Desi Get-togethers: Why They Get My Goat

March 02, 2007

Last Sunday, the three of us went to a fourth birthday lunch party. Typical desi get-together, with six kids and sixty adults gathered around a cake for a child's party. Invitation said '12 - 4pm', so we timed it so we reached the venue by 12.30pm. Host was there but there was no sign of the wife or the birthday child, for that matter. They were home, getting ready. Right.

S tells me this is quite common in their circles. He has rarely gone for a party in his Telugu community where the host was at hand to welcome folks. They generally join the party at least an hour after the time specified in the invite, dressed up to the nines. My roof-top 21st birthday, with the whole family in the thick of things, threw him off, apparently. Why? Because we were all there - at the specified time.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought it was generally part of the host's job description to welcome the guests and introduce one guest to another, get the conversation going and generally circulate so no one feels odd or left out. Wrong! If I go to a party, I am to entertain myself, make sure I introduce self to others if I didn't want to be a social pariah. Whilst I am not saying that I will stand there like a pillar of salt till someone is presented to me like I am the Queen or something, I rather thought the hostess would do her bit too.

Now S and I are from different communities; he's Telugu and I am Tamil. This poses no problem when we meet Tamilians as having grown up in Chennai, S speaks fluent Tamil but faced with traditional Telugus, we run into sticky wicket fairly straight off the bat. They cannot wrap their minds around our mixed-background concept - they start rattling in rapid Telugu to me and when I blink and say 'no Telugu, only Tamil, pliss', they give me a blank look and escape before I can say boo. Or if S is around, they stick to talking to him along, while I hang around like the handy fifth wheel.

What's with the habit of talking to just the 'head' of the family and leaving the 'tail' to fend for itself? That pisses me off so much! I am generally a non-person, hanging back with a silly smile on my face while folks talk 'matters'. Oh let's not forget, they turn to me every half hour to ask if I have eaten. What? Am I there only to stuff my face? (Is it that obvious?)

Then there's the whole segregation thing. As soon as we enter the party venue, S has to go and be with the guys whilst I have to do my sickly-smiley bit with strange womenfolk, who all, of course, know one another. Why should every desi party feel like an ancient darbar, where the men and women were kept in different zones? Why can't we mingle as couples? I have noticed this just amongst the South Indians; North Indian men don't seem to have the need to leave their womenfolk around the same time they remove their footwear.

And the cliques! I tell you - women in cliques are vicious. Avoid them at all costs. I do. At every gathering, there is at least one coven of women, sitting with plates piled high with food and sharpening their claws on some poor socially inept souls like me. None would even dream of trying to take someone who doesn't know everyone there like they do and taking them under the wing. Why bother when you can have much better fun cackling about them instead? They might leave their pointy hats at home to confuse the likes of me, but I can't spot them nonetheless.

But what takes the cake about the whole shindig is, when I'd finally bid adieu to the host, hostess and the few who deigned to drop a few words in my direction, they would normally turn around and tell me 'oh, you must visit us at home sometime real soon.' That always makes me open my eyes wide in shock and I have to bite down on my tongue real hard to stop me from blurting: 'For what? Another dose of this?'

But, being the typical bharatiya naari, I grin inanely and say, "of course, you must visit us too!" and run for the hills.

Writing is my passion and music is my soulmate. When I have a book in my hand and my music blasting in my ears, I am on top of the world. I would love to be a published author someday. But till then, I shall enthrall you all with my creative genius. :)
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Uma Ranganathan
March 2, 2007
02:12 AM

Yeah I know what you mean. I was there at one of these horrible get togethers in Paris for which (pushed by a friend) I'd worn a sari which I normally never do. Of course half way through as I stood there sipping some godawful soft drink the damn folds of the sari came undone and I had to scurry into a corner to get it into shape.

The question is how come you still go to these do's? Ah... I forgot, good Bharatiya nari! Maybe you'll join me some time in making grotesque faces at the whole lot and then pretending they just imagined it!

March 2, 2007
02:47 AM

Good idea Uma! Must try that sometime - though with a sidekick or two. Else, we'll just confirm to them that we are wierdos, if we stood there making faces!!
Next time you're in London, gimme a shout and we'll do our impression of the naari!

March 2, 2007
06:08 AM

I'll be your sidekick DG!

March 2, 2007
06:41 AM

Good girl! Hop on the next flight and we'll show 'em!

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