our own brethren (most of the times, quite justifiably). A glorious example of this is that we refuse to rent in an apartment community where there are towels and other articles of clothing hanging in the patios. No, we even refuse to see the model apartment. 
  • Dear American 'brothuhr', no desi will open up about this to you, but every time you refer to the massacre of Indians etc., we get goose bumps all over. It takes us a while to figure out you are talking about Native Americans - but during those few minutes, we have already imagined the worst.
  • And finally, the English language. Most of us study English pretty much as a first language from kindergarten, yet we might mess up our w's and v's. Also, our vernacular tongues may make our speech highly accented, but hello, your deep south accents with the heaviest of r's evuuhh are no good either.
By the way, just a footnote, we desis are as diverse as diversity can be. Just because you have met a few, you don't know us all. We come in more flavors than you can imagine!

What are your favorite 'desi-isms'?


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