Realm Of Randomness

January 29, 2008

Desi dilemmas in a pardesi land

Filed under: Humour,India,Introspection — Randomizer @ 3:25 am

A good friend of mine from back in school, Prax has reached the American shores from work, and shares some of his new adventures in his blog. You can find the link to his blog on my blog roll in future as well. One note he makes, which I have always wanted to talk about is:

” Accents change – couple of days here, and already my accent is changing. But strangely enuf, whenever I talk to indians here, the good old bangalorean accent comes back.”


All of us desis discover this at some point early on in our stay here… that we are one thing with Indians, and another variation of ourselves with non-Indians, more specifically, Americans. I spoke about ‘DBCDs – Desh Born Confused Desis’ some time ago but cannot find it now on this blog, for some reason. It must have been taken off during my first phase of cleaning out my blog for political correctness.

Anyway, there are always very interesting situations with desi group dynamics, a set of unwritten rules that go without saying, but all follow, in varying degrees. A lot of this post comes from observations of my desi friends and personal experiences over the last 2.5 years in the US.

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The Accent

The desi who arrived here and started talking to other desis in any degree of the american accent is instantly detested. Almost immediately, the universal thought is, ‘He’s just been here for X years, and look at his accent … ‘. The funny thing is that X can be anywhere from 1 year to 10 years … you are simply not expected to change, and any sort of ‘in-between’ accent gives people the impression he/she is faking. You either have a perfect American accent, or an Indian one, nothing in between.

It is really strange/funny to see desi group dynamics in play. Like take a conversation in a mixed group of Americans and Indians, with interactions between everyone taking place. Typically, most Indians switch to some degree of a borrowed accent when in a mixed group – I find it very strange and very fake to interact with a desi friend in this group, in our new accents… do you switch back when addressing your desi friend or do you go on with the weird accent?

Who hasn’t come across the annoying desi who’s been here for just like 2 weeks and speaks to us in a borrowed accent? :)

The friend circle

Inevitably, our closest friends here are desis, and there really isn’t much we can do about that. It is a combination of the ease of getting along, the common topics to speak about, and the shared experiences. However, no one likes to admit it. Everyone ideally wants a mixed group, a whole bunch of diverse friends, but everyone typically ends up with a core desi group in the end, anyway :).

There are of course, people on both sides of the spectrum. On one end is the Kannada/Tamil/Gujrati/Bengali speaking super exclusive group, who converse in their mother tongues, eat traditional food and have been like a rock with respect to the people they are and the environment they are in. They are mostly happy with things, their friends, and so on, and don’t really feel like they are missing anything, or that they should be doing something else. On the other end of the spectrum are those who avoid fellow desis at all costs to ‘move away’ from who they have been.

I would say that a good 70% of the diaspora are swimming somewhere between these extremes, not wanting to appear ‘clannish’ or exclusive, but ending up in an all-desi group anyway.

How Desi do you wanna go?

There are lots of people who genuinely miss their motherland and ache for some aspect of their day to remind them of home. And on the other end, there are those who badly want to feel like they are in ‘a new place, away from all they know’.

A classic incident to illustrate this is my first trip on the train from Mountain View to San Francisco. This being my first mini-adventure on my own, I was excited about the whole thing and looking forward to a pseudo-modern experience. I was looking forward to being awed by the cleanliness/’hi-techiness’ of the train, and sat on a seat next to the window smiling excitedly, expecting a pleasant ride ahead.

Enter Kannada-speaking desi wife with kid and family, who take the next seat. No, it was not fun listening to hard-core Kannada(my state’s language) being spoken over the next hour :) … and similar incidents have happened at many times over the last three years as well… where something ‘new’ is almost spoiled by something ‘familiar’….

I wonder if this whole thing is some sort of ‘reverse-exoticising’ happening with all of us. Just like maybe a British(replace with any western nationality you know) family go to India to see elephants and snake charmers, but instead end up next to MacDonalds,KFC, and the Intel office in Bangalore, and go ‘what the $@# ?!’, we are roaming around wanting to see the America from Hollywood…

The lifeboat syndrome

The lifeboat syndrome is basically ‘once you have found yourself a life boat, you do everything to keep others from hopping on’. A variation of this is to ‘close the door behind you’. Most desis feel this way about other desis at at least one aspect of life. For instance, if desi A has found a city where there aren’t many Indians, he doesn’t like more desis coming into the city! Literally every desi who lives in the bay area complains of ‘too many of us’. This feeling could translate to pubs (too many desis in that pub, man, let’s go somewhere else!) , cities, universities( I wanna join a university which isn’t filled with Indians), and so many other things.

Also, I wonder how many desis in the US right now with jobs will scream for joy if the government decides to raise the H1B quota from 65,000 visas to like 3 million visas a year. Are you imagining the opening of flood-gates with tons of desis pouring in? :)

Why are we not so excited to see so many of our own folk? Should we not be, technically, happy ? And if not, are we in some weird sort of way, racist against our own race? These are questions that have had me thinking, and no, I don’t really have the answers. It would be great if we got a dialogue rolling here, with your thoughts and experiences from whichever country you are currently residing in, of diaspora, assimilation, and the innumerable dilemmas we face away from home.

