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In this series, Desis 101 will examine the pleasure Desis derive from mocking the seemingly banal habits of White People.

Let us begin with the White Man’s best friend – Fido. On the Desi’s arrival to the West, it is a shock of the highest order to find that the very same animal that they had to endure rabies shots for as a youth is now safely ensconced not only in the home of a rich and powerful citizen of the West, but is sleeping quite soundly in that citizen’s bed.

As if nocturnal love were not enough, these powerful White People wake up the next morning to the biting cold and rain to perform the daily duty of pooper-scooping Fido’s excreted insides.   The first sighting of a white man engaged in this act will send the FOB Desi into a state of panic not unlike the unveiling of the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain.  The Desi will rush home to screech at anyone who will listen – “We sacrificed everything because we were believing in the power of White People and their country, and now we are learning that they are like the people who clean the latrines back home!  He Ram, where have I come to, yaar?”

For the vegetarian Desi, the pet-loving practice is doubly ironic and hypocritical.  While the owner might be a vegetarian himself, he will feed his furry friend slain cows under the moniker ‘Puppy Chow’ while the less-fortunate puppy cousin back in India was fed left-over lentils and rice.

When the ABCD child inevitably pleads for a pet, tales of crazed white people bequeathing their most cherished possessions to Fluffy the puppy will be launched.  Any desire for a pet can only lead to other White People vices, like teen pregnancy, underage drinking, drug overdose and ultimately death.   Any attempt to deflect by promising never to write a last will and testament to the family dog is of no use.  For Desis, pets=eventual murder/suicide.

If an ABCD child wishes to ensure distance between him and his Desi parents, the best strategy is to adopt a pet. A cat will send the message that the parents are resented in some way. A dog is a clear indication of the smoldering hatred the ABCD child feels for his parents. This seemingly humanitarian (well, animalatarian) act is not to be misconstrued as kind or sweet – it is a vicious act of defiance, and a clear sign of rebellion. The only thing left to do for the ABCD is to complete the union with a white spouse and sleep together with the puppy in their bed.  This will ensure a permanent rift between parent and ABCD ingrate, while also sending a clear message about future cohabitation.  Learning of an ABCD child-pet relation, the parents will consider themselves sufficiently warned that this can only mean one thing – they will be dumped at the nearest nursing home when the time for daily care arrives.

When socializing with Desis, speaking of one’s pets more than one’s children will be met with smirky silence.  Just know that such avowals will be the subject of Desi dinner party laughter for years to come.

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For a Desi, there is no such thing as a beautiful sofa, sari, or bar of soap in itself. The beauty of an object is not left to mere subjective criteria to be discussed for its own sake. Beauty, until quantified in monetary terms and at a discount, is not beautiful.

If a bargain is beautiful, then a Desi’s home is his own personal art gallery and he will be most anxious to give you a guided tour. Spreadsheets will be provided as well as a detailed history recounting the dangerous conditions endured to acquire each piece in the exhibit.  A deal is not elevated to beautiful status until a Desi can regale others with the tale.

To pay full price is equivalent to being white. In fact, it’s a mark of ABCD behaviour.  If you have paid full price, It would be useless to defend your indiscretion by quoting such saps as John Keats (Beauty is truth, truth beauty) when trying to refute the Cartesian coordinate calculation of beauty. A Desi will smile politely and then say to a fellow Desi in his mother tongue (and in front of young white sap’s poetry quoting face) what a poor, sweet fool he is for believing such rubbish.  But before he decides to brandish the chap, he will recall that such naivety is the reason his corner store sells out candy bars at a 200% margin, so he’ll keep these thoughts to himself.

One unfamiliar with this ritual might feel awkward when first cornered on a sofa with an overzealous host and confronted with this odd monetary openness, especially in an amorous setting.  While another suitor will artfully attempt to corner a woman on his new, sleek leather loveseat in order to make good on the furniture’s namesake, a Desi man will enthusiastically launch into a detailed accounting of his, well, accounts.  How the loveseat was $1,200 retail, he waited for a sale, but then convinced the salesman to waive delivery fees if he paid in cash (Desis don’t like credit cards) and then found a coupon for 85% off and then talked the guy into throwing in all the pillows for free as well as the stain guard, and then…

At this point the cornered female may begin to question the heterosexuality of her date or decide he is the cheapest man in North America.  What she fails to grasp is that her dashing Desi date is actually in prime wooing mode.  He has just displayed his superior hunting abilities in the concrete jungle and she is now sitting on his captured prey.  He is wondering why she doesn’t appear more seduced.  The best way to encourage a more romantic mood is to praise him roundly and let him know that bargain hunting is your idea of foreplay.  Watch him melt in your frugal fingers!

