1. War of the Plates
Ever since I can remember, whenever my mom would make some special dish in the kitchen, she would take a few small plates, fill them with the aforementioned food and send me around the neighbourhood, with clear instructions to bring the plates back. And the aunties who would open the doors would NEVER give the plates back.
"I have to wash them," They would say, or "I will send (insert her son's name here) with it later."
Few days later their son would show up with our plates, plus one or two of theirs, with some delicious food. And now it was my mom's turn to find excuses not to return their plates immediately. As soon as we move to a new neighbourhood and made contact with a few friendly neighbours, this never-ending process would kick-off.
2. Code Language
It's really cool to speak another language that's not the common tongue of the land. Let's say we go to buy a car. The Croatian salesperson is harping on about the bells and whistles. I excuse myself for a minute, turn to my dad and can rapidly shoot off in Bengali. And he can reply with his criticisms of the car, while the salesperson looks on with a nervous-but-polite smile. And being Bengali, we can switch between Bengali, English, Hindi, Urdu or Arabic (lived in the Emirates you know) as the situation demands. I pity the ScotiaBank commercials where the couple meeting a loan officer has to talk in whispers so the banker cannot hear them. With us, the word 'whisper' does not exist. Just switch to Bengali.
3. Desi Parties
Admit it. While we may make fun of them and pretend not to enjoy going to these parties, they are really unique. I remember one of my first white friends (roommate) in Canada making this remark when I told him about a desi party.
"Wait a minute." He scratched his head. "There's no rock music, no alcohol, no intermingling of genders, no dancing, and you manage to have a good time?!! How?"
Yes, I know. Puzzling, is it not? Not that I mind a little intermingling ...
And the food. Let us not forget the food. Especially the food. No wonder the British stayed in India for 400 years. I mean, look at their specials in Britain.
"Today, same as yesterday, and the day before, and the day before .... Fish and chips."
Meanwhile, even our BBQ (the easiest and least 'gourmet' cooking) has flavoured chicken. I cannot believe they BBQ chicken without tandoori masala. Hello? Putting Heinz's BBQ ketchup just does not cut it the same.
Every person has a nickname. All over the world, it's a variant of their 'good' name. So Michael becomes Mike, Abraham becomes Abe, and Elizabeth becomes Lisa. Now, switch to desiland.
Good Name: Mohammad Nabeel Abdus Sattar Shamsuddin.
Huh? It doesn't make sense. The guy could be the smartest guy, but now for the rest of his life he will be 'Bhola'. And this is also another puzzling matter for our white friends. Once, a Swedish girl I know from our university heard another brown friend's wife call him by his nickname.
"Oh that's so sweet," She told the wife. "You have a nick for your husband."
"Ya," I quickly cut her misconception short. "That nick is also used by his mother, sister, aunt, friends like me ..."
And nicknames stick. We have two friends, both called Jashim. One is older than the other by two years, so we call him 'Boro Jashim' (Big Jashim) and the other 'Choto Jashim' (Small Jashim). For the last twenty years that has been their names in the community, even though Choto Jashim is anything but Choto now.
This is a Bengali word loosely translated to mean a 'get-together'. What it is, is a bunch of friends (usually ALL guys) who just hang around late into the night discussing all the issues of the world. Again, it sounds gay, there are usually no alcohol, no joints (usually), some smoking (NOT me), perhaps a little guitar, but it's amazing how long one can engage in 'Adda'. In university we used to just hang around at someone's place or outside (in summer) and talk about global warming, the new Chemistry professor or our non-existent love lives, and even now we occasionally get together with old friends. The song 'Purani Jeans' by Ali Haider (Pakistani), or 'Coffee House' by Manna Dey (Bengali), that perfectly captures the Adda moments.
Music and Bollywood.
Fish (Ilish or Hilsha).
Aloo Bhaji, Paratha and omelet.
Your mother calling you long distance at 11 pm to remind you to put oil on your head.
And so much more ...
Tags: Desi Bengali