Friday, February 29, 2008

#81: Condescendingly Referring to Any Gathering of Indians as a Meat Market

Some Indians feel uncomfortable fraternizing in large groups. One excuse these Indians use to avoid such situations is to dismiss the occasion or event as a "meat market." For example:

Situation #1:

Soniya: Hey, Rachna. Are you going to the Indian Student Association meeting tonight?
Rachna: No way, Soniya. Those meetings are just for desperate FOBs looking to find an American wife to get them a Green Card. It's such a meat market.

Situation #2:

Payal: Oh my gods, my parents just sent me this mekhla we had made in India when we went there last summer and I'm totally going to wear it to the Hindu Student Alliance Garbaa-Raas tonight. What are you going to wear?
Meena: Nothing.
Payal: You're wearing nothing? You sliz!
Meena: No, I'm not going. It's just a big, sweaty Meat Market.
Payal: No, the snacks are Veg, I checked -
Meena: No, Payal. As in everyone's just trying to get with each other. It's disgusting.
Payal: Oh (questioning her self-worth and limited world-view)
Meena: Besides, Delta Kappa Epsilon has a social tonight at Sinibar and Brett's going to be there. I'm totally going to have his blue-eyed brown babies. How do I look?
Payal: Cute party top!
Meena: Thanks!

Situation #3:

Mumtaz: Do you want a ride to the Eid dinner tonight at the Multicultural Center to celebrate the breaking of fast for the Ramadan season?
Faiza: Guhross. South Asians gathered to observe the end of Ramadan? What a meat market.

#67: Hating Padma Lakshmi

For reasons not fully understood by me, Indian women love to hate Padma Lakshmi, the host of Bravo's reality series Top Chef. Perhaps it's because they question her merits as an authority on food. Maybe it's because of that foul-mouthed Vanity Fair profile, or the million dollar apartment in New York's East Village that she's apparently paying for with cookbook residuals, or the high profile divorce from Salman Rushdie. Or maybe it's because she's just too beautiful to be mired in the midst of us mere mortals. Sigh.

#44: Anglicized Names

At some point in their lives Indians like to Anglicize their name to fit in with their American peers. Sometimes the change is subtle, and sometimes its drastic enormity later leads to a nose job and colored contacts.

Rahul = Ron
Krishna = Kris
Nikhil = Nicky --> Nick --> Nicholas
Monalie = Mona
Rajib = Roger --> Raj --> Rog
Jesminder = Jessie
Rohit = Robert --> Rob --> Bob
Amrita = Amy
Rakesh = Ricky --> Rick --> Rocky
Prabul = Paul
Gopal = Gus
Debojit = Deb --> Donald --> Don --> Deb
Monica = Monica
Vikram = Vicky --> Vik --> Vick --> Matthew

#1963: Allowing Offensive Representations of Indians to Persist in the Popular Media

Yeah, we hear you, enough with Bollywood. So we'll go from the city of Anjalis to the City of Angels and focus our attention on Hollywood for a second.

For some reason, Indians love seeing themselves on TV and in movies, even if those representations are offensive to the community at first glance. Stereotypical depictions of other minority groups have been denounced by those derisively portrayed for as long as Civil Rights has been an issue in this country.

For example, when the producers of Miss. Saigon insisted on casting a white man to play the role of a Vietnamese character for the show's debut on Broadway, the Asian American community stood in protest. The Black American community has an even longer history of protesting the dramatic techniques of Black Face and Minstrelsy.

Indians, on the other hand, don't seem to really mind the perpetuation of stereotypes on behalf of the community in the realm of popular culture. A brown face, it would seem, is better than no brown face at all (see exception #67). Perhaps that is true and justifies the delight Indians take in watching their likeness portrayed on the big screen, no matter how putrid or offensive. Examples below:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

#59: Shunning the Rules of Basketball

A sport dominated by the West, with a few incursions from the East most notably named Yao, basketball enjoys a surprising level of popularity among Indians. Several Bollywood movies contain key emotional scenes during which characters both grow and develop relationships while playing a game of one-on-one basketball.

Obviously the inherent metaphor of one-on-one basketball carries the connotations of a heated game of chess while not subjecting the audience to an image of Aishwarya Rai thinking. However, if basketball means so much to Indians as a symbol, why then do they so cavalierly break its rules?

Take for example the most popular basketball scenes from Hindi cinema that come to mind. 1) Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, 2) Dhoom 2 and 3) Koi Mil...Gaya. In the first, Rahul and Anjale play a game of basketball to, I guess, determine who is better at winning. The playful nature of the match-up foreshadows the intimate foundation of their friendship.

