Thursday, September 9, 2010

Identity crisis in a new jacket

This appeared on yesterday.

Using shorter versions of ones name is cool but it’s no fun when one has to resort to coffee aliases (using Americanized version of one’s name at coffee shops) just because the server doesn’t have time for you to explain to her why your parents/relatives/neighbors chose an extraordinarily long and complex name for you and how you had no say in it.

It’s almost been a decade since I moved to US and I've noticed the gradual shift in the qualities often associated with immigrated Indians. Back in the day they were the same set of boring questions. It was all about the irreplaceable nerdy image ("Ours doctors and engineers have a multitude of skills. We don't need a third profession."), the explicit red dot on the forehead ("It is for the little boys to practice archery"), curried spicy food that could kill ("If our armed forces are overworked, then that is how we destroy our enemies"), the HQ of arranged marriages ("Try it. My aunt can set you up.") and our supernatural skill of making snakes dance (I'd vary my answer on this one).Fast forward a few years and Shilpa Shetty's yoga DVDs have replaced those of Baba Ramdev’s on Amazon's yoga section, Frieda Pinto's sizzling sex appeal has replaced Tabu's docile image on movie screens in the US, Anita Nair's memoir about dating has replaced Arundhati Roy's prismatic literature on book shelves across the nation and Anil Kapoor's cameo on ‘24’ has replaced the typical Indian-doc-with-funny-accent on most shows.

It's not just media that is projecting these new improved versions. We’ve ourselves undergone bit of a transformation. Luxury cars have replaced our loyalty towards Hondas and Toyotas. Co-workers no longer shy away from inviting us to go bungee jumping or jet skiing since we’ve finally evolved past playing cricket in neighborhood parks. We don't just order diet coke without ice at restaurants anymore and resist the temptation to cover 15 countries on a first time trip to Europe in 15 days.

A few things will never change though. Like our nerds will never cease to be nerds. And I say that lovingly. The technology world needs them. Like our men's undying love for white tennis shoes for every occasion. Slick blazer, gap jeans, hot babe and white tennis shoes. Is it a sacred thing? I don't get it. Like our kids averaging 5 rides an hour at Disneyland when others can only average about 2. Eating from home packed lunch boxes sure beats standing in hour long pizza lines. We’ve morphed all we could. The rest, the world will just have to deal with.

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