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The 'Bloody Desi' Syndrome

The 'Bloody Desi' Syndrome

May 01, 2013
Being slated as an 'outsider' in a foreign nation is bad enough, but what if your own start to shun you too?

The area of the footpath next to the ATM is littered with paper receipts, McDonald’s packets-sans-fries, stray leaves etc. Across the road, men and women defy the tiny-red-man-on-a-walk signal and callously cross the road even though vehicles are hurtling past. The other day, I saw a man spit. Not paan. Maybe it was water or saliva. But he spat. My friend told me that the day after New Year’s eve, walking down the road, you would have had to sidestep puddles of urine. You may be thinking - typical Indian city, right? Wrong. Six months in Melbourne, and the novelty of being a visitor has now worn off. The tourist-stamped rose glasses that I had worn for the first couple of weeks here, have been replaced by local clear glasses through which I experience both the good and the bad of the city. And there is a whole lot of good in the city, don’t get me wrong. It’s bursting with culture, people love sports – all kinds, not just cricket, people are pretty laid back, they work hard but they also love their weekends which, by the way, seem to run throughout the week! And public transport is extremely efficient.

And it only takes one such sighting for a haughty ‘foreigner’ (albeit an immigrant himself) to point a finger at Asians! I do not intend to generalize, but racist comments (even though they have been rare) have all said it – some loud and clear, others in a round-about way. ‘Bloody Indians’, or using the term that was more frequent in the US of A, ‘Bloody Desis’ are the ones responsible for destroying the warm sanctity and cleanliness of ‘their’ city. Wrong again.

The men and women who crossed the road without the slightest regard for traffic law, were not all Indians. Maybe about 5% of them were. The man who spat on the road was not an Indian, he wasn’t even Asian. The people who my husband and I have encountered on our late-evening walks, who walk around smoking, throwing cigarette butts on the street even though cigarette disposal cans sit right next to them, are not Indians. Indians abroad, have by and far, blended in with their host communities. We might be an impatient tribe back home, but when abroad, we do not like to create a stir, not without good cause. The population of educated, cultured Indians – abroad and back home - is on the rise, and we’re much more civilized than we were a couple of decades ago. And yet we continue to be downplayed. It makes me sad but the attitude is not surprising.

What appalls me though, is how the ‘Bloody Desi’ syndrome has percolated into the Indian community as well. For instance, looking at apartments to move in to, we met another Indian who had come to inspect the same property. Though Melbourne is a multi-cultural blended community, this particular complex that we visited turned out to be more Indian than usual. Chatting casually, the other Indian remarked in jest, “No way am I moving here, too many bloody desis here.” It’s coated in humour, but it makes me wonder. As if we hadn’t enough people stereotyping us, do we really need our own countrymen to do it too?

People in Minnesota (USA) are generally of the friendly variety. Walking down the street, we had taken to greet every stranger who crossed our path. A casual ‘Hi’, ‘How are you?’ was a normal thing to do. And yet, when Indian strangers came face to face, at least one, if not both, of the parties would avert their eyes. I have been in discussions with close friends, trying to decode this behaviour and even though “Indian men!” and “Indians stare – both men and women!” have been the top contenders, the actual reason remains unknown.

I do not say, flaunt your culture and rub it in people’s faces, no. Fanaticism is never the solution. In Rome, do as the Romans do. But what does distancing ourselves from our Indianness really solve, except perhaps give people a false sense of being more ‘civilized’ or ‘foreign’? We, as a population, love to call others racist and judgmental. But what we are doing to our own? What is it if not judgmental? Sanity, cleanliness, decency, civility and courtesy are social and behavioural aspects that grow on you, if given time. The need of the hour is to behave to impress, but to behave in a way that makes us, as a people, proud of ourselves,


