By: Kedar Patankar
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Registration Number: 1203093
We Indians and
Virtually every Indian has some opinion about
For Indians coming to and living in
There are some general guidelines to know how many years an Indian has spent in US. There are some clear signs and some subtle ones. Take example of an Indian, coming fresh from
Jeans are accompanied by the Target/ Wal-Mart t-shirts, sweatshirts and even shirts. In fact, if you go to a Target or a Wal-mart and see a 70% off sale on a particular type of t-shirt or shirt, it’s almost guaranteed that you will find many other Indians like you, wearing the same shirt, that day on.
When they are new in US, irrespective of their salary in dollars, Indians always convert everything in rupees inside their brains. That’s why a shirt of $10 becomes 450 rupees. An $8 Chinese dish becomes as expensive as 360 rupees. That ‘Desi’ calculator inside the brain takes some years to lose its batteries. Until then, it automatically converts every dollar into 40-plus rupees. It’s almost as if there is an invisible decoder that is fitted over the eyes and ears of the Indians. $4 is never $4 – it is ‘bloody’ 180 rupees!!
Every Indian coming to US gets one or many Lord Ganesh statues as farewell gifts from
Indians get very excited to talk about
You can also measure the number of years spent in US by an Indian by his mannerisms. If the Indian smiles at you and if it’s really not a full smile, but just an ‘inward-folding-of-his-lips’, that means that he has been in US for at least 7-8 years. He has seen and observed Americans smiling at unknown people. That never happened to him in
When Indians see other Indians, they use this ‘inward-folding-of-lips gesture’ very often. It says the following – “Look dude, you are Indian and I am Indian! If we were in
There is always an interesting chemistry amongst Indians in US. Whenever two Indians meet each other in US, each one is actually weighing the other person in his mind– “I wonder how many years has he been in US? Does he have a Green card or H-1? Let me first hear his accent. That will tell me how long he has been here” – all these statements immediately go across an Indian mind when meeting another Indian. Indian people are normally very proud about the number of years they have spent in US. Directly or indirectly they somehow mention the years during conversations with other Indians they meet for the first time. There are plenty of smart ways to let other Indians know that you have stayed in US longer than them.
When density of Indian population in any region within US exceeds a certain threshold, Indians seize to acknowledge each other. There are just too many Indians around you to even bother with ‘folding-of-your-lips’.
There is a hierarchy amongst the Indians in US. Indians who have been in US for a long time look down upon the new ones. Indians with more Americanized accents look down upon Indians with ‘pure’ ones. Indians, who consider themselves part of American fabric and dress as such, look down upon Indians who look too Indian.
Indians try pretty hard to pick up American accents – or what they perceive as the American accent. The usage of the letter “H” increases exponentially as the number of years of stay in US increase. A simple sentence like “Turn the car there” becomes “Tuhrn thuh cahr thehre” in Indian-American English. It’s like listening to the classical music where you have a base of ‘H’ going on all the time. Indians learn quickly to throw the letter “H” in every possible word, to make their accent sound American. A fellow student who came from
Indians coming from
B.O. aka body odor is the concept which every Indian learns in US within a few years of stay. Until then, as long as you don’t smell your own smell, you are pretty sure that people cannot smell it either. In US you often find yourself standing in an el
Difference between when you come as a student vs. H-1 job visa
There is a distinct difference in a person’s habits, behavior and the outlook when the person comes to US on a student visa (F-1) vs. a person coming to US on a job visa (H-1). A person coming to US on student visa has experienced how living with 3 other roommates from different parts of
But when you come on H-1 job visa, things are drastically different. You are already getting a decent salary (when converted to rupees, its really a lot) You live with roommates, only if you are not married or if there is some delay before your wife joins you. You have roommates only because you need some sense of safety and security in an unknown country. (In US, when you are new, any person resembling an Indian looks friendly. Even the Mexicans! ). You may also want to save as many dollars as possible before your work contract expires. You can immediately buy new furniture if your apartment is not already furnished. You can afford to eat outside, even daily. If you are married and your spouse gets to US on H-4 visa, you get rid of any roommates you may have. Your wife starts to cook for you and so you never really crave for good food. Either wife or money always provides you with good food. You immediately go for a car, although a second-hand one. You don’t have to share it with anyone else either
This fundamental difference in life experiences during the initial days in US make two very different personalities out of H-1 and F-1 people
Amongst the several things that determine number of years of staying experience in US, – “moving” is one of them. If you call movers to move your furniture and belongings, it means that you have financially settled down and do not have many available friends left. This means at least 7-8 years stay in US. If you move using your friends, it means you are single, poorer with other single able-bodied friends who are equally dependent on you for
Indians who came to US any time before 1990s feel a little cheated by the latest development in communication technology. When they came to US, email was unheard of in
But technology changed it all. It reduced homesickness to just a passing mood than a long lasting state of mind. These early Indians saw the homesickness losing its image, its power and its weight in front of their very eyes. Technologies such as cell phones, web cams and Reliance phone cards at less than 10 cents per minute seriously violated the laws of homesickness. “No easy visual and no cheap audio” are the basic rules of homesickness which got violated. Technology made homesickness into this poor little fellow no one is much afraid of anymore. ‘The homesickness in our times had a charm’- sighed the Indians who came to US before 90s ‘Huh! These new immigrants – how will they ever understand that feeling?’
