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My friend and I are sipping warm mochas at a trendy coffee bar in Ventura. We are there to see and be seen. In our cool hip-huggers, black boots, a real cool tiny handbag and even cooler and smaller cell phones. We want everyone to see us as trendy Indian chicks who have assimilated “oh so well,” into the even trendier Ventura Blvd. We could be drinking bitter poison for all we cared. The most important thing was to be seen as desi chicks with the good fortune of existing above the local 7-11 syndrome, courtesy of daddy’s credit card that sent us to the best schools in the city, bought us our cherry red cars with personalized license plates and regular trips to Europe and sometimes to India to learn cumbersome Sanskrit, to connect with roots and all that screwy immigrant stuff.
Okay me and my friend admit it. We are really cool. We are also really shallow. It’s perfectly natural for us talk for hours over expensive cappuccinos about the poverty in India, the disregard for feminine mystique in India, and the dynamic power of “South Asian Diaspora.” She wants to go to India to “do something with NGOs,” she says. “We gotta give back you know. I want to go to the Indian villages. There’s definitely a need for people like me there. It’s so cool there, you know. They are so villagy over there.” But in the meantime my friend and I will get down-right villagy tonight a big desi bash for young Indian Americans of the diaspora.
We will spend hours, hot and feverish, in front of our closets looking for the right black jacket and the right trendy bindi to go with it. And off we are with our tiny handbags and cell phones and daddy’s little car. The place is happening with desi music and lots of desi diasporic faces. On stage a few wannabe desi rappers are talking really fast in angst over their journey from Ludhiana to L.A. We are listening halfheartedly, teetering on the threshold of hysteria as we try to see and be seen. This is it. This is the zenith of Young Desi Trend Syndrome. If you aren’t here today, you are nowhere. You might as well be in Ludhiana.
Slowly some desi guys grope their way towards us. The one with a sink-load of hair gel on his shiny head is a Cannes Film Festival aspirant. The other is looking for desi women to go with him to India to work on a documentary on eunuchs. The handshakes are very strong. And so is their cologne. We are saved by furious clapping by the audience. The next act is on. It’s not worth mentioning. So we mingle some more. A group of chirpy girls. We eye each other like wild cats and may even manage a smile. “Hi, I‘m so and so and you?” We answer and immediately delve into important issues that help to locate each other in the yardstick of the Young Desi Trend Syndrome. School, where you live, what do you do. We are all happy that we fit perfectly on the appropriate rung of the diaspora totem pole. We are hip. We are hip enough to be there weren’t we?
The buzzword is “diaspora.” Every one wants in, it seems. It sells. Of course our immigrant parents could care less about it. But we will hold midnight vigils and sway with candles over this issue. One girl tells me that we must encourage diasporic arts. Not all this bharata natyam and other traditional stuff. But what we young people are all about. All this traditional stuff is so traditional. We young people are different. We have a new energy. My friend and I who are traditional bharata natyam dancers don’t even blink but continue to nod in synchronized frenzy and agreement. We are too cool to disagree. So this girl wants to have all the diasporic artists in L.A. to perform their angst and oh, she would love someone to come and do some traditional puppetry, some traditional rangoli, some traditional Indian stuff.
My friend and I are confused by this time. There is so much hair spray and gel in the air and we are getting quite dizzy. Saved by the next act again, we decide to leave the aspiring filmmakers and non-traditional desi chicks to their cool selves and rush out into the cold night air and spend the next two hours poring over our freeway maps, lost and screaming at each other and wishing we were back home in our beds watching reruns ofThree’s Company
There are several theories how we can survive all this “Young Trendy Desi Syndrome:”
• We can bury ourselves at 20 and pay people to dig us up at 35.
• We can drink coffee at home.
• We can stop each other from paying astronomical amounts of money to expensive universities to teach us how to show angst and confusion.
• We can stay at home and watch Three’s Company.
So my friend and are sitting again at the coffee bar doing an intensive post mortem of the desi bash. We are thrilled with each other. We tell each other that we looked super in the new hip huggers. We promise each other that we will work hard to give up traditional Indian stuff for diasporic stuff, since that’s in the market. So we are going to take classes in hip-hop bhangra and alternative yoga, and maybe go on a new soy food diet.
We may seem like a bottomless pit to some of you. But you know what? We are an honest bunch. We are an earnest bunch. We’ve got our heart in the right place. Sometimes right out there on our Ana Sui sleeve for everyone to see. We will fight causes big and small and believe in everything right. You will learn to like us one way or the other, because we want to know more about ourselves and sometimes with your help. You are actually proud of us. Proud that we made it through college, steered clear outta the way of drugs, sex, and rock and roll, proud that we have an endless supply of dynamo and energy and ambition. You know that we are on the right track. So don’t judge us too quickly. Don’t dismiss or discount our buzz words and trend syndrome, because it’s our way of figuring out all this screwy immigrant stuff, it’s our way of connecting with each other in suburban L.A. with our own myths and identity in a safe, clean, vibrant, with-it middle-class way, and you know what else? We’re doin’ pretty good!