  • 20.09.14 10:20 PM
    Hello Deepa, Answer to puzzle, When an Indian sees the Other, he/she instantly secures his/her JOB, they always think that you are a Competitor, they never understand that you may be Better off than them, You may be in need of some help, and they do not want to put themselves ina situation where they may have to Share! Most NRI's went overseas to Make a Better Living, they think that they are the Choosen Ones, There are occatissions where these NRIs forget their own MOTHER and Father, they pay back their parents expenses till they went abroad, I know a friend who asked his NRI friend about the " Amount to be Paid to His Mothers Milk"
    Hope i cleared some part of the puzzle. Good Day
  • chaitanya
    29.05.13 11:44 AM
    I agree with you a little and disagree with you a little. The generalization of Indians is true, the friction between Indian strangers is true, but I've never had anyone speak that way to me.
    It's true that a small section of Indians ruins it for the rest of us. And I stay away from that small section too; I would've stayed away from them in India too.
  • Deepa
    09.05.13 05:47 PM
    Let me start with apologies for the delay in responding.
    Internet problems - could only access email on phone and I don't enjoy typing long comments on the phone!

    @MySay: If the categorization leads to discrimination that affects a being, then yes, it is important to care. The problem is when it starts out small and then ends up becoming a huge racist issue. If it doesn't balloon, maybe it's not worth the time, I agree!

    @Rajpriya: I must admit, I am guilty of that assumption too :) As far as the 'fraandship' request goes, sigh! They do provide good entertainment though ;)

    @Latha: Thank you, that is all I ask for. No special privileges. Only same courtesy that is being extended to others.

    @Jas: I am glad you didn't have to. Yes, definitely has to do with pysche. But the problem is when people start influencing each other by their deeds. Better to nip such attitudes in the bud!

    @Achala: LOL on the Mayflower. Seriously! I do not like the acting all high and mighty. Adapting a culture is good as long as one does not demean their roots.

    @Neelam: Well said. Thank you!

    @Indu: We talk about cleanliness being next to Godliness. But it's all only talk! I do see things improving but like education, this one begins at home too. I am hopeful!

    @American Punjaban PI: That's the thing, we do not realize until we zone in on the locals and find them doing the same things and getting away with it. No fair! It's high time we apply the same rules to everyone and extend the same courtesy to all regardless of nationality or race!
  • Rajpriya
    09.05.13 10:04 AM
    @American Punjaban PI,

    It would be an excellent idea for you to visit the unified Germany where you may never pass by a single “Bloody Desi”, but just reformed Desi’s who abide by the rules of the land.

    May be in America the original Desi’s (The Red Indians) were wiped out and today the people known, as Americans: are a mixture of hundreds of different ethnicities.
  • American Punjaban PI
    American Punjaban PI
    08.05.13 12:08 AM
    I've seen the 'bloody desi' syndrome in the Indian community and I don't like it. Being an American and spending time in many cities and states here I never noticed just how people really acted until I came back from India. You're right, the same things people think Indians (or immigrants in general sometimes) are doing wrong are exactly the same things the natives do! While I've never seen people pee on the streets, I've seen plenty of spitting here and it's disgusting. In my area it's rednecks doing all the spitting and no one would have any right to say anything to the Indians here.

    Each of us, regardless of cultural background, needs to stop trying to find reasons to hate ourselves and others and learn to value peoples differences.
  • indu chhibber
    indu chhibber
    04.05.13 12:04 PM
    When i started reading your post i too thought that this was about an Indian city,but it is good to know that Indians blend into their surroundings without standing out like sore thumb.
    But when will we learn to keep our own country clean?
  • Neelam Dadhwal
    Neelam Dadhwal
    03.05.13 08:35 PM
    It is our psychology that preaches more and practices less. It is important to be calm and confident so that others could emulate these qualities.
  • Achala
    03.05.13 09:37 AM
    Very true. As a race, we all suffer from some sort of a rage of Caliban seeing his face in the mirror when we see other Indians. We want the exclusivity of being one of the few Indians who actually make it out of the country - YET want the comfort of home-made dhoklas. I remember someone who owned a home in Westchester once telling me -seriously - that the "tone" of the neighbourhood was coming down because so many Indians were moving in. No doubt his family came over on the Mayflower.
  • Jas
    03.05.13 07:22 AM
    Well, I haven't really spend considerable amount of time outside India and haven't encountered any of these issues in my short stays but I think it could be more about people than belonging to a particular country.
  • Latha
    03.05.13 02:49 AM
    I agree, Deepa. We are afraid of the laws here, the rules here. So, we strive to maintain a clean country. But we don't do the same back home. You know being an Indian, NRI, I like to be with Indians but not over crowded with them. Somehow, I like to have my own space. Yet, I never say bloody desi. If I say a bloody desi, then, I am also one of them right? We all have come to a foreign land, then why humiliate your own kind?
  • Rajpriya
    03.05.13 12:08 AM
    I have no problems with the normalcy of Desis. On online forums they mistake me for a woman. The one below (Recd. today) is one of many I receive every now and then from guys who think I am a woman. They all want just decent friendships. The xxxxxxx I left out is where he is located in India. When I show it to my wife she really laugh her guts out.