In Dhoom 2, Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai step up 2 the streets to play some real ball in the rain. The equality of their skills, while presumably embarrassing Hrithik, inspires him to add her to his one-man criminal collective.

In Koi Mil..Gaya...I don't know what purpose basketball serves in this story other than to underscore our point.

The problem is all these scenes, for all their narrative significance, don't depict an actual game of basketball. With such rampant double-dribbling, flagrant travels and spirited goal-tending (see video below at 1:51) what results is more like water polo on land or Powerball from American Gladiators. Then again rules were meant to be broken. Ballin'!

#28: Walking Through the "Ethnic" Hair Aisle of Walgreens...

...and out of the corner of their eye secretly checking if management has added anything for Indians that will straighten out their wavy mess. No such luck. It's going to be another long summer for that Indfro.

#25: The Dil Se Soundtrack

Have you danced to Chaiyya Chaiyya? How about Jiya jale? Dil Se Re? Satrangi Re? Yeah, that's what I thought.

#101: I Love Lucy

A show about a white chick that likes an Indian dude that goes by the name Desi, which is a variation on the sanskrit word "Desh" for homeland meaning a child of the subcontinent? Awesome! Oh, it's pronounced "Dezee?" Oh, he's Cuban? F that.

#87: The Ramada Inn

Indians love hotels. Indians love owning hotels, and Indians love renting out hotels for any event that falls within the catch-all description of "Function." Birthday Function. Pooja Function. Wedding Function. Your friend Adam's Bar Mitzvah Function.

No hotel serves the functional interest of Indians better and more often than the Ramada Inn (pending post - #91: Econo Lodge). Perhaps it's the discount rooms or the chain's proximity to popular Indian sites of congregation such as Cherry Hill, NJ or Bethesda, MD that make the Ramada so appealing to large Indian gatherings. Or maybe it's the hotel name's close similarity to a holy holiday.

But most likely the Ramada Inn is so popular among Indians because no other hotel rolls off the paan-stained Indian tongue with such mellifluous grace. Give it a try: "Eh! Get in the Dodge Caravan! We are going to be late for the graduation punction (sic) at the Ramadainn!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

#3.0: 1997 AIM Screen Names

1. GujuGAL89

2. DeSi4EVA

3. PunJaBthrob.

4. DesiHungaman

5. PriyaPrincess82

6. DeZiDeeva

7. Hindude69

8. SalmanDman007

9. LilBrownie2k2

10. DmBandFan975

11. Priteshsubrahmanium

#2008: Silently Fearing the Chinese

The Asian continent has had its share of problems over the past half-century with more in-fighting than an episode of Flava of Love. India invades Pakistan; Sri Lanka attacks India: Vietnam incurs on Cambodia; China takes Tibet; Japan takes everything. Bad blood is part of the continent's history like gun-powder, Buddhism and succumbing to the will of Europeans.

Between all the bickering, though, one nation stands as the Greg Brady to this rag-tag bunch. If India can boast Johnny Lever, then China takes the cake as the region's Johnny Bravo.

If the Financial Times and every other cover of the Economist are to be believed, India and China are poised to be the industrial powerhouses of the 21st century. Both countries claim a population of 1 billion and a military strength that make them targets for diplomacy rather than intervention. On paper, it would seem, that India and China are geopolitical neighbors of equitable standing. Um, not so much.

Though the media has made much of India's comparable economic strength with China and Indian-Americans' association with Chinese and other Asian Americans under the penumbra of Model Minorities, most Indians know deep down inside that China's got the upper hand in this cold war culture war.

We may smile and wave our politically correct banners for Pan Asian solidarity at multicultural meetings on the campus of UC-Berkeley, but in the back of our minds we fear that the general public will figure out what we already know: the Chinese could kick our ass.

#92: Smoking, Apparently

A recent story in the Washington Post pointed out that India is apparently in the midst of a smoking epidemic. With a booming economy that promises even further growth in the near future and a more savvy youth culture with eyes toward international trends, India promises big tobacco a yet untapped market for an expansion of cigarette sales. According to the article, India has the second largest smoking population in the world at 120 million, half of which are under the age of 30. These statistics lead health officials to speculate the number of annual smoking-related deaths to reach 1 million by 2010. Eh khaike!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

#45: The Cincinnati Bengals

Why wouldn't Indians support a team named after the people inhabiting Bengal, an eastern region of the subcontinent?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

#2: Female South Asian Writers

Indian girls go through a stage in their life during which they seek a similar experience in the pages of popular fiction. Fortunately, over the past 15 years South Asian diasporic literature has become a genre unto itself exposing more and more Indian girls to the words of older, wiser sisters of the subcontinent.

