Growing up most Indians played a game known as carrom. Some speculate the game has Indian origins while others say Chinese. Either way the edges of brown, ashy fingers from Albuquerque to Agra have hardened on the competitive terrain of the lacquered carrom board.
Analogous to billiards, carrom is distinguished by the use of one's fingers to guide chips into one of four corner pockets. Instead of a cue ball there is a striker; instead of the eight ball there is the queen.
Prior to beginning, the chips, or carrom men, are arranged in the shape of a flower at the center of the table, the queen protected in the middle. Carrom play is initiated with a break. Turns transfer between teams after a missed shot. The team to clear the table of its chips first and sink the queen wins.
The rules of carrom are one thing; the rituals surrounding it are another. Most likely carrom only took on an air of competitive importance during extended trips with one's family back to India. During these stays conversations with cousins, aunties, uncles, mammas, massis, attahs, and aitas rarely extended beyond, "What is the name of your best friend in America?" and "What is the power of your lenses?"
To fill the silence between responses of "John" and "-5 Left, -4.75 Right" you would turn to dubbed episodes of 10 year old English sitcoms, Uno, cricket in the backyard, or, if the hour was late enough, the fluorescent lights humming at the right frequency, the uncles sufficiently tipsy on Johnny Walker Black Label - a family game of carrom.
Following the selection of teams, the ritual of powder begins. Whether for damp feet, prickly heat or chafed skin, Indians believe in the power of powder. The carrom board is doused in talcum powder as players slide the striker across the lacquered wood surface, eyes level with the chips, searching for the evidence to refute Galileo's claim of the impossibility of frictionless motion.
Once the powder is applied and the carrom men perfectly patterned in the center, play begins. A game normally lasts a half hour to 45 minutes as your uncle quickly abandons any pretense of allowing you to win and succumbs to his innate desire to prove he is better than you, and by extension, probably good enough to have made it in America if he had really cared enough to try.
During the game passions will rise, tempers will flare and elderly family members will surround the table exhorting you to "ribbon off the wall, ribbon off the wall!"
"What?" you'll shout in return.
"Rebound it off the wall, stupid," your older sister will say, deigning to pause her NKOTB tape for a second to translate your grandmother's accent.
As you scour the floor on all fours for the chips that fall through holes in the side pocket netting, the game builds toward its inevitable climax: the sideways finger tap for the win. The queen sits exposed in the corner, completely vulnerable to a perfectly placed strike. Everything hangs in the balance. The tea and Haldiram snacks sit unattended on the dining table as family members gather around. Even the gecko crawling up the wall behind the window air-conditioning unit pauses to flick his forked tongue through the tension in the air. You line the shot up, squinting through your thick lenses. Index finger cocked beneath your pointer you release and tighten your shoulders at the sound of the collective intake of breath. Doonk. Tapped on the side by the striker, the queen snuggles up against the rail, coasts on a film of powder and slides gracefully in and out of the pocket.
The other team cleans up your mess. You lose. Your parents smile, but in their eyes you see what they're thinking. "I'd never miss that. Kids born in America are just too soft. Are those jeans from Old Navy? My God."
Nice game. We'll play again tomorrow, everyone seems to say. You smile, secretly dreading the rekindled embarrassment and waiting for the feeling to come back to your rosy fingers fluttering hardened, brown and ashy in the air.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Growing up most Indians played a game known as carrom. Some speculate the game has Indian origins while others say Chinese. Either way the edges of brown, ashy fingers from Albuquerque to Agra have hardened on the competitive terrain of the lacquered carrom board.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Although most indians enjoy Robin Thicke (with or without Lil' Wayne), the shooters we're discussing take place in different kinds of bars. The bars where arms are raised, vodka crannberries are served 7 at a time, and Manpreet has the first round of shooters.
Don't confuse Shooters with "shots" either. That mistake will get you left behind at Bullfeathers. Shooters (pronounced: Shoodhers) encompass a lifestyle that is fast and more importantly, sexy. The club is sexy, the building is sexy, the jeans are sexy, The Bata Chappals are sexy, The Bata Keds are sexy, the pool table is sexy, the Thel (Hair oil) is sexy, and shooters? Shooters are toppers in sexy, yaar.
When people start taking shooters, stand near them, yell a little, and get ready to have a great time. Once shooters are introduced, all worries (especially monetary) are dumped out like day-old daal. Shooters, besides making everything sexy, introduce a round of posing with alcohol, shaking priyas, and, of course, more shooters.
It only takes one person to raise the level of the entire party. Follow your senior quote, and be the change that says:
Manpreet: 15 kamikaze shooters please.
Manpreet: 15 Kamikaze shooters!!!
Bartender: You want 15 kamikaze shots.
Manpreet: 17 kamikazes and 1 lemon drop. Priya just came and 112 is about to play.
You know who "that guy" is. That Guy is the guy that points out the typos in your email. That guy is the one who takes off his shirt in social situations. That guy is the guy that calls phantom fouls during a pick-up game of basketball.