Also, type away all those things you wish your fellow desis did/didn’t do when abroad! That should make for some fun reading :)

[ Update: This post has recently been linked from DesiPundit, a popular indian blog, and I am very grateful for the recognition and the traffic. Welcome to the Realm, new readers, and please do add to the discussion! ]

January 4, 2008

The Blogroll blues …

Filed under: Blogroll,Blogs I stop by,Introspection,Personal — Randomizer @ 1:12 am

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(Nevada, 2005)

When I first started blogging, at about 4:33 pm in March 2005, I never realized I would still be writing into January 2008. Much has changed, of me and my life and my experiences, and I am thankful that so many of those phases have been documented here, and I hope to continue this for as long as it remains a hobby that doesn’t occupy too much of my time. I’m grateful for the readers who stop by to read and share their thoughts on the Realm.

Sharath’s blog, the Epistles, is going on a year-long sabbatical sadly, and that is definitely a big blow on this side of the blogosphere. Blogging is as much a social activity as it is creative expression, and the Epistles will definitely be missed – I hope that the Realm remains active for long enough to announce his come back, whenever that is :) . With another site down, that also means 3 inactive blogs out of the 4 on my blogroll, the fairies seem to be the only ones left dancing ! This blog has been through a similar recycling of links at many times over the last 3 years … I remember starting out with four or five regular bloggers, none of whom are still around. Then, there was the bluebird who took off but landed prematurely, not to forget the caffeine dispenser who was around for all of June 12th to June 19th ! :-D

Sharath’s reasons seem fair enough – he wants to make better use of his time spent blogging. I would agree that if I actually asked myself every time I sat down to write something – is there some thing better I could do than this? – the answer would probably be yes, I could work out or read something informative or practice some music. But I also know that after a long day’s work, my motivation levels for these activities are pretty low. They are at a max during the weekends, but not the week days. So for me, really, it is between wasting time watching shows on TV/the internet on one hand, and blogging on the other :-P. I prefer the latter for obvious reasons.

Thus, as long as the blog remains non-intrusive in my life and I maintain some semblance of a balance between this and other activities, I’d say the blog will go on. Hopefully, I will be around to witness many more start-ups, good-bye-to-blogging-posts, as well as comebacks :).

The Blogroll will need some changes though. Let met introduce Sudhir’s blog – My Pai’s worth, and Meenakshi’s Drain Brain. The links will be on the ‘Blogs I stop by’ list on the right. Links to blogs that are currently inactive will still be around, though in the ‘ex-bloggers’ list. If there are any more bloggers who visit now and then, do let me know who you are so I can link to you as well. Here’s to hopefully a year filled with blog-worthy events ! ;)

November 12, 2007

Adaptation and the American dream

Filed under: Introspection,Milestone,Musing,Personal — Randomizer @ 3:58 am

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The last month has been great, busy with so many milestones – turning 25, moving to a new city, and getting my first pay-cheque :). After the much awaited internet service was set up at my place, it seems like I can finally get back to making some changes in my online world as well ! 

Moving to Houston was pretty exciting, as for the first time in my life, I am living completely on my own. I had rooommates or family at all points in my life, and it was great to turn 25, while holding the keys to an apartment and a car in the much sought after US of A – something that I never dreamt for myself when I was growing up in the 90’s.  It is amazing how quickly my life changed – not too long ago, I was sharing a really tiny room in Bangalore with 2 other people, hand-washing my clothes on Sunday morning, and owning the rights to only 1/3rd of the space in the common Godrej wardrobe.

Thinking about the shift fascinates me in so many ways, on so many different levels… For one thing, the exact same person is viewed and valued so differently from one nation to the next. It’s like you are valued at $x when you got on the plane in Mumbai, but when you got off in New York, you and your profession were suddenly valued at 10 times $x, though nothing about you changed on the flight…  At the same time, someone else on the flight might have lost a lot from that flight – like maybe the European man who found himself valued by the Indian hospitality industry at 50 times his value during his vacation there!

I guess this is exactly what trade and business is all about – except that in this case, you yourself are the product in question.

Another interesting thing about the shift is – that one event, making the move from one shore to the other – resulted in such a different life. I can so easily picture an alternate reality in which I am still working and living in Bangalore, and pretty happy with it as well. So that brings us to another question… how many other events just like this are out there, that we are missing every day as the result of (a)resistance to change (b) ignorance (c) or the desire to try and be happy with what we have?

Finally, things like these remind you of all the places/environments/situations where you functioned, succesfully and perhaps happily… and gives you a sense of invincibility – that your environment will just absorb you into its system, wherever you go, and keep you comfortable.

We are all chameleons that way.

November 10, 2006

Lets play a Game

Filed under: Introspection,Philosophy — Randomizer @ 5:51 pm

[ This post is predominantly meant to be interactive so I’m hoping all of you who read this will write a comment before you leave ]

The motivation behind this post was reading this article here in the news : Click here. Al-Qaeda quotes 12,000 operatives have been mobilized in Iraq.

