Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why and why not.

It was first a status message on Google talk. Gtalk status messages according to me are very significant. I would never put something there unless I was sure that I am okay with everyone I know reading it. My recent lines include

- Usually I am a nice person. Today I am just being Deepika.
- American friendships are different from Indian ones - Why and why not?
- Blackford is the place where CSHL serves "food". Today there was nothing vegetarian but for a soup that I risked to taste. And it was by far the most edible thing Blackford has made. But it was very unfortunate that it was called Split Pea soup.

I admit that I haven't known as many people in the States as I did in India. That is a direct result of having spent the larger chunk of my life in the latter country (oh what a crappy line!). So using statistics isn't fair and neither is it going to be valid. I am going to try and stick to facts and logic here. But I may digress from that and venture into a very emotionally sensitive arena. In which case I will get both into trouble and distress.

Friendship in India was a subconscious and tacit commitment. There were different levels of it. Broadly,
- The classmate to who you say hi in the corridors (sometimes).
- The outer fringe of your hangout gang who you might invite to a birthday party.
- The inner core of your hangout gang who you ALWAYS go with.
- The couple of people in that inner core who know your life like they know theirs.

When you are visibly depressed in life, the above people will react in the following ways.
- Whisper to one another in the same corridor as to what could have happened. But try to smile normally.
- Have a faint idea as to what happened but don't bother prying further.
- Know exactly what is wrong and are trying to fix it.
- Is either the obvious cause or solution to it.

When there is a mild disagreement,
- Bah! I am never smiling at her again ~ grrr.
- Either try using the inner core as a mediator to resolve things or just smile at you in the corridors from then onwards.
- A brief argument is followed by the rest laughing their asses off at you.
- Hits you on your head till you agree to what they say.

When there is a severe disagreement,
- This person's hangout group starts collectively disliking you.
- Begins to pretend that you never existed.
- A 2 day silence followed by forcible and successful patching up executed by the others.
- Will go tell your mom what a donkey you are and then hits on your head till you say sorry.

Depending on how much you talk and how many friends you have, these groups may collapse into lesser numbers. As far as college was concerned, I think being popular was slightly different from having a lot of friends but there were overlaps.

Now for the American bit - I don't know enough Americans to make bold statements as to how they are with one another. But I know enough Indians in America to make bold statements as to how we are with one another. The interesting feature is that while it was easy to make distinctions in India, it is dodgy here. Very very dodgy.
When you are on the streets in NY and you see an Indian, there are two things that can happen - either they will recognize you as someone from India and smile, else they will pretend you are from another planet and walk by with a determinedly bored look.
When you are in a work place, there is the extremely helpful Indian colleague or the determinedly avoiding Indian. It is normal desi tendency to try and make desi friends. Its not that we refuse to socialize with the others, but its just that the "wavelengths" never match. And in the definite event that we make friends with our countrymen, then there are just two simple kinds - the ones who know your life like they know theirs and the ones who are as superficial as dead skin.
(This is the emotionally sensitive arena that I was talking about, and its best I don't step in here).
As for why and why not - I think why we sometimes ignore other Indians is because the reason some of us got here was to get away from "them" and "they" followed us here. And why we sometimes don't is because no matter how hard some of us try to shed off the desipanti in us, it creeps back right on and nudges us to civilize with our ilk. But in all this ruckus there are some paaavam jantus that try to recreate the exact Indian friendship thing - smiles at Indians and is the epitome of friendly Indian colleague - but eventually just end up writing blog notes about their understanding of it.

COLOR: Butterscotch
SONG: New York nagaram (ARR)

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