Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Travails of the Fresh off the Boat (FOB) Desi

Long has the desi FOB been the butt of 7-11, Gandhi, Apu and Quickie Mart and horrendous accent jokes. Needless to say, most of them, ahem, are true. From the minute the unsuspecting desi FOB walks into Burger King and places an order for well, ’One Burger King Please’, his days in “Amreeka” are doomed forever as hilarious punch lines or the sad caricature that he is made out to be.

Most hilarious amongst the FOB lore is the one where he walks into McDonalds and demands a large ‘COCK’, with no ice, to wash down his meal of veggie burger and fries. Imagine the consternation of the 6’2” 300 lbs black dude behind the counter who can only roll his eyes and mouth a loud ‘Say WHAT now ???’. Poor Vadapatamudumbi Ramajulu Balamuran can only cower while retorting “I mean the trink (drink), I mean the trink”. Maybe some of us desi bandhu should stick to ingesting only Sprite, Pebhsi or Waatter, since pronouncing COKE can sometimes come uncomfortably close to being enrolled for a Richard Simmons class.

Imagine my consternation when on a flight from Bombay to Chicago, I open the door to the loo, only to find Maniben Kantilal Patel perched precariously “on top” of the toilet bowl, with her hands pressed against the toilet walls, and a deer-in-the-headlights look, taking care of business in the age-old desi ishtyle “paikhana” fashion. To this day, I don’t quite remember who was screaming more, as I fled closing the toilet door behind me.

Most Walmarts and K-Marts (well Sears essentials now) are just hubs of wall-to-wall desis, each one trying to get the next best “deeeal”, the $25 DVD player or the $1.25 near expiry tub of yogurt. God forbid should one of them ask a passing store employee “Aarey , bhot is rhibbed (ribbed)?”, while checking out the Trojans, and the store employee mistakes you to be the one who asked that question. There are a few other desis, of the desperate kind, who try and ensnare poor unsuspecting victims to lure them the dark side i.e. Amway or Quickstar or whatever avaricious moniker it goes by now. You can spot these kinds a mile away, with their surreptitious nods and permanently fixed smiles at fellow shoppers and unsuspecting recruits. Be warned, these kinds will charm you into parting with your first born to them.

Every once in a while you come across the ever dutiful husband in the ‘Feminine Hygiene’ aisle of the supermarket yelling into his cell phone for all and sundry to hear him scream, ‘So what size of sanitary napkins should I buy ? I will get the extra large or the one with wings no. These are $2 off this week no. Anyway these month there is heavy mensus (whatever that means) no ?. So I will buy the large one no ? OK no ?’. Yeah, it really happens, trust me.

Sears Towers or the Grand Gaanyon just infested with desis and their Canons SLR’s, which everyone gets at a good “deeeal”. The man of the house has white shorts starched and creased and all the way to his knees, spotless white socks pulled up to his thighs and golf tees with Rayban shades. The obligatory camcorder/camera bag hanging off his slender shoulder while the poor wife and kids are tag behind lugging the 50 gallons of water and a mini restaurant. In the Gaanyon, during the hike down, some of them, the most out of shape of the lot, park themselves after every 50 yards, huffing and panting, and out comes the can of water and gathias, potato chips, theplas and parathas. Or idlis, murukus and lemon rice as the case may be. “Ayyo Ayyo, this trek is very difficult. Not like walking along the Marina” is the comment you get to hear the most as you hike down Grand Gaanyon. Or if its from the rotund, delicate bitter half then something along the lines of “Muruga, Muruga, why are you trying to kill me by dragging me into this great big hole in the earth”, while the poor embarrassed husband looks on with a sheepish look on his face awaiting divine intervention from Muruga, er the divine one i.e., and not the fowl.

Actually all ribbing aside the desi community in Northern America must be one of the most affluent ethnic minorities around. Scores of doctors, engineers and Institute of Technology or Jamia Mamia University manufactured software engineers and Patel\Shah Motels dot the landscape of this great country, each contributing to the healthy Forex back home. Had it not been for the machinations of the desi entrepreneurship, many a crime branch services would not have needed inventing. Ingenious is the lowly desi brother who let the mighty USPS have it by foxing them to carry his letters for free. How you might ask ? By simply juxtaposing the To and the From addresses. Still don’t get it ? Arrey baba, just put your own address in the To section and the recipients address in the From address section and post the letter sans postage. The post office, will default the mail and deliver it to the sender, who is actually the intended receiver. The royal amount of $0.37 saved. Kachinggggg…..This is one of the simpler desi tricks from the scores of creative rackets that we drum up that make us the envy of all and sundry. I’m not sure if this still works though.