Perhaps more so than any other ethnic group Indians like to be That Guy. On average, the That Guy Percentage (TGP) of any population, say white Americans, is at 10 %. For Indians, however, the TGP reaches at least 25%. That means next time you are in a group of at least 4 Indian people one of you is most likely That Guy. If you can't pinpoint him, I'm sorry to say it's you.
Here's a quick test to check if you are in fact That Guy:
Immediately following the countdown to midnight on December 31, 1999 you:
A) Kissed and embraced a love one
B) Called a family member to wish them Happy New Year
C) Poured yourself another glass of whiskey and coke
D) Lectured everyone around you that the true millennium wasn't actually until 2001 since there was no year 0
When playing flag football with friends and someone is minorly injured with a jammed finger you:
A) Stop play and go to get help
B) Continue to play and encourage your friend to first north side walk it out, then south side walk it out.
C) Do nothing since the only sports you play are tennis and debate
E) Rip your shirt sleeve to form a brace and use your 6 months of first year medical school training to stabilize the neck and bark orders for saline solution.
To keep yourself entertained in the waiting room of a doctor's office you:
A) Read through whatever periodical is near you
B) Should probably see a patient since you're Indian and most likely the doctor
C) Strike up conversation with the person to your left
D) Go through your cell phone's entire library of ring tones at maximum volume
When prompted for a senior quote for your high school yearbook you:
A) Instinctively pick your favorite lyric from a Dave Matthews Band song
B) Decline since you spent most of senior year taking advanced calculus at the community college down the street
C) Thank all your friends, family, teachers and coaches
D) Google Gandhi quotes online and settle on something about being the change you want to see in the world
When out to a group dinner at Cheesecake Factory and the bill arrives you:
A) Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom
B) Offer to pay for everything on your parents' Master Card
C) Patiently wait until you are told how much to contribute and dutifully chip in
D) Excuse yourself to go the bathroom and when you return explain that you didn't have any of the calamari appetizers and only ate half your turkey burger entree but since you just evacuated most of it in the restroom you shouldn't really have to pay anything at all.
If you selected D in response to any of the questions above, congratulations, you are That Guy for your group of friends. Raise the roof in celebration of your achievement because if you're That Guy, you probably do that a lot, too.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Indians like to give the impression of living the good life, or "ballin'." They do this by going to expensive clubs, wearing designer labels and, of course, standing next to bottles of over-priced alcohol.
For those in the finance community the term most often used to describe this pattern of delusional behavior is "Models and Bottles," where models are the 4 other Indian guys you go to the club with and Bottles are $200 props to authenticate your Damon Dash.
Posing next to different alcohol gives people unique impressions of your personality. Holding a bottle of Glenlivet, for example, says, "I'm a rowdy guy but I'm too mature for reckless behavior. Talk to me and I'll probably listen a lot since I have nothing much to say." Holding a jug of Skol, on the other hand, tells the people around you, "Don't get too close to me; I have very little left to lose." A handle of Jack distinctly says, "Help."
If at any point you find yourself in a social situation surrounded by sweaty Indian guys you can always resort to alcohol as a social lubricant. Not only drinking alcohol but also discussing it moistens the brow of most Indian men as they animatedly speak in depth about the differences between Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie. If you smile and nod at their anecdotes of the time they vomited in the backseat of their parents' minivan after a wedding in Indianapolis you will in short order be trading slaps on the back and snapping pictures next to bottles of alcohol you chipped in no more than $10 to buy.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Indians like spicy food. Open up the medicine cabinet of any Indian, check out their plentiful stock of Immodium tablets, and you'll understand this. Venture into the kitchen and any persistent doubts will be addressed. There are peppers in the fridge, taco bell fire sauce packets in the drawer and in the cupboard, standing at attention like a captured POW showing courage under fire, a bottle of the green tabasco sauce they stole from the fast food chain Chipotle.
We amend what we said in an earlier post about the Indian community's tacit allowance of negative stereotypes of the community to persist on TV and in movies.
Turns out Indians will grab placards and head to the picket line like an overpaid television writer when their culture is offended. According to recent reports, Hindus around the world have spoken out against the new Mike Myer's movie "Love Guru," prompting Paramount, the film's distributor, to screen the film for Hindu advocacy groups in America.
On leap day we took a big leap forward from our normally apathetic viewpoints and posted a post about "Love Guru." Indians won't object to this perpetuation of Eastern mysticism or the sexualized orient , we surmised.
Like the act of letting your kids run on to the dais during a Hindu wedding ceremony, we were so wrong. Apologies for assuming your political apathy, Indian community. Apologies for perpetuating the stereotype that you just don't care.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
If you've ever been to an Indian household you've noticed the stack of Newsweek Magazines sitting on an otherwise unused chair in the corner of the kitchen. Though these magazines are rarely read they allow the Indian subscriber to feel that he or she (almost always a he) is doing his best to keep in touch with the world. The same can be said for unread editions of The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, which occupy other corners of the home in similarly untouched piles.