These early Indians in US are also in denial about changes happening in
Indian men over 40s and 50s staying in US look very similar to each other. A guy wearing khaki shorts, a t-shirt (tucked in) with a belt over it, holding a can of beer in one hand and telling his other Indian friends at his house party “I am working on my roof”! The roof could be roof or it could be a Patio (that’s one more word Indians have to learn when they come to US), it could be the basement or it could be the backyard. But every Indian over 40s and 50s in US is working on one of these four frontiers of his house and is telling about it to his other Indian friends.
These Indian people over 40s and 50s in Indians in their 20s and early 30s
Indians in their 20s and early 30s
Something dramatic happens to the Indians in their 20s and early 30s, when they spend a few years in US. A lot of them come to US as students. They trade a very thin line when they are in US. Depending upon their friend circle and their perception of the world and themselves, these people can flip to the “other” side within a flash. Main struggle for them is how to “fit in”. That fitting in process starts with their clothes, makeup, shoes, food habits, friends, alcohol, smoking, clubbing and of course their speech patterns.
There is a huge group of these ‘modern, trying to fit in’ young people. You hear them talking to each other at a party. Everyone is acutely aware of his or her accent. Of course there is no American at this party. It’s just a bunch of Indians from
These people are very proud of their abilities to know, mix and consume various types of alcohols. They constantly talk about getting drunk. Many of these same people, who had not had wine back in
Every guy in this age group has been to ‘downtown clubs’. Many of these guys were excited to come to US because they were told that White women like Brown skin and most of them have already been disappointed. Every girl has gotten drunk beyond control. Many of them have smoked cigarettes, smoked cigars and pretended that cigars are ok to smoke, arranged bachelor parties, been with multiple partners, or at least have tried desperately. Some of them have even crossed the ‘doing drugs’ boundary.
Many of them are truly dual personalities. Saturday night is different and Sunday morning, when they call
A huge metamorphosis happens in US when it comes to this group. Before they come to US, the picture is drastically different. It’s the same guys and girls whom you see holding on to their lives and metal bars in crowded buses and trains in
And now it’s the same guys and girls who wear new masks and new make-ups struggling to fit in.Their heart may not have adjusted totally but their bodies seem to have ‘fitted in’
This is another category of Indians who live in US. Most people in this category have lived in US for some time. These people, strangely, have no emotional bonds with
There is a younger variety of this generation who has spent 8 or more years in US. They go back to
This is a very strange twist you get to see. These people have spent all their childhood and a significant part of their youth in
You see such people living in US. If you knew them from before, you have seen them when they were growing up in
Some of the people in this category suddenly realize the greatness of
Patriotic Indians living in US
This category includes people who live in US for years after years and love to hate it. They also love to say that they love
And yet they continue to live in US.
These people send emails to other Indians with patriotic messages, stories related to
And yet they continue to live in US. They criticize American society, ‘western culture’, food habits of people around them, everything that they find different than in
Indians in India who love to hate US
Today, ‘going to US’ has lost its charm quite significantly in
Quite a few Indians in
“Are Americans any smart? I think they are really stupid. They are rich because of our Indian people who have gone there “- is a common feeling amongst this group of people. In fact, even some Indians who come new in US convince themselves too soon that all Americans are dumb. They base this assumption on their conversation with a checkout counter clerk at a grocery store who can not multiply 38 X 83 as fast as they can.
What most of these people forget is some of the basics. Why is
You have streets in US. You have streets in
What applies to roads, applies to the whole country and the way it functions daily at all levels for common people. Why doesn’t one require things like myriad paperwork, passport sized photographs, notarized photocopies, weeks of wait, several phone calls and personal visit reminders to get simple things done in US? Why can’t an Indian even think of bribing a
People forget that American society is like Indian society. There are brilliant people and there are dumb people. There are many average and normal people. If a Computer Scientist comes to
Racism in US
People read about racism in US. They hear about it in media. Blacks and whites!
Back to this racism issue, history of US is drenched in racism. The numerous crimes against Blacks in early part of last century and before, paint a very dark picture. No society can be defended against racism. There is racism in US. But it is no worse than in rest of the world. There are biases amongst people against each other. But it is no worse than in the rest of the world. All humans carry biases about other humans who look different than themselves.