And more and more desi brothers are getting into sports these days not wanting to give up the generous dollops of desi ghee on their parathas, uttapams, theplas or chapattis. So they show up at the local YMCA basketball courts all across the country, usually wearing two pair of shorts, the outer shorts slipping well below the inner shorts, not to be outdone in hipness by the “kallus” on the courts. And of course, with the obligatory hat turned backward to complete the cool, with-it, desi image. Now for the ball handling skills, that’s a story in itself for another day. The affluent or pseudo affluent ones can be found on the golf courses too, knocking many a serious golfers over with the golf balls since who would possibly understand some git yelling “Phore”, “Phore” on the seventh hole. At the local gyms all the 5-15 pound dumbbells have been monopolized by the desis, building up those biceps and triceps alone you see, with scant regard to the protruding rotund belly. And you can be sure as hell that the chap who takes the longest time in the shower, using up all that free shampoo, and walking out clasping the towel around his waist like the impregnable chastity belt, is our very own Balu or Ghanshyam , Tiwari or Pedulu Vishwesharayya Kottaswami. I’ll bet my entire paycheck on it.

But all jesting aside at the end of the day which community, collectively, which minority has the most moolah locked up in CD’s, mutual funds, and kids away at Yale, MIT and Harvard, mortgage all paid off and propensity to go after the next big things that’s out there ? It’s the desi bandhu, yaar. So to preserve this facet of our lives, if we have to trade-off the obligatory rare Apu jokes, envious stabs at curry smells and accent bashing, then I’d say so be it. We have our motels to run, patient’s to attend to, businesses to fix and lines of code to parse. If all the desi bashing does get to you sometimes, my only advice would be ‘Jaane bhi do yaaron. Ab Dil pe maat le yaar. This too shall pass.’.

PS: All names used above are fictitious. Any resemblance to anybody, living or dead, is purely, er, cultural.


Anonymous Charu said...

Sourin, you lead a very exciting life! or shd I say an exciting fictitious life?! did you really ovehear a man asking for which *size* of sanitary napkins he should buy? wow, America is a more evolved market than I thought...

9:57 AM  
Anonymous MWC said...


Nice Sourin
As an "abcd" I was taking a Pl/SQL class and this desi professor kept saying this word. I was like wha is he saying? Finally I figured out it was "H" when he said words with "H" in it it came out like hech. Out loud without knowing I was like...OH! H. Of course the professor stopped for a moment and smiled at me.

5:10 PM  
Blogger chappan said...

Well some of it is true, some passed on by worth of mouth and some pure fabrications. Just for a laugh at ourselves and definately not intended to offend anyone.

Good to see you on my blog, ma'am. Been a long time. The BC beckons, when are we gonna resume ? Share some of ur fav desi faux pas stories, if u have em. All in good fun.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Sujatha said...

Hilarious Sourin!

8:45 PM  
Blogger chappan said...

Thx Suj.

4:52 AM  
Anonymous MWC said...


The BC yeah...hmmmm I am thinking we should wait until after the long weekend.

Ok I had this friend in Org Chem class from India. We were all studying once in a group and he goes to me "Do you have a rubber?" I am like huh? He asks once again. The entire group is like a rubber? Then he shows us his pencil and he says, "Yeah you know a rubber to correct my mistakes." We are like it is an eraser here. hehe


12:34 PM  
Blogger chappan said...

Hi V
Yeah heard that rubber story quite a few times from lotsa folks:))

Im off to India for a business trip and back after the holoday weekend. Also running the Detroit half Marathon in Oct. So its training on most weekends. So BC will hafta wait until fall for me at least.


1:08 PM  
Blogger gawker said...

Like Maniben Kantilal Patel, it took me a while to get used to the feel of a cold hard foreign object against my naked flesh before I stopped perching. Although, I did remember to lock my door before I perched.

9:50 AM  
Blogger chappan said...

A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do. Wahtever works for you man.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Sunil said...


Hillarious post Sourin.....now I can get back to work!

7:56 PM  
Blogger One More Reason said...

Berry Berry funny. My stomach is fulfilled. Chaaaala hilleeerious :)

1:56 PM  

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