Whenever I hear the name of this network, my mind maps to a fanatical group of Suicide Bombers. The first time I ever heard of the term ‘Suicide bomber’ was about 15 years ago, when our nation’s prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by an LTTE operative who blew the place up during a ceremony where he was being offered Garlands in his honour. That was over a decade ago and I was little then, but I remember having thought in my mind ‘Who could possibly hate someone so much that they didn’t mind dying to kill the other person?’

Today, the term ‘Suicide bomber’ is heard so often that one forgets how deeply intriguing and confusing this whole concept is. Someone is *actually* ready to give up his/her own LIFE – the most precious thing any living being on this planet has got – for the sake of a cause or an ideology.

Can you imagine ever having such a cause or Ideology in your life that you are ready to die for ? Your cause could be Absolutely Anything. I don’t mean just Religion, Idea, etc – Your cause could be as noble as ‘Ending poverty’, or it could be as personal as curing your loved one’s illness, it could even be something fictional like bringing someone back to life(?) , it could be, like I said, Absolutely Anything.

I don’t expect the average reader here to be a fanatic, so I know that you couldn’t possibly have a cause you are ready to die for. Let us make this a fair game by reducing the penalty.

At the risk of sounding like the antagonist from the SAW movies, I have to say, ‘Lets play a Game’. Here’s the catch – Your cause, anything you want – But, you get to keep only 4 out of 5 senses. One of sight, hearing, smell, touch, or taste has got to go. Think about this for a while …
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*Now* do you have a cause or reason so great in your life that you are ready to give up one of these ? If you did, head over to the comments section. If not, keep reading.

Lets reduce the penalty even more: No bodily harm at all…. Here’s the deal -> you spend 5 years in prison for this cause.
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Do I see some of you thinking for more than 5 seconds on that one? I sure do hope so !

If you’ve come up with something, head over to the comments section. Otherwise, I’ll lower the bar even further -> You lose your memory and hence your identity – but no physical harm, and no prison. I expect the extra smart ones to say, hey if I lose my memory, i can get my Cause *and* I don’t remember anything so I should be happy – but think some more about Losing your identity.
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Still want me to lower the bar ? You lose ALL your belongings/possessions … everything you have ever earned or owned – including your college degree- will be gone. But I’m guessing you can always get these material posessions back – It’s just the temporary inconvenience.
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Still not ready to part ways with your stuff ?

This is the lowest I’m willing to lower the bar – You lose ALL you money, and your source of income too – your job. But you keep your degree, your belongings, everything else.

Ok I expect most of you to break at this point for *some* cause or the other. But it wouldn’t surprise me if people haven’t broken at all .. the last question was pretty hard to say ‘yes’ to too, wasn’t it ? I would like to study how priorities are in peoples’ lives ….

I expect most people to break over a personal cause rather than a noble one.

But do people with noble ideas still exist ? Forget about our own lives, are we noble enough to give up our possessions for a greater good like curing the world of AIDS? Most of you might blindly say ‘yes’ to that question but you’re not thinking enough – With a sway of my magic wand, you will LOSE your money, your laptop, your home, your car – everything!

Isn’t it surprising(and terribly sad) that your own money/belongings has almost an equal weight as millions of people dying of AIDS?

[ As a digressory discussion – do all soldiers/army men believe in something that we don’t ? ]

And looking at how hard it was for you to come up with a cause that was more important to you than your own well-being and convenience, do you share my confusion in what possible cause there could possibly be that would make a good share of 12,000 adult human beings decide to give their lives for the sake of taking others’ ?

January 30, 2006

Que Sera, Sera

Filed under: Introspection — Randomizer @ 6:39 pm

A classic 1934 song, ‘Que Sera Sera’ was one of my Dad’s favourites. I remember him singing this one when I was as little as 8 years old.

Consequently, this song takes me back to my childhood days, every time I hear this song or remember it for some reason. I Googled the song to read the lyrics, that I’d forgotten, and couldn’t help myself but post it.

A tribute to a wonderful philosophy of life:

When I was just a little girl,
I asked my mother ,
What will I be
Will I be pretty, Will I be rich ?
Here’s what she said to me

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera

When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day ?
Here’s what my sweetheart said

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera

Now I have Children of my own
They ask their mother
What will I be
Will I be handsome , Will I be rich ?
I tell them tenderly

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera

“Que sera, sera” after a li’l researching on the net, I found is Spanish for “What will be, will be”.

I remember the New Year of ’05. I was at a friend’s place, and the countdown to ’05 had begun. We rushed to our terrace for we knew that some great fireworks were awaiting us. A thought entered my mind then.

New year of ’06 … where will I be ? I had applied to 8 colleges in the US and not heard from a single one. Will it work out ? Will I get an admission ? Will I get my visa ? Will I go ?

Fast forward to 30 days ago. Las Vegas , amidst ten thousand crazy people , chanting the countdown for New year of ’06.

3..

2..

1..

Fireworks light the sky for ten whole minutes… and I say to the person that I was a year ago, standing on that terrace wondering about where I’d be,

” Que Sera, Sera.
Whatever will be , will be,
The future’s not ours to see,
Que Sera, Sera”

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