Do you remember one of the lists that used to be the regular part of email forwards during the early days of the internet, one that had a title called "You Know You Are A Desi When ... "? That list, plus Sardar jokes, Bill Clinon jokes and 'Why Computers Are Female' used to form the staple diet of my inbox in those days (ah, 90s nostalgia). But one of my relatives who discovered the internet like yesterday sent me one such email.
"Hey look what I discovered on the net, pretty funny, ALL ARE SO TRUE!!" Ya, R--- Apu, thank you very much. Welcome to the 1995s. I would have pressed the 'Delete' button but one item on the list caught my eye.
"You know you are a desi when you speak to foreigners you act as if you represent your entire culture."
This is SO TRUE. OMG. I sound like R--- Apu.
I am taking this evening class called Advanced Database Design. It consists of mostly middle aged people who have suddenly decided Database Design is the way to go, even though they are like, in Marketing. The only guy below 25 is me. They are all pretty nice folks, and yesterday, after our evening class was over, everyone decided we should have an official Christmas party/dinner after our last class. We started to debate the nearby restaurants and where to go.
"Chinese? No, we have that too often. How about Greek? No, ok what about ... ?" and so on it went, until one guy suddenly blurted, "Hey, I KNOW!! Why don't we have INDIAN food?"
As if on cue, EVERYone turned to look at me. And I am not even Indian. Close enough, it would appear. Just because I was brown, I am expected to have a Top 10 review of all Indian restaurants within a 10 km radius.
There was the time I was with a few friends in Montreal and we went for Italian food. That restaurant seemed to have pork and alcohol in every dish, so I stuck to the seafood (yucky looking mussels, shrimps, some barely cooked salmon and oysters). My friend's girlfriend (they are Tamil) saw my plate and automatically concluded, "Oh fish? Ya, I heard you Bengalis have a thing for fish." In this instance I am not the regular Bong, I LOVE meat. Fish I can barely tolerate. Now, whenever I am invited to my friend's place, his girlfriend (now wife) cooks fish. And since they are Tamil, the fish tends to be really spicy. Trust me, you don't want to go there. Jhaal Bighead cooked in Telapia Style *shivers*.
Then there was one Irish electrical engineer at my last job for whom we were developing a computer system. He had to explain this mathematical chart called Dry Bulb Enthalpy to me. Instead he goes, "oh I don't have to explain the formula to you, I heard South Asians are good at mathematics." What was I supposed to say to him, "I'm sorry I'm the dumb one. But seeing you are Irish you are probably drunk anyways." I mean if someone is stereotyping you but in the GOOD way is that racism? Is there such a thing called 'affirmative racism'?
In that respect I let his good opinion of desis continue while I googled later for what I needed.
The biggest debacle is when someone picks up something you did and concludes its Muslim culture. I have a bad habit of separating caspicum from my rice in any dish. I hate caspicum. My Jewish buddy sees me do this and exclaims, "See? We Jews and you muslims have very similar laws. I cannot eat fish, milk and meat together, and you guys apparently cannot eat rice and caspicum together. We have a lot of similarities."
If the menu was the only problem in the Middle East we would be living in a better world.
Tags: Desi Culture