If you have ever watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding then you’re well aware of the grandfather who proudly proclaimed that spraying Windex on a wound is the answer to most medical maladies. Replace the grandfather with my grandmother and Windex with turmeric and it’s pretty much a given that when it comes to Indian families, you’re buying a one way ticket to Crazyville. Atleast you’re not alone; we take you along for the ride!
Turmeric is India’s answer to everything ranging from a cut to a pimple and while it may have taken Western gastronomy by storm (turmeric shots by Juice Gen, I’m looking at you), when it stains, you can bid farewell to that article of clothing. Tide To-Go has got nothing on the staining prowess of turmeric. Rest in peace, beloved silk shirt.
Hello! It’s me:
Perhaps a moment all of us can relate to is witnessing the absurdity of an international call. Even the most educated person will find himself speaking in a volume that’s atleast 10 decibels higher when speaking to relatives in India. If transferring sound waves across countries were as easy as speaking loudly, international calling as we know it would cease to exist. Last time I checked, Alexander Graham’s invention worked just fine folks!
I received an expression that spoke of furrowed brows and glazed eyes the last time I told my name to a Starbucks barista. I proceeded to say: “Karishma! You know, like, charisma…but with a K?” Upon smiling and feigning comprehension, the barista named my cup: “Carisha”…with a smiley face. Let’s take a moment to silently pray for all those who will be tasked with spelling South Indian names, for their names are probably longer than my address. The last South Indian person I was introduced to called himself “Subramanyamvenkatram…for short”. If the abridged version of his name was 20 characters long, his full name would probably reach the Twitter character limit.
There's English, and then there's Indian English:
The dictionary is rather futile when it comes to defining colloquial usage of words such as “healthy”. If you suddenly find yourself being referred to as “healthier” (read: fatter), chances are your trips to 16 handles are visibly increasing your love handles. I’m still willing to bet that no amount of pleading over requests for healthier meals will deter grandmothers from putting dollops of clarified butter (ghee) inside meals. The weighing scale is a phenomenon that grandparents refuse to acknowledge, for we’re always underweight in their eyes. We tend to have even more fun confusing unsuspecting passerbys with phrases such as “passing with flying colors” (translation: acing an exam). I’m almost certain that an A is not merely “passing” and I don’t know about you, but I don’t see colors flying on my exam, or anywhere really. It’s no wonder then that I received puzzled expressions as though I had just disembarked from a UFO and not an airplane during my first year of schooling after settling in New York.
A is for...mangoes?
If it’s summer and your local grocery is out of its stock of mangoes, chances are you will find them at my house. No really. Referred to as the “king of fruits”, I’m often fed these “kings” daily, in quantities well beyond a regular serving size because of its “ high Vitamin A content” (courtesy, mom). It’s a wonder I’m not a walking dose of Vitamin A since I probably exhale its nutrients at this point. The obsession, however, doesn’t end at mangoes. It’s not uncommon to find bottles of coconut oil (or its sibling oils) in any Indian household. If you were anything like me, your mother had to run and chase you before dousing your hair in the quantity of oil McDonalds uses to fry potatoes in. Gone are those days, praise the heavens. I run faster now.
Every event on the Indian social calendar revolves around food. While some think of us as hailing from the land of good chicken tikka masala, truth be told, others know we don't take meals between our breaks, we take breaks between our meals. If there's something else we love, it's our chai. At this point, I think we plan our next tea break over the current tea break. Once a foodie, always a foodie!
If you're celebrating and you know it clap your hands!
Indians are almost always celebrating life: if it isn’t the full moon or the festival of lights (or colors), you can always count on Polytheism and the Hindu religious calendar to find something auspicious. I once had a friend frantically message me to find something on our calendar she could use as an excuse for cutting class. Needless to say, we found something; unfortunately, she wasn’t Indian and fumed over the lack of a Caucasian Calendar on her way to class.
Let's stay connected!
With nonexistent personal space, cousins by the dozens and melodramatic family members (myself included), Indians have utilized Whatsapp to make the world a smaller place. Since “my people” (as my friend calls Indians in jest) are constantly globe trotting and reside in every part of the world, we find a way to stay connected through family threads. Needless to say, I too, wake up with pictures that clog my camera roll every morning that read some variation of “good morning” or “good evening”. Every morning and every evening. If there's something we know it's rinse and repeat. Talk about originality! Think about exiting one of these threads and you’re probably good as dead to them. We take our Whatsapp groups seriously. Word to the wise: muting conversations works like a charm! You’re welcome!
It’s easy to believe that we come packaged inside boxes that read “Caution: Crazy! Handle with Care”, and perhaps we do but what resides within these proverbial boxes is all heart and priceless. It’s our very ability to be overbearing as family members that weaves us into a [dysfunctional] web full of laughter, joy and memories. Our movies go beyond protagonists dancing behind trees; they speak of a heritage that celebrates life through music, strong familial ties, festivals and traditions spanning centuries. And people thought Titanic was long. Try Lagaan – that movie spanned a whopping 3 hours and 45 minutes, the run time of three regular chick flicks! While we may have our superstitions such as taking a detour after seeing a black cat cross our path we also follow rituals such as respecting books, for we believe the Goddess of wisdom resides in every page. Each person that enters our homes is considered not only a guest but also divine, for our religion is founded upon the premise that a supreme being resides within each person. To the onlooker touching the feet of ones elders may appear primitive, but to us, it represents the ability to seek blessings and display our humility.
In the words of my natives: “We are like that only!” And so very proud!