Additional reasons why Indians have so many Newsweek magazines lying around include: The male figure of the household cancelled his subscription to Time Magazine because Joe Klein's columns became increasingly burdened with an inside-the-beltway perspective on the political process; the male figure of the household bought 5 subscriptions so his child would win his or her elementary school's magazine drive competition; the male figure of the household brings older issues of Newsweek Magazine home after the new one arrives in the waiting room of his Neurology practice.
One would assume for a group of people so in tune with the principles of economics (quick, ask the next Indian guy you meet who went to the University of Pennsylvania what he majored in) Indians would understand the law of diminishing marginal utility. Good news or bad news is only news if it's new. Old Newsweeks are worth no more than the paper they're printed on past the built-in shelf life of, well, one week.
However, you can take advantage of the Indian proclivity for collecting issues of Newsweek by resorting to it as a topic when you're next involved in an awkward conversation with an older Indian male, such as a father-in-law or...father. It can go something like this:
Older Indian: So what are your plans for the future? Will you be attending graduate school?
You: Um, I'm not really sure. I'd like to keep my options open for the moment. I want to know where my passion lies before committing to a course of study for the rest of my life.
Older Indian: I see. That is the problem with your generation. You place too much emphasis on passions and fashions. Not enough focus on pensions and mansions like me and your parents.
A silence creeps in as the sound from the television in the next room can be heard. The older Indian man checks his watch. You feel your dowry slipping away.
You: Did you read about Bernanke's plans to ease the economic downturn by increasing the percentage of interest rate cuts throughout the next fiscal quarter in the latest issue of Newsweek?
Older Indian: The issue on news stands now?
You: Oh, I don't know, my family subscribes.
Older Indian: I subscribe too!
You: What a coincidence! My dad still has the one with Padma Lakshmi and India on the cover.
Older Indian: Haha. Can you blame him? She's a fox.
You: She sure is, Dr. Gupta.
Older Indian: Please, Chiragh. Call me dad. Soon you'll be marrying my daughter. You are practically family now.
Dowry saved. Crisis averted. Thank you, Newsweek.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Though Indians like working with numbers (civil engineering, making change at Citgo), their favorite subset of mathematics is the order of operations. As you know, the order of operations states that while solving an equation you move from left to right, solving first numbers within parentheses, then exponents, those involved in multiplication and division next, and finally numbers being added and subtracted. In elementary school children across the world learn the order of operations with the acronym PEM DAS, which is the name of a Bengali graduate student living in Massachusetts who TA's at MIT for a course in sinusoidal oscillations.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
If you're Indian you know the uniform for Fobbed Out Cool: Sun specs, leather jacket (collar popped or thrown over the shoulder), slicked back pompadour, matching bracelet charm, yellow socks, loafers, facial hair, come-hither look, and sleeveless tee tucked into (what else?) straight-leg, black, classic-fit, semi-washed Bugle Boy Jeans.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Learning how to swim is a right of passage for Indians whose parents raise them in America. Along with tennis, piano, violin, ballet and SAT test prep, Indians must also start their careers of over-achieving young and in the pool.
Indian girls, however, usually grow into the stronger swimmers of the community because not only do they have to bear the weight of their parents' expectations while free-styling through the water but also the extra 8 lbs of the wet cotton t shirt their father forces them to wear over their bathing suits in public.
Yeah, Naveen Andrews is the Indian guy that plays the Iraqi torturer, Sayid, on Lost. He was also Jodie Foster's boyfriend that got murdered in The Brave One. Not to mention he stole the show in Bombay Boys, starred in the incredible Buddha of Suburbia and shared a love scene with the inimitable Juliet Binoche in the English Patient. He's also dating a white lady 21 years older than him and at the age of 16 fell in love with his math teacher Geraldone "Feak in the Sheets" Feakins who bore his child in 1992. And we thought showing your butt in Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love was scandalous, Naveen.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
As a result of the inherent Indian-to-Indian courtesy, Indian grocers employ a no-pressure return policy on the Hindi movies rented out. Of course, giving that inch ends up costing them a mile, because with no motivation to return the movie, the customer tends to forget to include that into his/her list of priorities.
Let's say Dinesh rents Saathiya out to Gopal, with a "soft" rental period of 7 days. There are no late fees, so Gopal can take a relaxed approach and can watch the movie at his own pace (preferably after watching The Darjeeling Limited, since that's due back at Blockbuster tomorrow). He finally gets around to watching it with one day left on his rental period. He's fine - he can just take it back the next day, pleasantly surprising Dinesh with his responsibility.
But uh oh. He really liked the movie. Now he wants to watch the songs the next day. And now Gopal's teenage daughter expresses an interest in watching it. Oh well, just another day. Dinesh will get over it.
However, with the extra day to think, Gopal mulls over the option of recording the movie. But he can't do it today; he has errands to run. But he's free the next day. He surmises that he's late in returning the movie anyway, so another extra day is not going to kill Dinesh. He doubts Dinesh even cares.