There comes a point in an argument between all Desis and their ABCD children when the Desi parent will inevitably invoke the ‘only $8.00 in my pocket’ story. The point usually comes about 26 seconds after the ungrateful ABCD child has requested an iPod, a car, or $8 to go to the movies.

The Desi parent will set the scene at the airport customs gate, where they are searched head to toe to ensure that they are only entering with $8.00 in their pocket. The Desi mother, wearing a pocketless sari will have kept the $8.00 in the cleavage of her blouse along side her $2,000 in gold jewelry given to her as a dowry. Knowing that $2,000 of gold in her cleavage is not an appropriate tale to be telling a feisty teenage daughter (note Lessons #2 and 3), the mother will forgo any further details that would render the story factual.

The Desi parent will then continue to detail the hardships of life in the ghettos of the US, how they arrived in the dead of winter with no coat (no, it doesn’t matter that they immigrated to Florida), wearing only a pair of chappals (sandals) with socks and how they had never seen a western toilet and didn’t know how to flush it. The details provided and level of venom added to the most current rendering of the ‘Only $8.00 in My Pocket!’ story will vary depending on the amount of the ABCD request and the insolence with which the request was made. By the time the ungrateful ABCD child has reached the teenage years, she will have heard several thousand variations on this raga.

A few examples:

ABCD child requests $8.00 for the movies – ‘Oh Beta, it costs so much for one silly film (pronounced fi-lum). When I was your age, we would be sneaking into the theater because we weren’t affording the 3 rupee entrance fee. Do you know we came to this country with only $8.00 in our pocket? But anything for you my darling child.’ Request granted with $5 extra for popcorn.

ABCD child requests a $300 iPod – ‘$300 for what? Some stupid iPod, fiPod? Did you know (yes, the ABCD already knows) that we had no electricity in our village until 1957? There was one radio and we washed Mehulji’s car so we could listen to the cricket match on his radio. Now you want iPod. I came to this country with $8.00 in my…’ Request granted based on how silently ABCD endures the $8.00 bashing. Any word of protest or irritation can delay iPod purchase by at least one month.

ABCD child requests a car – Even the example lashing out is too lengthy to recount here. The car, having been an unattainable luxury for the Desi parent, will only be awarded after a series of increasingly passionate renditions of the $8.00 story. Walking 3 miles to school barefoot and uphill both ways, sleeping in one room with 4 siblings and 3 cows, reading by candle light on papyrus, etc. Success is usually proceeded by a breakdown where the ABCD child is willing to settle for an oxcart to get to school. After the will of the ABCD child is broken, the Desi parent will tearfully confess that they made every sacrifice to come to America so that their beloved Monu could drive a Toyota and listen to iPods. After the drama has ended, the family will pile into their Camry and see if they can find one in a matching color.

If one is witness to such an argument, it is not recommended to take sides with the ABCD child, or in any way question the details of the $8.00 story. A guaranteed way to curry favor with a Desi is to invent a similar tale about one’s parents or grandparents. Sufficient details about hardship should be noted, but one should not upstage the Desi with accounts of war, famine or genocide. Such horrors will make the Desi appear to be a sissy, leaving the Desi more irritable and ultimately undermining the position of the ABCD, thus leaving one despised by both sides.

fruit-sari-cleavage.jpgIt is a fact well known that the cleavage of a Desi woman is safer than Fort Knox and just as filled with treasures. This long-honored option began as a response to the storage limitations of the sari (lots of fabric, no pockets). After the first Desi woman who discovered that she had plenty of room down there, evolution favored the woman who could keep her money and jewels safe, and so only women with well-endowed breasts made it up the evolutionary food-chain.