Given all this,
If you are an Indian, chances are that you have thought about the ‘white’ people as racists whether you have personally experienced racism or not. Indians in
We Indians are extremely racists. Indians are not only racists, but also are ‘classists’, ‘communitysts’, ‘sub-castists’ etc. We look down upon people whom we believe are from ‘lower’ societal standing. Even within one Brahmin community, there are sub-categories of Brahmins who have biases against each other. We first look at the surname of another Indian and gauge him or her. Based on that surname alone, we form a snapshot of the past, present, future, family and background of that person in our minds. We carry those biases while dealing with that person from that moment on. Our thousands of years of history is drenched in racism and classism. That struggle still goes on. In cities it is a little implicit. In villages it is more explicit. Take the simple skin color factor! Even well-do-do, educated and intellectual people carry biases about ‘dark’ vs. ‘fair’. Fair is good and dark is bad.
With that background in mind, it becomes interesting to look at US. Here is the country where there are, not only different sects of their own society, but on the top of that, there are millions of people from other countries pouring in. We “Bombayites” have a problem with people coming in from Bihar, which is just another state within
Media in US is providing more attention to
Well if it is right or wrong can be debated. The one perspective one may have is – will
US is a bully
One thing Indians like to think about US is that it’s a big bully. Especially when its policies are pro-Pakistan, anti-Kashmir etc, we like to hate US. Other events in the world like
This is again an issue where a lot of people in
Indians and Pakistanis, Hindus and Muslims in US
Indians and Pakistanis, Hindus and Muslims have learned to act normal around each other in US now. ‘He is Muslim’ or ‘He is Indian’ statements are accepted with same smiling face and ‘it does not matter’ nod – pure American style! Desis have learned American manners when it comes to these things. In fact they may go one step further and even hang out together. They feel cool about themselves by doing that. Especially for Desis who were raised back home and who came to US, the words like religion or nationality, trigger some alarm somewhere deep down and may even push some button somewhere inside. But they have learned to mask it so well that they have begun to believe that the button never existed.
But that apart, it is strange how open minded people become about Hindu-Muslims and Indians-Pakistan issues when they are in US. Back home, they would not spare any chance of back-lashing against each other. But in US, they would behave in a very friendly way with each other. It’s almost that they all become Americans. They are not Indians or Pakistanis any more. It’s interesting how a third country makes all of us a part of one single family. At some levels it really does not matter suddenly. This tells us that either we don’t care about real problems back home when we are in US or emotions do run really high on these issues back home.
Dignity of Labor in US
One big difference an Indian realizes when he comes to US is the way people behave with the guy behind the counter at a Fast food place or a waiter or a woman mopping the floor or the guy in a grocery store etc. That behavior is drastically different than the one he is used to, back in
This also brings us to personal habits of individuals. In US, irrespective of your income level, you are bound to clean the house yourself, wash the dishes and clothes yourself, do the grocery shopping yourself as well. In
Western culture has become a commonly used word in the dictionary of Indians. It is used in a very generic and broad manner. People use it like a wide brush to paint everything that is perceived as modern and evil. It’s funny that people use this word to describe behavior of people in
Where does this ‘Western culture’ come in from? Mostly it is because of media. MTV, Jerry Springer, Soap Operas,
But as one spends more and more time every day with normal common Americans, one comes to realize that they are as afraid of ‘western culture’ as everyone else. They worry about their kids getting influenced by TV and internet. They try to impose strict control on the content kids can watch and also on the time they can spend with it. They worry and care about their old parents. They cry when relations go sour. They yearn for normal family lives. Human emotions, attachments and fears are common everywhere in the world. Dig a little deeper in the ‘Indian cultured’ society around you. You will find marital abuse, extra-marital affairs, rapes, alcoholism, twisted family relations and so on. Even Indians agree that Indian society can be pretty hypocritical. So where does the question of ‘western culture’ come in? It’s our own culture!
Then there is always another side to everything. Even the Indian culture can be looked at differently. What we perceive as less divorce rate could also be seen as women not having any voice, they being oppressed without having option of getting out of bad marriages. Americans perceive
Each of the points mentioned here can trigger a big debate on its own. They have triggered debates before and they will continue to do so. It is because all of it is subjective. All of it depends on personal outlooks, experiences and beliefs. Those are different from one person to next.
As we Indians spend more time with
As human beings, our goal can be to learn, educate ourselves and evolve. The more we get exposed to the world beyond ours, the more we evolve. After that, we can pick only what makes us better and forget everything else. As they say in Sanskrit “Yad rochate, tad grahyam!’ (pick only what you think is good) Kedar Patankar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kedar Patankar (email@example.com)
Article registered with Writers Guild of
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