Meanwhile, Dinesh is back at the store, apologizing to Chetan (who went to pick up some daal and squash), who now wants to rent Saathiya. Speaking in a resigned tone, Dinesh tells Chetan that it was due back two days ago. Chetan leaves slightly disappointed. A few seconds later, Dinesh remembers that the movie was rented to the notoriously-lax Gopal. He sighs, shakes his head, and goes back to re-stocking the curry paste.
Unfortunately, things get busy at the Gopal household. He ends up not being able to record the movie because he forgot to pick up some chili peppers (fortunately, you can get that at the regular grocery store, and don't have to awkwardly sneak in and out of the Indian store, hoping Dinesh's wife is at the counter instead of Dinesh). The next day, his son has a dentist appointment. His IT job has a late meeting. So
on and so forth. Days become weeks, and Gopal's possession of Saathiya becomes a distant memory.
By the time Gopal remembers to return the movie, Dinesh has already ordered another copy, and Gopal is now too embarrassed to rent future movies while Dinesh is there. For a while, he'll sweet-talk Dinesh's wife into renting him movies, but will eventually start shopping/renting at the newly-opened Indian grocery store closer to his house.
Gopal can now leave his rental-reputation behind and start fresh.
As if getting into medical school wasn't hard enough - 4 years of undergraduate classes, physics, bio and organic chemistry labs, the MCATs. And medical school wasn't completely taxing - no summers, incomprehensible amounts of information, incessant testing. Indians looking to satisfy their parents' deepest, most passionate desires for their children to become doctors must also contend with the nightmare of residency matching.
Because Matching is such a tense process endured by so many of our better looking, smarter, more successful and healthier South Asian peers, Match Day itself becomes an unofficial holiday for Indians that we are going to call St. Matchtick's Day, since after all it is in March and if you're celebrating you're probably heading to a Catholic institution of some sort like Sacred Heart, Mt. Sinai, St. Ann's, the hellish depths of Cooke County or the Holy Mayo Clinic.
And as we've learned, Indians need very little occasion to celebrate. So here's to you St. Matchstick's Day 2008. Let's celebrate the massive responsibility of holding in our hands the fate of the sick and dying at a club with one name and a laminated party promo touting the health benefits of cranberry based cocktails in a fusion themed lounge! Happy St. Matchtick's Day!
Every Indian girl has seen the movie Monsoon Wedding, directed by Mira Nair. Many even loved it. Chances are three out of five times you will find a DVD case for Monsoon Wedding sitting on an Indian girl's shelves between copies of the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries starring Colin Firth, Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her, 10 Things I Hate About You and Sex and the City Season 5.
Though not as critically acclaimed as Nair's other work such as Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala, Monsoon Wedding is probably the auteur's most widely enjoyed film. Centered around an upper middle class family in India, Monsoon Wedding follows the story of a family's preparation for a marriage and the social and political ramifications such a momentous event has on the personal relationships of everyone involved. It is at times broad comedy and at others community commentary. It is nearly always, though, visually stunning and beautifully conceived.
Too bad the same can't be said for Kal Penn's butt in the Namesake.
Ornamentation is an inescapable part of Indian culture. Girls get bengals, earrings, bracelets and rings. Even men get in on the gilded goodies, sporting necklaces and charms of their own. For the Indian male that's not into Bombay blinging with gold watches and silver chains, though, the options are pretty limited for bodily adornment.
That's why some guys look forward to Raksha Bandhan - an excuse to get something kind of fly to rock around your wrist. A Hindu festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters, Raksha Bandhan is commemorated with the tying of a rakhi, or holy string, around the wrist of the brother. The rakhi itself is usually a red thread of a material courser than ribbon yet finer than yarn. It's rugged yet austere form make it an ideal accessory for an Indian male looking to add some flavor to his forearm without venturing down the road of emo sweat bands or Diesel watches.
Rakhi also allows you to hold up your wrist and shrug a feigned apology when your relatives in India gift you with bracelets, charms and amulets you'd never dare wear outside of the Fancy Bazaar in Guwahati. "Sorry, auntie," it lets you say, "I'd totally wear that silver bangle with the Sanskrit word for emu engraved on it and the sterling mesh dangling from its sides, but I wouldn't want to desecrate the rakhi's importance on my arm."
Unfortunately, as with all material attachments, those who commit to the rakhi must also face the painful day when it disintegrates in the shower. As you watch the red thread, fraught with religious significance and fashionable appeal, stick in the hair catcher your dad puts over the drain to protect the pipes from your sister's shedding mane, you ask yourself the same, burning question: when's the next first full moon in the month of Shraavana so I can get this rakhi tied again?
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Before Priyas shake, Priyas dine. And so hitting the pre-club dinner spot with the desi squad (d-unit) finds its place in most Saturday evenings. On those rare occasions when Indians are not in the mood for Taco Bell, a proper sit-down restaurant is the obvious choice. Dinner goes great: we go straight in and order the entrees - god(s) forbid sharing appetizers when you're with Nabil who doesn't eat pork, Roshni who doesn't eat any meat, and Karan who only eats paneer (and still wonders why his farts smell like he made it with a dead fish).