If you would like to hold a conversation with a seemingly intelligent Indian girl, for example if she has glasses or a copy of Jonathan Lethem short stories in her canvas shoulder bag, be sure to reference any one of the below mentioned authors and their work.

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Interpreter of Maladies

If you bring up "The Namesake," use discretion since she will think you may have only seen the movie. If she does, simply comment on the questionable casting for the role of Moushimi since in the book she didn't seem as fair-skinned.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Arranged Marriage

Be sure to discuss this book by Divakaruni and not Sister of My Heart since any implication that you have read the latter will be immediately emasculating and will most likely lead to a conversation about "The Gilmore Girls."

Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

Let me know if this one works because I've never met anyone who's actually read it.

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Try not to mention this book first since it will come off as calculated. It is important not to seem insincere when trying to manipulate an Indian girl.

Though discussing the aforementioned novels will make you appear sensitive and sincere, it is the responsibility of the reader to maintain an appearance of heterosexuality if his intentions are not merely platonic since attention from an Indian girl does not necessarily imply romantic interest. (See #11).

#11: Platonic Relationships

Friday, February 22, 2008

#23: Chicago

New York is too expensive. New Jersey's cool, but the only major city is Newark and that's too scary. Houston's too black. L.A.'s too gay, and Miami is too Cuban. What American city, then, do Indians like? Obviously, Chicago.

Home to financial firms, consulting outfits and numerous universities, Chicago is prime for cultivating a thriving Indian scene. Whether you're a bankster in Bucktown, an M.D. in Streeterville, an undergrad in Hyde Park or an M.B.A. in Evanston this City of Big Shoulder Bags has everything an Indian could want.

Between M&A's, Organic Chem. labs, Intros to Tort Reform and Material Science problem sets, Indians in Chicago have plenty of opportunities to fill their time. In case hunger hits they can stroll down the Magnificent Mile to Food Life in the Water Tower where they can wait in a long line for bad pizza. Or they could head uptown to Devon and spend 45 minutes double parking for a Masala dosa at Udupi Palace.

After snacks and a quick stop by Old Orchard for a fresh button down from Club Monaco, Indians in Chicago are ready to hit up the town. First, they'll usually get things started with a pregame in Lincoln Park at a place like The Apartment. At this point, many Indians will get text messages from other Indians telling them to head further downtown to a club where one of their peripheral friends is spinning, or DJ'ing. This club will most likely go by one name, such as Sauce, Funk, Transit, Rouge, Zentra, Circus, Karma, or Blonde.

After they are good and sweaty, Indians will argue with cab drivers outside the club to fit a fifth person into the back seat. They will then head up to the Gold Coast for after hours fun at an establishment like Leg Room or McFadddens. At this point, Indian girls will focus on dancing with each other or making out with a guy either two years older or two years younger than them. Indian guys, on the other hand, will be trying to either bum cigarettes or free style rap on the sidewalk with homeless men.

Afterwards they will go to Rock 'n Roll McDonalds before heading home and drunkenly messaging each other on Facebook about how much they love Chicago.

#77: Recognizing Timbaland's Plagiarism...

...But still requesting DJ Aladdin to spin his stolen hits at Whitestar on Friday night, watching elbows fly and Priyas shake.

#36: Racquet Sports

TennisPing-Pong (the table tennis)


#57: E-mail Addresses

For a brief period of time in the late '90s many Indians had email addresses through, a website that served as a landing page for Indian web users. Over time these disappeared and made way for Hotmail accounts.

#49: Swimming

Because that's what you do during monsoon season on the sunderbhan Delta.

#83: Sega CD

Some people had an Atari. Almost everyone had a Nintendo. Then came the 16-bit monsters that drew a line in the sand, either you stood with Super Nintendo or you cast your lot in with Sega and its Genesis.

Most people chose on a whim. Super Nintendo had Mario. Sega had Sonic. Super Nintendo had Mario Pinball. Sega had Sonic Pinball. Super Nintendo had Mario Cart. Sega had Golden Axe. The battle was clearly heated; each side had earned its stripes.

That is, until Sega introduced us to the world of 32-bit graphic rendering on a coaxial connection. They gave us Sega CD. Boasting a limited library of 5 titles, Sega CD appealed to only the most loyal of Sega brand fans who trusted their console to take them into the future. That committed customer base, comprised of video game tastemakers, weathered the commercial landscape and handicapped the odds in the battle of free markets. Malcolm Gladwell would call them the Tipping Point; we call them Asians.