The secret treasures hidden in the Desi woman’s blouse are as various as the colors of her saris. With the inevitable sagging that comes with age, Desi grandmothers find they can store more and larger items in the cleavage of their sari blouse. Money is the most common item, followed by house keys, lipstick, various snack foods, toys for the grandchildren, extra gold bangles, and of course mukvas (an after meal digestive mixture of seeds. if you’ve followed lesson #3, this should cause no surprise).

If one is in the presence of a Desi woman as she begins to rummage around her cleavage looking for her last quarter for the parking meter, is it considered a death wish to help her find her lost coins. If one finds it impossible not to stare or fantasize about the mystery stash, it is acceptable to gift the Desi woman a fanny pack or similar storage accoutrement, but don’t expect to get a peek for your generosity.

7_herbs_hvaq.jpgWhen sitting down to a meal with Desis, one will often be asked earnestly and directly about the cut, color and clarity of one’s last bowel movement. Such questions are particularly common at the breakfast table as a means of gaging the dietary dos and don’ts for the coming day.

After an initial assessment, a variety of pastes, spice mixtures, potions and pungent treats will be brought out in a special tin devoted to poop-regulation. The more offensive the taste and odor of a particular mixture, the more likely that one will be finishing The Mahabharata in the bathroom. Desis will be pleased that the potion was successful and will be waiting at the door of the toilet to inquire about the experience and provide more toilet paper.

If shown shock or contempt for questions about bowel movements, Desis will passionately launch into a lengthy explanation about the origins of medicine beginning in India with the science of Ayurveda and the central importance of the intestines to health and life span.

The digestive tract is to Desis what polite conversation about the weather is to the British.  General comments about the importance of good digestion can lead to hours of graphic conversation.  Whenever one is in need of a conversational filler with a Desi, or wants to show particular concern for the wellbeing of a guest, it is appropriate to inquire about their poop.  If one is not able to purchase the requisite poop-regulation paraphernalia, mint tea is an adequate replacement.  It is never acceptable to offer a Desi synthetic Western laxatives such as Ex-lax.

It is common to hear Desis talk about actions both past and present in the progressive tense. Their belief in reincarnation infuses their sense of the present and past into a continuous, recurring activity. Therefore, when communicating with Desis, it is useful to modify sentences to fit the Desi world view as expressed in grammar. Let us begin with a sample sentence.
American English: I didn’t know you slept with my daughter, but now that I know, I’ll kill you.
Desi English: I wasn’t knowing that you were violating the purity of my beloved daughter, but now that I am knowing it, I will be killing you.
The Desi leaves grammatical room for killing the violator in future lives. But the use of -ing does not suffice in order to fit in. One must also confuse articles such as ‘the’ and ‘an’. A Desi will often drop ‘the’ when needed to define a noun but add a ‘the’ in front of proper names. “I was speaking to the Mahesh about showing car for sale.”
To complete your lesson in Desi grammar 101, add a few words for spicy authenticity, starting with ‘only’, ‘yaar’, and ‘but’. Mixed together, you can successfully declare to the boyfriend of your young teenage daughter, “I wasn’t knowing that you were violating purity of the Meera, my beloved daughter, but now that I am knowing it, I will be killing you only.”

1. Desis Love to Bargain

Do not confuse the title with ‘Desis Love a Bargain’. No doubt, they love that too, (and we’ll get to that) but the bargain is so much sweeter as a noun once they’ve had to employ the verb to get it. Desis especially love to bargain in places where the price is supposedly fixed. Desis, being an exceedingly whimpy billion or so folks, consider bargaining in unknown and dangerous territory their version of thrill seeking.

entreecoupon072.jpgFor example, observe an otherwise soft-spoken uncle at a restaurant where his food is cold, poorly prepared or simply displeasing to him. Watch as he negotiates his way into ordering a new dish, getting the entire meal for free for him and his 6 friends, and walking away with a coupon for another free meal.

Or imagine an auntie at a store trying to get a new dress. A simple transaction that involves choosing a dress and paying the full price would be too, well, Americanized. She will first find fault with the chosen dress, then call the manager and press for at least a 10-15% discount, then use her ‘buy one get one free’ coupon to secure a second dress, and then come back to return the free second dress without the receipt for store credit.

It is therefore advisable to have a Desi at hand when in need of a discount. She will be most happy to oblige. Asking questions about specific bargaining techniques will earn you favor amongst Desis and possibly a free mango lassi.