After the meal, a couple saki-bombs and no dessert (Nidhi has a 3-year old tub of butter pecan ice cream at home), we're ready for the check.
Then the games begin. Calculators are drawn, wallets disappear, and Rajesh's drunk ass claims that he only had a sip of saki (which he values at $2.50). After the initial melee subsides, Vijay, that guy who works in finnnnhance and insists on doing a DCF on the bill, diligently calculates how much everyone owes and collects accordingly. At last, we hear the dreaded, but inevitable words:
"We're $10 short."
Everything changed, however, when Structure fettered its doors and reopened under the flashier, more metro name Express. Now, instead of going business casual with cardigans from Eddie Bauer or pea coats from J. Crew, Indians could fully express themselves with the electric blue button down tucked into stretch black dress pants topped off with a pair of black Sketcher shoes.
To make things even more convenient for the up-and-coming bhangra banger, Express placed accessories such as blue-tinted sunglasses, shell necklaces and brown leather bracelets near the check-out line to satisfy those last minute questions of, "Is this white blazer desi champ enough?"
It goes without saying that most Indians like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and that they'll probably line up to check out its upcoming sequel which hits multiplexes soon. They love Kal Penn and maybe even Jon Cho. They saw the movie with their Indian roommates and afterward joked about roadtripping to the nearest White Castle to buy a case of sliders and a brick of cheeba.
As if a stoner comedy that could appeal to the masses without reducing its Asian and South Asian American leads to stereotypes wasn't enough of a godsend to Indians, the team that brought us Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle are about to drop a sequel blatantly wrought with contemporary political relevence: Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.
Holy Krishna, Indians are thinking to themselves at this point. A mainstream comedy about the racial profiling of South Asians by an American Homeland Security Department too dense to process the differences between potential Al Qeada operatives and a Punjabi grandfather who wears a turban for religious purposes? This is going to be both hilarious and vindicating! The people who write this stuff must be completely in tune with the mentality of South Asians to tackle such a complex topic with humor and grace!
Um, except not. The people who write Harold and Kumar seem to be the least Korean and Indian people on the face of this Earth. Their names are Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. No disrespect to Mr. Hurwitz and Mr. Schlossberg's merits as screen writers, but it seems like in a world of 2 billion people on the continent of Asia probability would be in our favor that at least 1 or 2 Indian dudes would be able to write Kal bhai some jokes. What would NPH do?
Unless you're a color blind post-racialist that votes for change, you've probably noticed that a majority of the people making your sandwiches at Subway and Blimpies are Indian. Never mind that many of the Indians that own and operate these franchises don't eat meat, they'll still slap some turkey breast, ham, roast beef, and chicken terriyaki on a french onion roll with enough craftsmanship and heart to keep you coming back for more.
Like the great businessman Henry Ford in whose footsteps they follow, industrious Indians that run these sandwich shops employ the efficient assembly line model of manufacturing. One foot-long sandwich ordered at a Subway counter will touch the hands of no less than 8 Indians as they lovingly add provolone cheese, lettuce ,tomatoes, onions, honey mustard, bell peppers, light mayonnaise, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar and oregano to your 12 inches of grade-c meat and empty calories.
Why are Indians drawn to franchising sandwich shops, you might ask yourself. Is it the relative security of the investment? The low barriers to entry? The absence of opportunities open to immigrants in professional fields? Naw, it's just because Indians like to make some mean sammiches. Case in point, this You Tube video courtesy of master chef Ravish Chauhan, from his Indian cooking show presumably called "Chow Down with Chauhan." Bam!
Oh yeah, as if it weren't enough to unfold March 11's issue of India Abroad and read all about the announcement of the Indian Premier League, the country's biggest foray into regional, organized cricket competition, great news got better when we found out Shahrukh's team would be based in Kolkata.
For anyone not familiar with the Indian Premier League, you should probably read about it somewhere else since we only follow cricket on an international level and really only when it matters. From what we gather, though, the IPL is the Indian equivalent of one of those European soccer leagues where a handful of teams rile up regional passions in an area already dangerously divided by geography and language. The matches are reasonably short, which will give spectators plenty of time to riot and loot following major upsets and questionable officiating.
Big name owners of the clubs include Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, Preity Zinta of Dil Chahta Hai and Shahruhk Khan, whose latest starring role was probably in your hot, sweaty dreams. The names selected for the teams seem to reflect their owners' personalities.
Ambani's team is the Mumbai Indians. A conservative choice for a conservative businessman. Mohali's team, a region near Punjab, is owned by Preity Zinta and appropriately called Mohali. A vapid choice for an equally vacuous actress. Shahruhk, however, has proven in the naming of his team why he is such a Bollywood baller. Ladies and gentlemen, King Khan presents The Kolkata Knight Riders.
