Monthly Archive for June, 2006

Indian Party – Blow by Blow

T – 2 weeks

An evite for a kid’s first birthday arrives. You can count on the following things in the evite: picture of the kid, Indian restaurant venue and a shot at bland humor

T – 3 days

Evite reminder begging people to RSVP as half the people didn’t bother to respond

T + 00:01

Some guests, who haven’t yet learnt the meaning of Indian Standard Time, arrive and start searching for the hosts

T + 00:30

The hosts arrive with the kid. The kid is dressed in some suffocating miniature traditional Indian dress. The kid looks as if he is going to cry any moment and the parents assure the guests, “He is a little uncomfortable but he will be fine”

T + 00:31

The kid starts crying

T + 01:00

Majority of the guests start trickling in, an hour late, completely oblivious that they are actually late

T + 01:05

All kids start running around the function hall, chasing each other, bumping into chairs, tripping over wires and knocking over drinks.

T + 01:10

People try to make small talk, shouting over the high-pitched Hindi music played loudly through the cheap speakers provided by the restaurant

T + 01:15

The appetizers arrive. Typically it’s Pakora + coconut chutney + some red mystery chutney.

T + 01:30

The cake is brought out and left on the table. Kids start hovering like fruit flies with their fingers itching to poke the cake as soon as possible

T + 01:45

Hosts and guests gather around the cake. The birthday kid starts crying uncontrollably, terrified by all the commotion

T + 01:50

Screams are heard as the designated photographer pushes through the crowd mercilessly crushing peoples toes

T + 01:55

Hosts freak the kid out more by shouting “blow the candles, blow the candles” and shoving the kid close to the candles, at which point the kid flaps desperately trying to jump out of their hands

T + 2:00

Of course, the cacophony of 50 people singing Happy Birthday in 60 different pitches

T + 2:10

Just when people start feeling faint because of starvation, the dinner buffet is ready

T + 2:11

Some non-Indians look quite confused as they thought the appetizers were the actual dinner and have already finished their “dinner.”

T + 2:15

People, having had their dinner and nothing else to do, start to leave

Chatter’s guide to real life

Chat/IM has become so prevalent a medium of communication that some times we may have to remind ourselves how the real world works. Here are a few things chronic chatters have to remember when dealing in real life.

  • It is not appropriate to ask “asl” when you meet a new person in real life. It is offensive, especially the “s” part.
  • When you hear something funny it is customary to exercise your facial muscles and exert a laugh. Saying “lol” may not be considered as an alternative
  • Do not be tempted to enact ROFL
  • Buzzing, nudging or any other form of physical violence to gain attention generally leads to misdemeanor charges
  • Do not attempt to have two independent conversations with two people at the same time
  • If you do attempt the above, bear in mind that, by a phenomenon too complex to explain, the said individuals can hear each other’s conversation. So saying “hi” to one and “the loser is here” to other might lead to unpleasant situations.
  • There is a no real life equivalent of LMAO. Please do not try to invent one
  • You can’t leave offliners. So don’t shout something in a guy’s cube when he is not there and expect him to “get it” when he comes back

Putting words in one’s mouth

Only a few things are certain in life such as death, taxes and the following chain of inevitability. You inevitably have friends. They inevitably get married. They will inevitably have a kid. You will inevitably receive an email from the kid! The email contains something like, “Hai TD uncle. I am already two days old. Visit my website at http://www.kids-name.com.”

I have been a recent recipient of such exciting email. I had no choice but to visit the site. I didn’t even know it was physically possible to take so many pictures in 3 days. And there it was, the link I dread… “Sign my guestbook.” These days your affection is judged by the saccharinity of your guestbook entry.

I was about to grit my teeth and sign the guestbook when I realized that, to sign the guestbook you have to answer the poll question, “Who do I look like: my mom, my dad, both” How can you tell anything about a kid that young! I wish there was an option: “I will reserve my comments until you are completely out of the womb.”

In an ill conceived fit of rebelliousness, I decided to break all rules and not enter a guestbook message. Instead, I sent an email to the kid (kidsname@hotmail.com), and said something like: “Hey, nice pictures. We are so glad for you and your parents. Hope to see you in person soon.”