    When I bump into The exceptions I point out elsewhere and say loud "What an Axx Hxxe!"

    priya, i am very happy to receive such a cordial reply from u. I am 39 yrs old gud luking, wheatish color 172cm height, 70 kg weight, bank manager, xxxxxxxx. Like to know more abt u. send me pvt.msg for good decent friendship.
  • My Say
    My Say
    02.05.13 05:58 PM
    Simple Words : Wish wearing a mask you could impress Lions .. to all the Indians who avoid the Desis !!
    There are huge number of Indians who take pride in being Indians ... not only back home but in the lands of the whites and blacks .. abroad ... and sooner than later this Desi word would be a title of pride !!
    Practically speaking, human nature is to categorize ... hence its ok ... who cares ?
  • Deepa
    02.05.13 04:23 PM
    @Naim Naqvi: I agree. There are those who will never change and there are those who blend in, adapting themselves to the nation they reside in. But most Indians I have seen do try to not appear boorish while abroad, maybe its the fear of being evicted or the fear of the law that does it.

    @Writerzblock: The 'won't send my child to a school where too many Indians' is a classic example! I fail to understand why.

    @Harry: NZ was awesome! Am doing a travelogue on my blog - do drop by! Again, seen and experienced only through the tourist's rosy glasses for now!

    @justanotherdesigirl: The argument is fair and valid. However, am not talking about being confined to Indian groups. I do not encourage that either. All I am asking is to extend the same amount of cordiality that Indians extend to non-Indians. Nod or a quick Hi while on the road, not be quick to judge someone simply because he/she is an Indian. It's only about being fair not about being partial to Indians (or anyone for that matter!)

    @Rajpriya: Indeed! For the most part, the Indians I have known have been OK too. But there has been this sect as well - that's left a lasting impression. After all, normalcy is just that - normalcy. It's the exceptions which set you thinking!
  • Rajpriya
    02.05.13 12:51 PM
    Have I been Bloody lucky? I have not had met any one making such comments in UK, US or Europe.

    May be, I don't have the characteristics of a Desi. I have spoken to many of them Desis working and shopping at Sainsburys in London. They have been OK with me.
  • justanotherdesigirl
    02.05.13 05:47 AM
    I try and avoid the "desi hubs" too if I can. My reason is that I am in this country for a short period of time (2-3 years) and I want to learn as much about the country, its people and culture as I can. I wont be able to do this if I confine myself to people/places in my comfort zone aka desi hubs.
    02.05.13 12:16 AM
    @ Deepa

    Well come to west Deepa. :D

    I exactly know how you are feeling. I nod to people and if they don't respond to it, then it's their loss.

    Ohh BTW how is the trip to KIWI land going. Is it any good? :)
  • Writerzblock
    01.05.13 04:40 PM
    I hear this once in a while as well, and only from the Indian community. They don't want to send their children to schools where there are too many other Indian kids. They don't want to buy groceries from Asian areas. They almost want to disassociate themselves from the Indian masses and position themselves as the elite...the cream of society...a society that they come from but don't belong to!!
    Typical 'bloody desi' attitude. Oooooops. ;-)
  • Naim Naqvi
    Naim Naqvi
    01.05.13 03:32 PM
    The writer has tried a rosy picture of NRI Indian. However, according to my experience, you can take an Indian out of India but you can't take out Indian out of an Indian. We break the law openly inside our country as much as we could and we do the same outside as and when clandestinely we could. We carry the same habits, same values and same prejudices wherever we go.

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