Yup, he's done it again. Into a league with the Bangalore Royal Challengers, the Chennai Super Kings, the Delhi Daredevils, and the Jaipur Rajasthan Royals, SRK has the audacity to bring a team named after a 1980s American television show starring David Hasselhoff. Sometimes globalization is kind of awesome.
Even more awesome, though, is the Kolkata Knight Riders' fight song (above video), which includes the lines ""We're too hot (too hot) / we're too cool (too cool)/ We are Kolkata, we rule!" Even the team's website looks like a modified trailer for the movie 300. So starting in April join billions around the world in cheering on your favorite team of the Indian Premier League and maybe even following along in a Cricket Fantasy League. We recommend taking Sourav Ganguly in the first round. He bowls a wicked peach.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Nose rings hold an interesting place in the Indian community. According to the practices of Ayurvedic medicine, nose ring piercings on either the right or left nostril (depending on your location and beliefs) positively affect the health and fecundity of the female reproductive organs. In the 16th century Indian culture also valued the nose ring as both a mark of beauty and an homage to the goddess Parvathi.
In America, however, nose rings carry the same connotation as other non-ear piercings. They are symbols of rebellion and counter-cultural behavior often associated with hippies and punks.
This creates a paradox of identity for the Indian girl in America. On the one hand, if she gets a nose ring, other Indians will presume she has been co-opted by American anti-authoritarian individuality. She will then have to play up the nose ring's traditional relevance to Indian culture.
On the other hand, if she gets a nose ring, white girls will think she did so because she is a traditional Indian girl who seriously commits to all the tenets of her upbringing. She will then have to play up the nose ring's rebellious connotations to re-affirm in her friends' eyes that she is in fact a bad ass.
Therefore, if you are an Indian and your Indian friend gets a nose ring, be sure to tell her how nice and organic it looks. If you are non-Indian and your Indian friend gets a nose ring, be sure to tell her how hard it makes her seem. Then buy her an Ani DiFranco CD and smile when she shows you her "art".
Monday, March 10, 2008
Amrica is the popular conception of the United States to some Indians abroad. Where as America is a location, Amrica is a state of mind. To Indians Amrica stretches from New Jersey to Chicago and calls its capital Toronto. George Bush is its President and shakes the hand of every Sikh businessman who travels to Amrica, snaps a picture and displays the photo in the conference room of his Mumbai offices. Gods bless Amrica.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
As if every Indian mom didn't already want her daughter to marry a doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has sealed the deal. Not only is he a CNN and Time Magazine correspondent, a professor at Emory University, and head of neurosurgery at an Atlanta hospital, but he attended University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, assuring that he's hit up more than a few Indian Student Association parties and probably danced with his hands up in the air and definitely owns striped button downs.
The promise of scoring a man like the good doctor, with a thick head of hair to rival Shahrukh Khan's to match, has all the girls hitting up the Biology majors while studying in the science library with high hopes and copies of Time magazine tucked under their arm. Maybe no one sent the memo that Sanjay actually did what every Indian girl secretly fears - married a white girl. Time to look harder at the library.
Leave it to purveyors of Indian DVDs, as scrupulous a group as a flotilla of Spanish conquistadores, to audaciously sell you bootlegged movies with the anti-piracy previews still attached. Bollywood, please understand, tell Shahruhk, Amitabh, Akshay, Rani, and Abhishek to stop lecturing us. We don't want to steal your movies; Indian DVD merchants just don't want to sell us the real ones.
How many times have you pleaded with the store clerk, "Please, just sell me a real DVD that doesn't only work on a Zone 3 Fujitsu player. I want the real thing with the packaging and everything. I'll pay you more just to avoid the VCD you throw into a jewel case. Just please give me a DVD that WORKS!" They indulge your concerns, waddle their heads in empathy and assure you this disc here is the #1, tip-top, real thing, boss.
When you get home, though, and throw that DVD in your player, you know your worst fears are about to be confirmed. That whirring-clicking sound never lies as your $200 Sony deck tells you, "This DVD ain't real. You got robbed. Again."
Say lady luck still finds you attractive and you actually make it to the title menu of Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Good luck with those subtitles. DVD extras are an empty promise on Hindi DVDs as Pratuls in basements from Mumbai to Queens to Schaumburg to Houston fire up their iMacs and churn out hundreds of superficial copies of Om Shanti Om. What does it matter? You're going to buy it, and they're going to get paid.
So this one's for you, Eros Entertainment INC, located at 550, County Avenue, Secaucus, NJ, phone number (201) 558 - 9001. Stop selling garbage DVDs with faulty subtitles.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Before Yash Raj created a monopoly over Indian blockbusters, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar was the original movie that captured the hearts of Indians everywhere. Girls sang along to Pehla Nasha and dreamed of their Aamir every night, and this number was a staple for Indian wedding dances for years to come:
Friday, March 7, 2008
These are the tracks at the club that get Indians riled up. When the first decibel of that first thundering bass beat reverberates through the corpus callosum of the collective consciousness of the club, Priyas will shake, and Ameets will threaten your loved ones
1. What's my motherf**cking name! A-J-U-L
Very few things warm the heart like a line of Indian girls in unison dropping delicate, elegant 'bows.