A few days later, I found out that I would have been better off entering the guestbook message. Apparently, my friend unilaterally assumed that I was incapable of figuring out how to enter a guestbook message and have insufficient linguistic skills to put my abundant love into words. So he, very kindly, paraphrased my email and entered it into the guestbook for me. Something like: “Hey dude. You are so cute! I love your pictures. I am so glad for your parents and their bundle of joy. I can’t wait to see you. Lots of love and kisses, TD uncle.”

So I learned the lesson. Next time I will enter a goddamn guestbook entry oozing of sufficient cuteness and save myself the embarrassment of having attributed to mushy comments.

I kid you not

When you move to a different country and, somewhat, adapt to a different culture, you get used to certain language constructs and mannerisms which, if used in India or with friends from India, would be received with confusion, frustration, sarcasm or a combination of all.

On my last trip to India, a friend of mine actually said, with genuine surprise and shock, “You changed a lot! You are talking like Americans, as if you are born and brought up there.” If, for one moment, you think that was a compliment, you don’t know anything about sarcasm.

Here is a funny situation I gotten myself into on my last trip:

Me: Whatever happened to Mr. ABC?

Friend: Oh, you don’t know, na? He became a disciple of a swamiji and has sworn to celibacy, ya.

Me: No kidding!!

Friend: (Quite angry) No I am not joking! Why will I joke about such things? I am not the kind who spreads lies and rumors for fun.

Me: Er… When I said “No kidding,” I was not referring to your comedic skills, you know. It was an exclamation.

Friend: I don’t know. Talking like Americans has become a fashion these days.

The importance of missing her

One of my friends has recently been going on several unexpected business trips. His travels have mostly been in the US but he is scheduled to go to Germany for a two week trip.

When I visited him and his wife last week, I inquired him about his upcoming trip. He quickly shhhh’d me. He asked me, sotto voce, not to bring the topic up because his wife was mad about the trip. Being his loyal friend, I promptly asked his wife what the matter was. She flatly said, “No I am not mad about the trip.”

When a woman flatly says she is not mad about A, it means she is mad about B, C, D and a bunch of other things. After some cajoling she finally revealed the real reason, saying “I am not mad about his going on the trip. I am disappointed (read furious) that he seems ecstatic to go on the trip, as if he were happy to be away for some time.”

I was thinking there was going to be some heated discussion but my friend, being a wise man he was, quickly initiated emergency procedures and apologized to her profusely. He assured her that he was going on the trip only because he had to and so on and deftly brought the situation under control.

Isn’t that funny? His wife was okay with his trip as long as he regretted the trip. And, he never felt the need to express to her that he would miss her as much as she did him. We men are completely ignorant to such subtleties I guess!

Blend in like a sore thumb

Most of us*, Indian-Americans, strive to blend in into the American society. It’s amusing to observe some of the measures we undertake:

  1. We start rolling our “r”s. Unfortunately we can never pronounce Rs like the natives do. So we end up sounding as if we had some vocal cord deformity.
  2. Most us who never wore shorts in life start wearing shorts as soon as we enter the US, choosing completely to ignore the visual abomination we perpetrate. Indians who venture into wearing shorts should take a look at themselves in the mirror. If one’s legs look like bamboos with hair on them, one must avoid shorts at all costs.
  3. Start following American sports such as football (of course we call American football, football), baseball and basketball. Then we discuss these sports loudly with Americans at the water-cooler as if we have been watching these sports all our life
  4. Try our hand at wit and make jokes when in a group. Humor is a very cultural thing. Unless practiced with caution, it often ends up with a bunch of blank stares in one’s direction.
  5. Start using profanity. We used to say “What the hell, yaar.” Now we say “What the fuck.” We think using the language employed by plumbers and construction workers takes us one step closer to being American
  6. Start drinking beer. Half my friends who drink beer never drank alcohol before. Now they drink beer to look “cool” at a party.
  7. We start wearing wedding bands on our left ring-finger. If somebody doesn’t wear one, we say, “Oh, I assumed you were not married since you were not wearing a wedding-band.”
  8. When in the company of Americans, we start blaming India and off-shoring for taking away our jobs!
  9. When a new comer to US says “First floor” to refer to second floor, that is, the one floor above ground floor, we act all confused and lost.
  10. When at office or meetings, we put our feet up on the table/chair and we keep them there no matter who else in the cube/meeting room, just to prove to ourselves that we are behaving like Americans.

