Tapan, the vegetarian, sits across from me. We just finished a pleasant dinner and are sipping pomegranate margaritas. Thankfully Tapan drinks. And he seems to be a “cool” vegetarian. The type that doesn’t judge other Hindus for consuming meat.
Out of the corner of my eye I study him. He has a nice build, black hair, brown eyes, and full lips. This is terrible to admit, since in my day there weren’t many desis growing up on the frozen Minnesota iceberg, but I don’t remember Tapan. At all.
“How often do you go back to the Twin Towns?” Tapan asks. “A couple times a year. What about you?” I inquire. “I was there a few months ago, but I go less and less since my parents moved to India,” he replies. I can no longer picture Tapan’s mother’s face. But I remember she was tall, slim and gorgeous. A very progressive career auntie with a confident presence, so different than her contemporaries.
“It’s amazing how much Minneapolis has changed. The Guthrie Theatre relocated to the Mississippi River and Nicollet Mall is filled with all sorts of trendy and unique eateries. It feels like the moment I came to Manhattan, Minneapolis got hip,” I muse and take another sip of this very yummy drink. “Have you been to Delhi lately? Now that place has changed a lot,” Tapan says. “No kidding,” I reply and continue, “When I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts in America or India. Now I go to the Delhi pubs and wonder who are these scantily clad girls smoking ciggies and flirting with buff desi dudes?"
Tapan laughs. “I know! Our parents raised us so conservatively in America. And these Indian desis are so much more open and free than we ever were!” He is spot on regarding the incorrect stereotype Indian desis have towards American desis. I battled my paternal cousins growing up. They thought I was loose and easy for having male friends in school. But unlike my cousins I was not getting a segregated educational environment where the girls went to school in the morning and the boys in the afternoon (very strange behavior from the culture that invented the Kama Sutra). It didn’t help that my close-minded paternal cousins decided that my male classmates were my boyfriends and I was sleeping with them. Little did my *brain-trust* of paternal cousins know, American boys don’t date geeky desi girls with glasses, moustaches and one looooong caterpillar of a unibrow.
To this day I still remember the one summer when my brother and I went to visit Dad’s relatives and the mean girl cousins ignored me for weeks on end. This is why patience is a virtue and karma is great. Twenty years later, the vast majority of them haven’t really changed. Most of them aren’t educated, sophisticated or worldly. And as time the great healer proves, my brother and I (the not-so-bad American desis) are the ones who grew up to be the civilized Indian kids who respected their parents.
“There was a time when I knew all the frozen desis. Now I walk around downtown and wonder who all these brown folks are,” Tapan remarks. “That’s because when we were growing up there was a max of 500 desis in Minnesota. Now there are 20,000 --- with the H1-Bs working in the IT departments of Target, Cargill, 3M…” I mutter. Tapan laughs, “We were the few, the proud, the spicy…"
The waiter comes with the bill and at the speed of light Tapan draws his credit card. “So it’s early, did you want to get another drink? “Sure!” I reply. Why not. The only thing waiting for me at home is that defunct and diseased computer.