Tag Archives: Desi

The Gori Blogging Meetup

Prior to this weekend, I’m not sure if I have ever met someone in person that I first got to know exclusively online. Times, they are a’changin’…

A few months ago, one of the blogs I really enjoy (Gori Girl) suggested a meetup in her metro-area if people were going to be around. Unfortunately I live quite a distance away, and was unable to attend, but offered that P had a conference in that same area in April, and perhaps we could do another meetup then. April came around, and I reminded about the conference, and GG was happy to facilitate another meet up, and I took advantage of a long weekend from work to finally meet some of the people I’ve gotten to know from the blogging world in real life.

I’m not going to lie, even if it makes me sound like a dork, I was excited– dare I say, even a little nervous, to meet a group from the blogging community in person. The day of the meetup I felt like I was preparing for a blind date. I enjoy reading and interacting with these women online, and I couldn’t help but think, what if they meet me in person and think I’m weird? Or I am nothing like they expected, and that changes the relationship? I really value this online community, and I don’t want to do something to alienate myself from a group I’ve come to really look forward to interacting with.

I wanted P to come with me and meet some of the characters that I talk about from the blogosphere. He has been really supportive of my blogging hobby, and thinks that it is interesting that I have found a creative outlet and a way to connect with other like-minded people, but I’m sure deep down he probably also finds it all a teeny-weenie bit weird, or at least amusing. As I tried to talk him into joining me he joked, “But you don’t really know these people…” while I argued, “But I do! I have learned all sorts of personal details about their lives, sometimes I feel like I know them better than people I actually know in person!” Unfortunately the meetup was opposite a lecture by Jane Goodall at his conference, and he didn’t make it to the meetup spot until about 10 minutes after everyone left.

So after the giddy school girl excitement of the meet up anticipation, the time finally came, and I arrived at the meetup spot a few minutes after the appointed time. I was the fourth person to arrive: GG was sitting with an Indian work friend, and another blogger (who recently started writing, but whose blog is definitely worth checking out: Big Bad Blonde Bahu) was there. As we chatted more people began to arrive including GG’s husband Aditiya, and one of my favorite bloggers Gori Wife, with her Pakistani husband and young son (when she walked in I couldn’t resist the urge to jump up and give her a hug). All in all, I think about 7 or 8 people involved with the blogging community showed up, several with their husbands or partners, making the meetup group about 13.

The meetup was quite fun, as new people arrived we’d ask each other what our username was on GG’s site, if we blogged, what our blog was called,  and usually, “oh yeah, I know you, I follow your blog!” In some cases it was an opportunity to put a face to a name and story. Or to ask for details that might have been blurred out of stories for privacy reasons, or to ask for clarifications. Not personally knowing too many Gori (white girl)-Desi (South Asian) couples it was refreshing to socialize with others who can really “get” your personal back-story, and multicultural household situation.

Luckily, P will be down in the same general area for a summer research opportunity, so I’m looking forward to potentially meeting some of these great women (and their families) again.

After the meetup, I had dinner with a group of friends and I was bursting to share my “Gori social hour” experience and couldn’t help but tell my story again and again throughout the weekend when I met up with other friends. For instance, at the conference I saw an old neighbor who has since moved back to her native Canada to teach at a university and finish her research. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve mentioned you and your blogging in my class” she said, after I told her about the meetup, “I think what you are doing is great. There is a lot of criticism out there that the idea of ‘community’ is dying out, and young people today are too disconnected… but this is an example of how communities are still thriving they just look very different. You don’t necessarily have a community like this in your backyard, but you found them using technology and the internet. Just because it is virtual doesn’t make it less of a community.”

And I agree. We are a community, and I’m glad to have it. Thanks for the fun meetup… I hope we get to do something like that again.

