Being Desi

I am from a country of many races, prejudices, generalizations, and communities. But when we leave the country to be in another land, we are one. Hell, we are not just one with people from the other states of India; we are one with our neighboring countrymen too. And this includes Pakistanis as well. All of us together are the desis.

And the rest of the world hates us. The general belief is that desis are loud, garish, smelly, cheap, hagglers, and tend to form clans.

Like with all generalizations, while some of these maybe true for some people, all of these definitely do not apply to all the people. But every time I introduce myself to someone new, be it on the phone or in person, I see him/her do a quick mental checklist of all of the above qualifiers. Every time, I have had to prove myself to be a nicer person than what one expected me to be. It takes me several meetings to prove that I am dignified enough to speak softly, I bathe every day and do not drown myself in smelly curry at every meal time, I can pay for my own coffee and maybe yours too, and I can be friends with people from different cultures. Once I am done proving, they tell me “Oh you are not very Indian, are you?”

Damn it!

It is a lot of hard work and often I do not give two hoots. But sometimes, I really need other people to give me a chance. What do I when people refuse to rent a house to me or when a posh nanny refuses to talk further after realizing that I am “not an expat,” but just an Indian? I do not have multiple chances with these individuals to prove my cleanliness and such. I wish there was an elevator speech for the purpose, but spouting my bath schedule will not do the trick, I think.

Oh, and the expat thing. Since I have moved away from my home country and have taken residence in a foreign land, I am an expatriate in all senses of the word. However, in Singapore, when someone says expat, they mean “white-guy.” And white, my dear friends, is not (just) the color of the skin. A white person is filthy rich, gets an inflated salary for doing the same job as the browns and the yellows, and is usually more worldly. This ensures that the said landlord or posh nanny can ask for more money. What will a cheap desi pay in comparison?

I was asked just yesterday, “But can you pay my price?” by the posh nanny. Truth of the matter is that I cannot pay $2000 a month to the posh nanny. So she weren’t really asking the wrong question but I know for a fact that there are many of my westerner friends and acquaintances, who are considered the true expats in Singapore, who won’t pay this price as well. But no nanny, however posh, will ask them this question. Especially, right at the beginning of a conversation.

Well, having vented about how desis are treated, it is only fair that I now talk about how we treat others, for we are no better.

We leave our country to come make a better life in another country but we do not respect the people of that country. I will confine my examples to Singapore, though you could fit those to anywhere else to the tee. Desis in Singapore do not like anything Singaporean – the food, the lifestyle, the language, the people. So why on earth did we leave our dear homeland and come here? If we dislike their mee and their chopsticks, and if we dislike them so much that we have to call them chinki behind their backs (or even on their face, for what will they know?) and if we must not socialize with them but huddle in our own groups to eat our smelly curry every time, then why come here at all?

You do realize that I have come a full circle, right? This is how I feel, stuck in a vicious circle. Neither party is really wrong; what is wrong is that we are two parties and we refuse to mingle just enough to be one, to learn the good things from each other. Just like our standard three social studies book asked us to.


One Response to “Being Desi”

  1. Norwegian Wood Girl Says:

    Thought-provoking, A. Lot to think.

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