As an Indian-American, I enjoyed the privilege of being a sort of U.S. Ambassador-of-All-That-Is-Inaccessible-to-India. Once a year, I would go to India bearing new world fashions, new world electronics, new world foods, new world vernacular, and a new world attitude. And even though in America, let’s just say, I wasn’t the most popular kid around, in India I was the one to watch, baby, believe you me. Just by my swagger, people knew that I had come from the promised land.
But I first knew that the allure of my foreign status was waning when, in Hyderabad, I was dragged to an epic Indian film by my grandmother. Expecting to see chubby, mustached, middle-aged leading actors with skin problems and robust female leads with large aquiline noses, I was quite alarmed when muscular, young, clear-skinned Indian men and light-eyed, small-nosed, petite Indian women took the screen. What is going on here? I thought. These people look way cooler than me.
Dialog that had once been pointless and ridiculous, reaffirming the great sense of purpose in my life in America, was now replaced with jealousy-inducing conversations about world travels, modeling careers, and fine cuisine.
* Example of old dialog:
Guy: Hello, nice lady!
Girl: Uh-Bah! What do you want?
Guy: I just have one question!
Girl: Hurry up with it.
Guy: What is under your blouse?
Girl: Arre! (Slap!)
* Example of new dialog:
Girl: Oh, Sanjay, even though I am supposed to marry an Italian filmmaker tomorrow in the French Riviera, I think I am in love with you.
Guy: Lakshmi, you do not know how long I have waited to hear such words, dreaming of this moment in between workouts and modeling shoots in Brazil.
What the hell is this? I thought, once again. How is this happening?
The streets of Hyderabad reflected the madness I witnessed in the film. I saw young Indians dressed in the new fashions, fresh-faced with gleaming white smiles, looking eagerly to the future. Women wearing knee-high leather boots, tight baby tees, and revealing skirts. Men dressed in dirty denim and crisp button-up shirts with slickly gelled hair. And they were looking at me, in my rubber flip-flops and cargo pants, like I was out of it. Me. Out of it. How do they know how to look so good? I pondered. Who is their source? And why do I suddenly feel like a loser?
And then I realized it. I understood why so many people in America and Europe protest the World Trade Organization, FTAA, the World Bank, and IMF. I understood why they marched across towns, over bridges, and took to the streets chanting “Fair Trade, Not Free Trade!” Unregulated globalization had done it again, upsetting delicate balances of power like it was no big thing. Now, with globalization, people from developing nations can look just as good, smell just as clean, and live just as excitingly as those of us in the first world. Transnational corporations without any limits or checks placed on them had smothered local businesses, forcing peoples in developing countries to listen to the best music, wear the most fashionable clothes, and be as goodlooking as they can be. What kind of world is this? Where I feel like a geek everywhere I go, from Mexico to New Delhi? Not a world for me, no sir, not a world for me!
So, I urge you, slightly nerdy South Asian people living in the Western world, do not support the wickedness of the cursed beast they call unregulated globalization. Do not let it take away the one thing we have left as ex-pats and the children of ex-pats: our well-earned and very inaccessible better-lookingness.
Meghana Reddy writes satire for The Leftover (www.theleftover.com), a new political humor magazine that features comics, editorials, and other writings.