To Be or Not to Be “Desi” That is the Question…

I’m trying to think back to the first time I heard the word “desi” (aside from I Love Lucy, with her husband Desi Arnaz… okay, not related to the topic at all, moving on…) I’m not sure if I heard the word much in college. Many of my friends were Nepali, although there were other South Asians around… a Sri Lankan girl, a Pakistani guy, a few Indians, and later on a Bangladeshi. I can’t distinctly remember them referring to themselves as “desi” although it is entirely possible that I might have never noticed.

I’m sure I must have heard it while studying in India, although mention of the word doesn’t really stick out in my mind until I met another fellow American student with a different perspective.

During a long weekend I decided to travel by train from Jaipur to the old desert outpost of Jaisalmer. While on the train I bumped into a few students from another study abroad program also stationed in Jaipur, and we decided to connect and travel together.

Traveling with the students was a girl whose parents were originally from Chennai in South India. During the long train ride she talked about being an “ABCD” in India, and how everyone wanted to talk to her in Hindi and expected her to translate because she looked Indian. “I wanted to come to north India to get a different experience from visiting family in Chennai, but my family speaks Tamil so people have an unrealistic expectation of my abilities just because of how I look. It can be really frustrating!” she lamented.

“ABCD? What is that?” I asked.

“American Born Confused Desi” she explained.

“Desi?”

“You know, desi… ‘Indian.’”

According to Wikionary, “Essentially ‘Desi’ comes from the word – Des or Desh, which means Country in Hindi or Sanskrit. Thus, a ‘desi’ is ‘a person from or originally belonging to’ ‘Des’. Since almost all the South Asian nations (along with their thousands of dialects) can somehow relate to the word ‘Des’, I call all South Asians as ‘Desis’ – Venkat Manda.”

Then Wikipedia says… hey, wait. Wikipedia… you changed your entry on me! It didn’t say this before! I swear… (I guess that’s why it is a “wiki”-pedia… meaning “a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages”).

Anyway the newly updated Wikipedia entry says, “When referring to culture or ethnic background, the term includes any person of South Asian heritage with ancestry from India, Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. While this term is popular in all these countries, Nepal being in South Asia does not familiarize itself with it. In other words Nepalese think this word is specially for the people of greater India at the time of British rule as Nepal was never ruled by Britain.”

What it used to say was something like, “ desi refers to the peoples, cultures and products of South Asia including India, Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.”

Woah… now this takes me in a whole different direction… and also kinda answers my question a bit…

The point of the matter is, I didn’t learn “desi” from my Nepali friends. It wasn’t until I started reading a lot of intercultural blogs on western/South Asian relationships about a year and a half ago that I noticed a lot of the writers would throw around the term “desi” usually (in my opinion) as a blanket term for South Asian (or at least to mean Indian/Pakistani). As I noted before, I never ran into this term with the Nepalis I knew, and only rarely heard it in general, and now I felt like I hear it all the time. (It’s the same with the term “gori” — I hadn’t heard that term before until I started reading blogs! I guess my identity has always been “American” or “Amreekan” in South Asia… Although I just checked with  a friend, and I guess “gore” might be used, but Amreekan is more common for “foreigner” in Nepal anyway).

So I started asking around. Did my Nepali friends consider themselves “desis”?

Sign from a "Desi" grocery store

One Nepali friend after another said that no, they wouldn’t refer to themselves as “desi” and they wouldn’t really have thought to do it before. There was nothing hostile about it, it was more like, “doesn’t that mean ‘Indian’?”

Likewise, I don’t remember them ever saying anything like, “I feel like eating desi food tonight” or “let’s go to the desi grocery store” or “I’m in the mood for some desi music” or “you have to dress in desi clothes for the party.” But no one really explained why Nepalis didn’t use the term desi.

Now Wikipedia tells me it has something to do with Nepali impressions from British colonialism. Does anyone out there agree? Can anyone shed some light on this for me? Other Nepali readers?

Meanwhile how can I write about “desi” and not link to the song “Desi Girl” from the Bollywood movie Dostana? The song is really catchy and fun to dance too… but I don’t know how I feel about all the blonde white people in the background dancing around during the movie clip of the song… it seems to be a bit… awkward?