2. So So Desh
Watch out if they play this track at your weekend Desi Club Party because you're walking out with Vodka Cranberry all over your buttoned down shirt.
3. Pyar Kiya Hai?
How are you going to expect Indians to avoid a sweaty freak out when a woman named Aashanti hits the tables? Perhaps no other pop moment allows Indian boys to fulfill their completely constructed notions of sweaty masculinity better than the guttural refrain "Got to doo, Got to doo, with it, uh."
4. Feel a Little Pak Coming Through
Pick the wrong Shruti to dance up on with this track and you're probably going home with a black eye courtesy of an Indian named Bhavesh, but who's going by Bud.
5. Yesh You Do
Fellas, move away from the dance floor at all costs when Ursher's opening mantra hits the PA. Get a drink, check your voice mail, sext message Payal, or franchise a Subway. Just don't find yourself occupying prime club real estate when these synth riffs spread like chutney, and every Indian girl in the venue breaks into a version of the same choreographed Fusion routine they put together to this track for the 2004 SASA cultural show. Just stand back and appreciate that you made it out alive.
6. As Lester Freamon would say, The Head Shot
It doesn't matter if you're in mid-conversation, embroiled in violent fisticuffs or OD'ing on mango lassi in the bathroom. When this song hits - you. will. dance. Most likely with your arms up. Most likely in a circle full of guys. Balle, balle!
For those Indians who want more than a silver medal for proving the theorem of imaginary numbers (i) but less than strenuous, physical activity, there is the "sport" of annoyance and argumentation - debate. You knew the Indian kids in your high school that "played" debate because on the Friday before big Saturday meets they would walk through the halls with a portable filing case and a varsity jacket sporting the "letter" they earned for talking fast amongst the best of them.
You also probably knew them because they ate lunch in that little debate office fashioned out of a broom closet, and now they're the 3rd years at Columbia Law School you go to when you're having problems with your Greek landlord in your dilapidated tenement apartment.
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and fighting when young Indians get together at an Indian-majority party (sporting the ubiquitous party-top/patterned shirt). It seems rather strange, given that the previous generation of Indians preferred to resolve their conflicts through gossip (airing other kids' inferior SAT scores, Yasmin's movie, etc.) and/or exclusion. In contrast, this generation's conflict-resolution preferences are far more aggressive. Furthermore, these fights only occur at large Indian gatherings, and never at ethnically-diverse parties where a subgroup of Indians happen to be.
So how do such conflicts start? This would best be illustrated through a completely fictional example.
Let's take a fictional guy. Ameet*. Let's say he's from, oh, Gujarat, and grew up in, let's say, Schaumburg, IL. Ameet ends up at a Big Ten school, where he meets a girl he likes: Anjali. Anjali likes him at first, but ultimately drops him into the dreaded friendzone. Naturally, Ameet is crushed.
Ameet then does some soul-searching to possibly figure out why the object of his affection does not reciprocate his feelings. He erroneously concludes that his diminuitive stature must be the reason. Ameet's bitterness envelops him, and he spirals into a full-fledged Napoleon Complex.
Now, since he has to settle with being friends with Anjali, he decides that if he can't have her romantically, no one can. So at the next party (which inexplicably takes place in a barn), when prospective suitors come her way, he'll push them away, talking about, "No, she's like my sister, dogg; you can't dance with her." Sometimes, they'll ignore him and continue to woo Anjali. This enrages Ameet. He then proceeds to round up his friends of similar maturity and hairstyle (perhaps they too have had the same experience with Anjali) and attack the suitor. This occurs a few more times at future parties and with other prospective suitors.
The fights don't last long, but the damage is done. Anjali no longer likes Ameet, but stays friends with him out of guilt. Ameet has fully descended into the Dark Side, and is now primarily known campus-wide (perhaps Big Ten-wide) as Petite Ameet - the guy with the Napoleon Complex that always starts fights at parties with his "Desi Champ" friends. A crying shame.
And so every Indian Party has a Petite Ameet-type tragic hero. Their reasons for rousing rabble are resultant of varying insecurities, but the results are the same: unnecessary fights, generally over women they cannot have, but feel compelled to "protect". It is simply a sad state of affairs.
Beware of Petite Ameets.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Admit it, when you hear that an acquaintance/friend put up a profile on Indiandating.com, a part of you chuckles a bit. "Heh," you think. "I'd never join a dating site - it has too much of a biodata feel. And dating on the Internet? Kinda creepy."
But then you turn around and get all hyper on facebook. Updating your interests to reflect your new-found passion for female south Asian writers. Tagging yourself on the good photographs from this past weekend's party (with you in a party top/patterned shirt). Un-tagging the sucky ones. Writing a witty blurb about yourself in which you want to appear intelligent, but not presumptuous about it. All profiles adhere to this principle - have a good picture of yourself as your main one, and have some in which you're doing something funny or unique, to show that you have a light side too.