*”Most of us” does not mean “all of us.” Not all Indian-Americans exhibit aforementioned symptoms and not all of them exhibit all the symptoms.

Half Nail, Half Polish

I was talking to a girl at work yesterday. A very nice girl who belongs to the rare breed of “Desis with dress sense.” While talking to her, I suddenly noticed her nails. Her nails, with only patches of once vibrant and lush nail-polish left, were looking like an old weather washed wood fence. That nail-polish, mutilated by scratches and bite marks, clinging on to the nail for dear life, was a sore spot in her, otherwise impeccable, appearance. It was like a teeeny little bird dropping on a shiny new car. I wished she had either removed it completely or re-touch it to its full glory.

I know it’s none of my business, but, half peeled nail-polish looks quite ugly. It’s as bad and noticeable as patchy lipstick. I do notice such unintentional abstract art on nails from time to time and every time I do, I feel bad for the woman because her effort to look pleasant is spoilt by one little oversight.

Where is North?

Here is a a conversation that keeps repeating.
The scene consists of me and my friend.


Friend and I entering stage left

Me: You Northies …

Friend interrupts me, raising a stern hand

He (articulates ev.ery syl·la·ble): I am not a Northie

Me: Of course you are

He: I am from Nagpur, for God’s sake

Me: My point exactly. You are a Northie

He: How does that make me a Northie?

Me: Are you from Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala or Karnataka?

He: No

Me: Therefore you are a Northie. Anybody who is not from the southern 4 states is a Northie. Do I have to make it any clearer?

He: That’s a demented logic

Me: What is wrong with you Northies? A guy from Nagpur claims he is not a Northie. A guy
from Bombay is not a Northie. The guy from Delhi is not a Northie nor is the guy from Kolkata. Let me state it for the record, you are all Northies.

He: Whatever. North is relative anyway

Me: That is what every run-of-the-mill wimp says when he knew he completely and miserably lost the argument.

He: I said “whatever,” Madrasi

I lunge at him in rage, hold his collar and pull him towards me, his eyes are a foot from mine, my face contorted with anger. (didn’t you see any South movies?) I speak in a hoarse voice, my spit splattering on his face.)

Me: Don’t… ever… call me… a Madrasi. I am from Andhra.

I name thee *bleep*

We all giggle behind the backs of Asians with funny names, like, “Phat Chin” or “Suk Mi.” But we, Indian-Americans, tend to be remiss when naming our own kids who are going to live in the US their whole life.

There is an immediate danger for kids with “lost in translation” names – the school bullies who infest the American school system. A brown skinned kid munching on chapattis is a target enough for these bullies. The doomed kid having a name from hell (or heaven, depending on which side of bullying you are on) is a cherry on top.

Consider the following names I heard recently. These kids are going to grow up in the US.

Harshit He is my friend’s son who is going to start school soon! What’s worse is that, some above average bullies, who actually learnt the alphabet, may be able to tweak his last name into “head.” These kids can quickly put two and two together – ok, they probably suck at math – but they can put the words together.
Gopi An innocent looking name that can be construed as a command to relieve oneself.
Asman On the bright side, if the kid wants to become a porn star, he won’t have to search for a stage name
Anal I kid you not! This is a real name.
Gayatri References to sexual orientation must be avoided in names too.
Sukdeep (I confess, I heard it on the Russell Peter’s show). If he had a brother, would he be called Sukdeeper?
Dipshita Man, she will be in some deep shit!
Atit He should change his name to more politically correct, “abreast”
Rashmi Pronounced as “Rush me”

Hopefully, nobody will name their kid “Fakrud.”