O Desi! My Desi: We Are Like That Only

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O Desi-Anu_1By Anu Chitrapu
INDIA New England News Columnist

We may live outside India for decades, explore new paths fearlessly, travel the world, build companies, do cutting edge research, speak different languages, wear different clothes•but at the core we have some adorable (at least to us!) Indian traits that will never change. Yes, we are like that only!

The other day we were at a corporate dinner event where they served the most delicious (!) salad and cold sandwiches. Folks were ooing and aahing about how good the sandwiches were, while my husband and I were dreaming of hot rasam with ghee! We just could not figure out how cold sandwiches could be so highly thought of on a rainy, cold New England fall night. Something about us Desis makes us yearn for hot food as soon as the temperature goes below 800F. When we got home we both rushed to the kitchen and ate a plate full of carbohydrate (rice, dal, yogurt), sank into the sofa in a comatose state and agreed that life was good.

I totally blame our genes for the fact that we love to attend events where the food is Indian. Those small, delicate hors d’ouevres are great to look at and all, but our desi stomachs crave more! Double deep fry them and smiles appear on our faces. I’m sure there is a scientific explanation for why the combination of ghee and sugar hits the right spot for us.

We also believe in “value for money” or in other words “paisa vasul” forms the backbone of our lives. But we are not selfish, we share our knowledge of good deals so our friends and family can also enjoy the much loved discounts. One can often see captains of industry driving all the way to Nashua to avoid sales tax on that large screen TV. We are like that only.

We have the fanciest gadgets in our houses and designer furniture that can cost a fortune. And we protect them all with bedsheets from India so they don’t get dirty. So what if there is no dust here to get into our gadgets or cover our furniture — they still need to be protected and kept new looking. We may take them off for certain important guests but definitely not for family. We are like that only.

Reminds me of a good classmate of mine who came to college one day in new American jeans, a new, US brand watch and a Casio calculator. The nerdy girls that we were, we did not give his jeans or watch a second glance but were totally enamored by the calculator! However, there was one problem — this boy never got the calculations correct with the American calculator. Perhaps the fact that he had it covered in plastic and was pressing the numbers over the plastic had something to do with it. But I know the calculator lasted several years! Much like the Angkor Vat temple it remained pristine and protected.

We are also ultimate recyclers. Remember all those yogurt containers that we just did not have the heart to throw away when we first came to this country. Here is the good news, years back you may have been considered cheap for storing your life’s most precious things in them, but today you are a hero for being a responsible recycler! We love houses with basements and attics because then we have the much needed space for the unnecessary things. These could include cute looking bottles, satin ribbon from all the gifts we received through the years, adorable gift bags, multiple versions of knick knacks which we bought because they were on sale and in the hope that our great grandchildren would have a desperate need for them, gifts we received and saved so we can give them to someone, candles that have melted and frozen in our attics and have not seen the light of day but will certainly come in handy some day•yes, we are like that only!

We also have some endearing (yes, endearing) qualities that freak out our non-desi friends. Like leaving the door open and waving goodbye to our guests till they reach the end of the street. Might make people think we are spying on them as they leave our house but the truth is we want to show our affection for them and indicate how much we enjoyed having them over. They may get so freaked out that they never accept dinner invitations again, but don’t worry most will come back because we do have the best cuisine in the world! Our brand new cars may have newspaper on the floor and one may have to sit on plastic covered leather seats which are slippery and uncomfortable, but if someone needs a ride we are the first ones to offer. Yes, we are like that only!

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