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Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, The Heart Is Still Indian, Yaar

Chitra Parayath

There's this email doing the rounds for over a year now….keeps coming to me every now and then. It's about being Indian, a 'desi' as we call it nowadays. Chances are you've come across the one that goes… "You know you are an Indian when.." It lists, quite comprehensively I might add, all the follies and foibles of being desis.

Makes me think, it does, and if you know me as I know me that’s not a sport I indulge in often or excel at. Leave the cerebral stuff to the Bills and the Gates and the Murthys of the world is my axiom. I digress, and now, that’s something I do with elan and flair. You can catch me digress at the Carnegie hall one of these days, that’s how adept I am at this particular trait. I can talk (and write, you'll soon see) about irrelevant blarney for hours (and pages). There I go again!

I'm also plugging my upcoming book titled, tentatively "Survivor-Desi and proud of being one." It's still in the works, the book, I mean, I haven't got myself an agent yet, haven't contacted a publisher even. Aww what the hell, I haven't even started writing it though I'm positively brimming with ideas.

"You can take a woman out of India, the old adage goes but try taking India out of her!" That’s the story of my life, folks. In twenty five words or less. I've been out of the Matrubhumi for a while, Phir bhi dil, alas is Hindustaani and so I might add are my Joothi and Topi (not Japani or Rusi..get it?) I'll take Kolhapuris over Cole Haans any day ! I love wearing Bindis so much so that one is never enough. I make it a point to have one under my left eyebrow and one on my chin besides the ubiquitous one in the middle of my forehead.

I also am very proud to be desi. Mostly when it comes to dressing up. We really are a blessed nation, in terms of costumes at least. What attire in the world comes close to the grace and grandeur of the Sari? What about the vibrant Salwar Kameez?
I enjoy my fashion challenged desi contemporaries fervently. Hawaii chappals, pant suits paired with gaudy ponytail holders, and big big bindis are so endearing.. At a recent Diwali get together, surrounded by silks and blinded by gold and diamond I realized why most desi women are so clueless when it comes to Jeans and tops. "It is not what you wear," the wise man says "but how you pull it off." And I don't came across many desi women who can pull off wearing pantsuits and the like quite well. The grace and charm they exhibit in desi attires are missing when they are in western outfits.

Desi guys have it good, I think. You can't go wrong in Khakhi Dockers can you! And no one can accuse our menfolk of being adventurous! A fine one to talk, I am, you can catch at the local supermarket looking like the bag lady from hell most of the time. Hair sticking out , old sweats topped by with an old army jacket, dragging my feet in the middle of the day, looking for the bargain aisle, kids I have seen scamper away when they see me approach. It's a whole other story at the Indian store though. I feel like the queen of haute couture when I roam those aisles. Last week , a Mallu pal of mine was trying to get away wearing a brown cashmere overcoat over an old house coat. And get away with it, she did!

If I sound patronizing, forgive me friends, blame the glass of Wine that I'm slugging even as I type this out.
Ram Ram you'll probably say, a Bharathiya Naari should not even talk aloud about liquor let alone drink it! Well, that’s about the only way I differ from your ideal B.N( bharathiya naari). Actually, a couple more if you don't mind….. I hate programming. I know, I know, you folks are gasping and clutching at your chests, what Indian worth his or her salt can stink at Oracle? I do. Tried it a few times, hated it. Have a degree in Engineering ……..wish I'd majored in basket weaving instead.

Desis I meet socially recoil when they learn that I don't go out and make money . When I say I make a mean Sambhar they invariably ask me ' But what do you really do?" The fact that I stay home and do near to nothing is a big surprise and disappointment to most. I don't claim to know much about the present American economy only that my desi pals are all losing pots of money they put in stocks and bonds. While I stand at my little picket fence with the tiffin carriers( 100% steel, from India) waving my kids and spouse off to work and school, my pals are busy making or losing the first hundred dollars of the day.

To cap it all, I have no burning desire to work hard or meet challenges head on. I run a mile when I even spy the shadow of a challenge coming my way. What is to beat a good book and a life of leisure, I ask! I recall words from my favorite poem I learnt at school , goes somewhat like this
Isiliye to kehta hoon
Mere anubhav se kaam karo
Lo khat bicha lo aangan me
Aaram karo aaram karo.

In my extended family nothing constitutes a crime greater than this worship of leisure. I was born into a family of over achievers and wed into one teeming with high flyers. I can't turn around without bumping into a scientist, an entrepreneur, a doctor a lawyer…. you name it! Thank god I don't have any self-esteem issues, I'd be a depressed dead duck if I did and where I ask you would that leave me?

I can see my kids wanting to follow in their mothers illustrious footsteps though. My son aspires to be a street magician and juggler, while my daughter wants to tend lawns for a living. I'm giving them time though, they have few more years under my roof before they fly the coop. Poison ivy leagues are not for me says my son!

My trusty old Minivan solicit winces from the fore mentioned relatives who wouldn't be caught alive or dead in anything that has a sliding door. The fact that I don't own even a Japanese car kills my kin. But hey, do I let all that bother me? No sir.

Apna tho attitude has always been Chalta hai yaar!

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