Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Is it shameful to be Indian? (part 1 of 2)

Sitting on barstools at Chow by Church and Market, roommate Erin insisted I chat up with an (Indian) girl sitting alone next to me, reading a book. I don't disturb people reading, it's just not me. I don't like being charmed by a random stranger when reading The Onion.

So Plan 1 came to action. Crack loud jokes to try attract her attention. Erin knew my gameplan, so she assisted with fake laughs to anything I said. Her performance was lousy, but it worked.

Indian girl looked toward us for 5-10 seconds and I got my hint -- she was willing to be disturbed. I made my move, nibbling Erin's back indicating I was going for the kill.

"Are you waiting for someone? You are welcome to join us," I told her. In support, Erin flashed her million-dollar smile. Indian girl smiled back, so happy as if she had waited for us for eternity. I wasn't well-groomed that day -- hair was scruffy, beard bore the peace sign. But not a hassle. Indian gal was in the fold.

"Thank you!" Her book shut down.

"You are welcome," I said. Erin got back to her business.

"Cheers!" G said, and the glasses tinkled.

"Are you waiting for someone?" I asked.

"Actually, I'm new to this city and I heard a lot about this place, so I came for a meal."

She opened up many topics to chat about, so I let loose. After 5 minutes, we were chatting about DJs in Sacramento and how they stayed in Indian motels free of cost.

"Asian motels," she corrected me. Well, Gujjus own the motels and Gujjus are Indians, so where did I go wrong? I mulled over it for a second.

"Where are you from?" she asked.

"Boston," I cleared. "And then it's a long story." Atleast I wasn't from Vermont.

"What is your ancestry?" she asked, digging deeper. Thankfully, as a Gujarati, my story didn't reach the motel dead-end.

"Gujarati," I said, proudly. "Dad's supposed to be Mongolian, but we can't prove it." She gave me a strange look. Darn, I should've realized. Presenting my quirky sense of humor a bit too early. "Just kidding actually. We all are Gujaratis."

"Aha, Jews of the East," she crackled, with a huge smile on her face.

"Jews of the East?" I asked. "Serious? Where did you get that from?" Happened so that Erin, who is Jewish, and I were headed out to see a Jewish comedian perform that evening, but didn't find seats. G took centerstage.

"You are the businessmen. The money makers," G said.

"I seriously hope you'd pay for my beer G! I have not a pretty penny in my pocket," I said. Only if I could add us being money hoarders.

"What are you of the East?" I asked her.

"I am Malaysian of Punjabi descent," she said, with a very different accent indicating she wasn't from India. And that is where the trouble started.

(to be continued...)


Anonymous brimful said...

That's such a great way to end a story.

Also, being a Guju from the greater Boston area, I can tell you that:
a) Gujus were not referred to as the "Jews of the East" and
b) we knew that Indians ran motels.

Sometimes, I get worked up about the whole perception of Gujus being stingy bastards, but most of the time, I laugh it off, or use it as a good comic foil.

Incidentally, why weren't there more people like you and your friend Erin when I first moved to the city?!? No one ever invited me to join them at Chow!

2:22 PM  
Blogger Khakra said...

brimful, you're from the greater boston area! let me roll out some names to see if you recognize any -- paulomi, ronak, dimple, the two lopas, umang and yash, sunny and bobo (not anymore!), megha and moha, nigam, neha and neal. just some of few i grew up with. if you recognize anyone, it's one heck of a small world! if not, never mind. a failed experiment.

this woman mentioned "Jews of the East" out of nowhere. I'm like WTF? say that again? Gujus are what?? I think her reference was to East, as in East India...

10:29 PM  
Anonymous brimful said...

Hmmm... some of these names sound like part of the Framingham Guju Crew- is that where you grew up?

I grew up in NH, but since the only Indians in NH were my relatives, we used to go seek out Massachusetts-Indians all the time.

I get the reference the woman was using, I just don't understand why it's okay to use it. I mean, I know it's a standard stereotype, Gujus and Jewish folks as stingy. But she felt awfully comfortable with you awfully quickly to make such a remark. I would have bristled.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Khakra said...

brim, right on, that's where i grew up, with those folks. in needham, right off route 9. the gujju community then itself was so small. do you know/remember anyone from those days? ironically few remain in boston.. most of them are scattered around the US. Mostly in NY, a few in SF. there's a wedding coming up, so i'll get to catch up with some then. My family was known for "batcave," a famous game room hang out for the crew. Me? Well-known for thanksgiving pranks. Fond, fond memories.

She certainly meant no malice when saying did take me by surprise, I didn't know how to take it so I had to think about it for a sec. Is this good or bad? Summed up, she was jamming up a religion and a region, perhaps no harm meant.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous brimful said...

Interesting... I remember especially meeting a Paulomi and a Lopa, and a Moha. Basically, there was a Framingham/Needham/Boston crew that my family met a few times. Unfortunately, the area was a little too far from NH for us to meet with those folks regularly, something which always annoyed me because the Gujus we met there were a) cooler and b) more near to my age. Instead, I got stuck with a bunch of Indians from Marlboro, MA, who I've lost touch with entirely.

Anyway, I look forward to reading part 2.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Khakra said...

remember some folks from north andover living close to merrimack college (correct?), though i'd need to track down mom to get their names. lopa/pol's youngest sis ronak is in SF now...

i'll serve up part 2 tomorrow. i'm itching to write about izzy rejoining GNR for a tour.... no slash though

12:42 PM  
Blogger venus said...

I'm waiting for part @@ now, since, I am not shameful to be an Indian :)

11:18 AM  

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