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Feeling more and more desi in pardes

A patriotic virus, a desi-ease, struck me when I landed in UK, writes Ruhi Khan.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2004 22:08 IST
Ruhi Khan

"I'm an Indian… from Bombay city…' quite a popular old number but was never my favourite - until I stepped on the shores of the United Kingdom.

It is something in the air that does it to you. Something quite lethal and contagious - patriotic virus that causes what I call a Desi-ease. I've suffered from it time and again; I suffer from it even now as I can't refrain from masking a smile as I type the headline.

I was never a linguistic, and Hindi was somehow never my language of conversation in India. And here I'm addicted to chatting away to glory in Hindi with Indians around the firangis. (winks) Just for the record a few benefits: You don't have to worry about being overheard or minding your language. But honestly, I think most people just do it because it is fun to sound desi in pardes.

What did one Indian say to the other Indian?
Nothing that didn't have 'India' in it!

This wasn't to humour you. In fact, it is one of the many reality bites you discover when you set up camp here. I remember when my classmate invited us all home for a party. We were a houseful. We had people of almost every nationality there. But unfortunately, for them there were a couple of Indians and the only conversation that happened was about India. We kept apologising every few minutes and would change the topic to something else but within a short while it was 'India' again. We'd talk about everything under the sun that had 'India' in it: Food, clothes, people, culture, weather, movies, politics - everything that "sucked" when I was in India was now the most important topic of discussion. After all it is fun to talk desi in pardes.

A friend from Canada told me once: "When you are away from home, even the crappiest of Hindi movies would make you sit through it for three hours." That is when this desi-ease reaches the critical condition, I suppose. I could watch a pathetic film and yet, enjoy it if I can catch glimpses of Mumbai city in it. That is something that cheers me up completely, pumps up my adrenalin so much that all through the sadistic movie I will be jumping with excitement telling everyone who can hear everything about Mumbai they show in the movie. From the exotic beaches to the poverty stricken slums of Dharavi, from the batata vada at the railway station to the chat at the sea side, just everything from Aamchi Mumbai is simply a treat. After all it is fun to watch desi in pardes.

But it is not all about walking or talking desi. It is all about feeling desi. We all know the popular cliché "You can take an Indian out of India but you can never take India out of an Indian". Let me assert, quite forcefully, that it is not just a cliché but quite a fact of life. For me, it has been just a year in this country but I'm completely homesick. My family is here at the moment and I've spent a great time with them but I'm still yearning to go back home. So it is not my family that is pulling me back but the desire to relive all those days I spent in India once more.

I want to walk those beaches barefooted again, watch the sun set on the horizon, eat the yummy cheese masala dosa and bhel puri, shop at the flea market and watch a good movie or simply just hang out with friends at all those weirdest places every Mumbaite knows about. Little things that were just a part of everyday life seem so precious once you are away. We all crib in India, we all wish to go abroad to study or work, but it is when you go away that you truly realize what you have lost.

India with all its negativities is yet an amazing place. It teaches you a great deal about yourself and about life. It makes you stronger and matured. It inculcates values in you which are rare in Western societies. And it gives you a reason to celebrate life and relationships. It is not just fun but it is something to be proud of- being a desi in pardes.

(Ruhi Khan is doing her MA in International Journalism from City University, London)

First Published: Jan 06, 2004 11:57 IST