<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
Close Encounters of the Desi Kind
There's something about the way Desis behave in this country, especially when they encounter others of their ilk. Some of them are perenially caught in no-man's land, whether to follow the Indian protocols or the American ways of etiquette that they religiously polish so as not to cut a sorry figure in front of their non-desi colleagues. But for the majority, the uncomplicated rule of the thumb is, Desis are desis and need to be treated as such!
Neways, I've really enjoyed the game of watching desis during boring moments and utilise the opportunity of pondering on why we are what we are. Just thought of penning a few of those.
This was during my very first days in this country. I had walking out of my hotel suite to the lobby which was a good distance away. Two desis stepped out of a parked car in the distance. Probably south Indian. Though I was still out of earshot, I could see his eyes very clearly, he was saying something to his pal(probably Look da, here comes another desi!)
and gesture to him to look at me! Geeeez! Unfazed, I promptly shot back a very broad grin and waved cheekily as if to say, "Yo dudes, from the kuppams to Kentucky, we have made quite a gargantuan leap, haven't we?". The duo smiled, waved back and went on their way.
Most Americans avoid looking in the eyes of strangers and if they do accidentally catch the eye, would politely say hello
almost apologetically and move on. However the desi loves to bore a hole in a fellow desi with his piercing stare, despite the fact he's seen one billion of them back in India. As the saying goes, we are like this wonly
This one was fun and brief. I was in transit at a tiny US airport and was pushing my hand-luggage after checking in. I noticed another brown-skinned youngster walking opposite to me and having seen plenty of Sri Lankan tamils in the European transit points, I wasn't sure if he was a desi. But he made a move towards towards me and when we got close, we both smiled and stopped.
-"India-va ?", he asked with an enthusiastic smile. The oddity of the expression amused me but going by the suffix, it still wasn't clear if he was a tam or a gult.
Trying hard not to laugh, I extended my hand and introduced myself in Tamil.
-"Are you from Chennai?"
-"Uh-huh, it's been a few years since I left TN."
Anyways, he was needing help buying a phonecard from those dollar-eating kiosks. I gave him a crisp-looking dollar in exchange for his and this time he got his card. A friendly chap, we chatted for a minute and then parted ways.
I was among the last to board the Bombay bound Delta flight at Milan. Was a bit annoyed about it and was hoping I'd somehow find a reasonable place for the carry-on luggage.
Something about the flight told me I was India bound - the Indian crew greet you without making eye-contact, the flight is jampacked and every seated passenger glares like a searing X-Ray machine at the folks getting in! I could easily spot an unoccupied seat on the last row and guessed it was meant for me.I was pushing my luggage through the aisle with a few folks behind me. My path abruptly stopped in front of a desiguy who was choosing the best place to keep his carry-on. The chap was talking to his wife, opening and closing several cabins and doing some permutation-combination in selecting the one with maximum room. Utterly oblivious that he had stopped a little group dead in their tracks. The Indian attendants were nowhere to be found.
After half a minute, it was clear the dimwit was totally blind to the inconvenience he was causing. "Excuse me, may I pass over to the other side?", I asked. With some reluctance, he made way. Immediately, I heard the old lady behind me ask, "May I pass over too?". His Highness sat down and the whole group got right of way.
I took my seat which was in between a mid 20s young lady and an early 30s guy. An announcement came up informing the passengers that the take off would be delayed by an hour. The passengers groaned in chorus. 'Horrible', exclaimed the lady next to me. She promptly struck up a conversation with me. Now when a 20something desi female unsnobbishly chats up a 20something desi dude, she has to be a Bombayite! She had this unmistakeable Marati-accented English and was headed to Mangalore. I learnt she was Tulu. Dang, if it's a Mangalorean, it has to be a Konkani or a Tulu!
I tried to talk to the guy on my left but he was such a sourpuss who had the earphones on, with his head on the tray-rest of the seat in front. It was time to take-off and the crew went around reminding passengers to buckle up. A stewardess stopped beside our man saying, "Put on your seat belt, Sir". "I know, it's on," he growled rudely without even looking up. "No Sir, it's not on," answered the young lady firmly. Without even an apology he buckled up.
Why is it that when an educated desi encounters another educated desi in the service sector, he has to display a boorish and patronising attitude? If looks could speak, the dialogue would be like:
-"Despite all your trim and urbane get-up, you are after all no more than a hotel waiter!"
-"And you are just a unsophisticated software coolie who wouldn't have seen the inside of an aeroplane if not for your white masters!"
Ego. Something that lives naturally within us and nearly impossible to get rid of.