So why all this effort?
Because you have the same thing in mind as your Indiandating.com friend. You just haven't admitted it yet. You know this isn't all just to amuse your friends. Proclaim all you want, "Oh, I'm only here for friends and activity partners," but you know you secretly hope that prince(ss) charming pokes you at some point. You obviously didn't join groups like "Desi Diva Model" or "Hottest Indian Girls" for the intellectual stimulation. You're looking for lahoo (that's Hindi for "love").
No matter how many devastating losses a high-school-aged Indian has faced preceding the exam, (ex. getting second place in Mathcounts, receiving a 4 in the Physics IIC AP exam sophomore year, or suffering a loss in the state Tennis tournament) Indians look to the SAT as a forum for redemption. With such heavy stakes, Indians often prepare years in advance to ensure optimal performance.
In the days before the exam, an Indian may say, "I haven't studied at all" or "I've got to cram this week." This is a lie. In truth, the average Indian family will have spent ~$5,000 per child on Kaplan courses, Barron's study-guides, and one-on-one study sessions with an SAT expert in the months preceding the PSAT. The levels of spending, studying and mental exuberance in advance of the real SAT is even greater. If you come across an Indian who delivers a similar line, the best thing to say is "me too" so they can confirm that they are better-prepared than you. Any other response will engender several follow-up questions until they are sufficiently satisfied that you don't know something that they know.
A brief study of the standardized test section of the ancient Indian scrolls contains the SAT scoring breakdown:*
0-1490: Don't tell anyone about your score or that you even took the exam in the first place. Disgraceful.
1500-1590: If your score definitively beat any Indian within a 100-mile radius, you may reveal your score to the Indian public.
1600: Congratulations, you are the greatest Indian in your age-group! Your mother and father have achieved parental superstardom. Be sure to bring up your score at least twice per conversation for the next 3 years. Have your parents open a call-center to inform friends, family and other pitiful competitors. If there is another perfect scorer in your community, don't forget to comment about how socially awkward that person is."
Though some Indians achieve the pinnacle of SAT greatness, most fall into the first two buckets. These underachieving overachievers have three options with regards to the SAT: (1) redouble efforts and take the test again in secret, (2) never speak of the test again, or (3) lie about the score so that they are 10 points above their nearest Indian counterpart.
However, in most cases, these Indians concede SAT victory and look to their next competitive bible:
*Please note that the scoring corresponds to the old SAT scoring format as the scrolls have not been updated to reflect this change.
Indians, or more specifically Indian parents, love maths. For the uninitiated, maths is not the same as math.
Math is what you do at the grocery store when you try to quickly give the cashier 3 pennies on a $4.98 charge so you don't have to get more Lincolns to carry around in your pocket.
Maths, on the other hand, are high-level, epileptic fit-inducing mental acrobatics. Like the kind involving linear regression, time series and multivariable calculus that your cousin is studying at the Milwaukee Area Technical College as part of the deal he struck with your parents to sponsor his student visa.
Not all Indians are vegetarian. In fact, a majority aren't, but for some reason it seems like a large portion of the Indian community does not eat meat. Maybe it's just the Gujaratis, or the Jains, or the Gujarati Jains that are skewing the statistics.
Within those vegetarians there's a group that confuses the rest of us Indians. They are the vegetarians that still eat fish. Don't ask them to justify their diet according to logic, scripture or even a made-up allergy to protein. To them cows are sacred, chickens can't be touched, lambs are creatures of honor and goats are solely meant for milk. But fish? Fuck those motherfuckers.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Every Indian who has crossed the Atlantic Ocean on Air India Flight #158 from Heathrow to JFK has been to Niagara Falls. They bought the yellow plastic parkas; they went to Ripley's Believe It or Not; and they probably posed in a barrel pretending to go over the edge into the rapids below. Of course, they also took some pictures.
And as we know, any time you have that many Indians in one place, someone with a lot of hair gel and an FCUK shirt is going to start a fight. This time with a tire iron, and this time against a geriatric foe.
Indians like sandalwood. They like its texture; they like its malleability; they like its smell. They also like buying dozens of cheap souvenirs made from sandalwood while in India to give as gifts to American friends upon their return. They do this because the intricate carving of a sandalwood fish within a sandalwood fish often gives the false impression of value and sincerity.
If you've ever visited the home of an Indian friend or relative you've probably stumbled upon the Secret Pooja Room. The SPJ is usually located in the attic; a remote, spare bedroom or somewhere in the basement where its alarming size won't frighten casual visitors.
While some Indian families have small altars to gods in a kitchen cupboard others have actual square feet dedicated to idols, flower petals, incense and cracked coconuts located either in a closet or on a raised brick ledge before a fireplace.
No matter what your background or your degree of religious fervor, it is always jarring to stumble unknowingly into the Secret Pooja Room.