However, due to their presumed familiarity with Japanese electronics, most Asians sided with Nintendo in the console wars. Indians, distracted by rumors of a TATA console, thought with their joysticks and blindly followed Sega's foray into the realm of the 32-bit compact disc. 3 years later they all bought Playstations.

#54: Black Culture

Not be confused with black people.

#18: MSN Messenger

I have no idea why, but it's true. Among MSN Messenger users Indians are disproportionately represented. There is most likely a direct relationship between Indians' affinity for MSN Messenger and their preference for Hotmail accounts.

#8: Dancing With Their Arms Up

"Lots of people dance with their arms up," you might be saying to yourself. You'd be wrong. Notice in the picture below that there are white people in the background with their arms by their side and a group of Indians in front, yes, dancing with their arms up.

#17: Making Laminated Party Promos

If there's anything Indians like more than going to parties it's promoting parties. Any time there is a function for which there needs to be publicity Indians waste no time in Photoshopping together a small poster, usually featuring a negligently clad women of dubious South Asian descent, laminating it and handing it out. And just so you know where to get your Vodka Cranberry:

#55: Putting on Fashion Shows

Indians love putting together fashion shows that depict the various dress of South Asian and South Asian American culture. These fashion shows are usually organized by one dominant Indian girl who considers herself an authority on beauty and fashion. She then corrals a group of popular friends to join her in the project and asks a relatively popular Indian guy to do the same for male participants.

The decision of whom to include in the fashion show is strictly political and often alienates a large portion of the prospective Indian audience. By show time, however, those too ugly or dark to participate in the event have come to terms with their inferiority and take solace in the likelihood that the fashion show will be awkward for all involved.

Rehearsal for the fashion shows is stressful as the dictatorial organizer demands the participants have fun, yet take it seriously, look good but not trashy and dance without dancing.

The day of the fashion show is when participants realize they have done nothing to actually prepare for the event. At the last minute the decision is usually made for everyone to just wear whatever their parents were able to send them. Some male participants are given leeway on this point and will wear jeans and a button down shirt to reflect the "modern" aspects of Indian culture.

In the end, Indian cultural fashion shows often meet the same outcome. The banter between the two hosts is witless and unbearable; the show itself goes on 15 minutes too long; the audience realizes Indian cultural dress has not changed at all since the last fashion show they saw 6 months earlier.

#41: Bose Speakers

Indians like Bose Speakers somewhat because of their scientific approach to sound and psychoacoustics but mostly because the founder of the Bose corporation is himself an Indian, Amar Bose. However, as of late, their popularity has been waning (see #82).

#82: Bang & Olufsen

Presumably more expensive and exclusive than The Sharper Image, the Scandinavian electronics and lifestyle retailer, Bang & Olufsen, has captured the heart of techie Indians. Why? Because Bose speakers are so 2 years ago.

#76: Taco Bell Fire Sauce

When in fast food restaurants like Taco Bell, Indians like to stock up on condiments and napkins. Not standard condiments like ketchup, mustard or even mayonnaise. No, Indians prefer to grab by the fistful Taco Bell Fire sauce, which they then store in their kitchen drawers at home. Along with soy sauce packets, disposable chopsticks and the occasional sweet and sour.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

#42: Putting "Indian Classical Dance" on Their Resumes

When applying for colleges, med school or jobs, Indians like to list under interests "Indian Classical Dance." Usually this means a couple years of Bharatanatyam training back home in Michigan or an occasional Raas at the Naperville Holi get-together in middle school. 10-15 years later, however, they still consider it an interest and are sure to tell employers, deans or admissions officers so.

#19: Posing in Front of Landmarks with Sunglasses

#14: Throwing it Up in Pictures

#12: Hypnotize

If you're ever around Indians and a laptop you're probably going to hear this song right after we all check our hotmail.

#40: L.A. Looks Hair Gel

#21: Vodka Cranberry

If you ever went to a club with a group of Indians between 2001 and 2004 you definitely witnessed dudes buying Cranberry and Vodka cocktails.

Don't believe us? Check out what comes up when you Google "Cranberry and Vodka."

Thing is you might not have noticed. That's because when ordering or when telling you what they're going to order, Indians will only refer to this drink as a "Vodka Cranberry."

For example:

You: What are you drinking?
Ajay: Vodka Cranberry, dogg!
You: Don't you mean a Cranberry and Vodka?
Ajay: What?
You: Don't you mean you're drinking a Cranberry and Vodka?
Ajay: No.

#3: Oversized GAP Sweatshirts

#55: Group Photos