Taxonomy Of Dadies

by Ramesh Mahadevan

Suddenly they are everywhere. Like the tulips which specially bloom in spring. I am talking about the droves of Desi dads who suddenly descend down upon this country in spring. It is believed that two minutes after the groundhog comes out of its burrow and declares the winter is over, the Desi travel agents also come out of their hell holes and book away tickets for all the Desi dads, causing a tremendous shortage of dads in India.

And yes, they are everywhere. On the streets strolling, inside the KMart memorizing the price of items, sitting in the front row of Indian Association functions. If you don't watch out, you are liable to trip over one of them. Before you realize it, they have already stuck their hand into yours and are shaking it and asking you deeply personal questions like what is your dad's name. It is estimated that if all the visiting Desi dads and moms are stacked up in one place, they would easily occupy the entire state of New Jersey. In fact, it is widely conceded that the entire state of New Jersey is indeed populated only by visiting Desi dads and moms.

What is the proper behavior in front of Desi dads ? What kind of beasts are they ? Why are they here ? Whose dads are they anyway ? These are common questions that arise in every nettor's mind. Fret not. This little guide will walk you through the messy world of dads and help you identify the various flavors they come in. Remember - we are not trying to categorize every single Desi dad in the world, but only a small subset. Our own dads, who are so dear to us, are obvious exceptions to these attempts at typecasting. And one day, when we all become dads, we will be nothing like these stereotypes either.

(1) Interactive, 'painful' dad
This guy talks perpetually, that too on disparate topics. Since his son is even more painful, you let him talk anyways. But don't let him crack any jokes, because he is usually also a king of PJs. "The only resolution I made this New Year is - not to make any resolutions - ha ha ha hee hee" he would laugh loudly till everyone in the room suspects that there is something seriously wrong with him. He would regale you with tales of his boyhood, which usually revolves around flying kites in a village.

"I have been to Howston, Tuxon, Oheeeyo and SFO" he would tell you, even if he has only been through the airports in those places.

He always teases little children, big women and old graduate students. And he is also liable to give you a hug or otherwise physically constrain you when you least expect it. (The simplest way to escape his choke-hold is to tickle him gently in the third rib)

(2) 'Ex-IAS' dad
This dad used to be 'under secretary' or something equally kinky during his government service days. He nominally prefers to wear pants instead of dhotis. In fact, he would wear dapper clothes. His pants will come all the way up to his armpits. Like most IAS officers in India, he too had been busy doing something else during office hours (like classical music or astrology or playing bridge) and has a thriving second career.

"I know Minister Bhayya Lal so well" he would tell you categorically, trying to impress you ". In fact, I even knew Minister Harindranath Gupta very well." Since you have no idea who these inconsequential politicos were, he would sense your IIT-bred ignorance of Indian scene and present you with a complete biography of these ministers, emphasizing that they were true Gandhians, besides being Vedantics and homeopaths. He also has a bagful of nutty IAS stories like how Rajiv Gandhi used to own a pet skunk.

He is so perceptive he would give a lecture condemning the Western Civilization to whoever that cares to listen and burst into a sanskrit sloka for emphasis, all at the drop of a hat.

(3)'Trying to be cool' dad
This is a mod, hep dad who would make all our dads green with envy. While our dads chilled out on Talat Mehmood and Pankaj Mullick, he grew up on Elvis Presley and Nat King Cole. He would wear a sleek 'safari suit' and his beer belly would proudly stick out a mile in it. Unlike most dads, he was not an office-going dad. Instead he owned his own business and was a Lion or a Leo or a Leech or whatever in his local chapter in India of this worldwide organization. He has also 'circulated' the world several times in his life and so he has seen it all and done it all. He knows everything about everything - from cricket scores to O. J. Simpson. He even knows that he should eat the cheese-filled deep dish pizzas crust first.

He would casually make himself a drink and sip it with the coolness of a graduate student. Occassionally he would even sneak out for a smoke, usually via a smelly pipe. He already knows everything about this country and when his wife is away from his earshot he would even wink at you and ask "How is the 'babe scene' these days ?"

(4) Comatose, user-unfriendly dad
This is the kind of dad who sits on a sofa unnoticed when everyone else around him has fun. In fact, he won't even stir out of his position throughout the evening, except to eat dinner. Usually there is a TV in front of him and a wife sitting within three feet. Ordinarily, there is fright in his eyes and when he shakes your hands, you can see him tremble.

If you really want to interact with him, start by gently hitting him on the head first. (Be careful, though. Your friend - whose dad he is - might object to this, even though you are merely doing a sanity check) About once every hour or so he would grunt, which is an indication that he is going to talk in the next half an hour. When he actually opens his mouth and utters something, only his wife will pick up the words and say it aloud five times for the benefit of others.

(5) The 'kharra' village dad
This category of dads is the total opposite of dads in category 3. They usually wear dhotis - except when the dhoti is needed to squeeze water out of 'paneer' or extrude 'jalebis'. They are barely in the seventeenth century and have no clue that they have come to another country. They still refer to coke as 'grape juice' and slurp it down making animal noises. After eating or drinking they let go loud belches with long hang-times.

They are also very dependent on their wives. Without the wife around, they can't even figure which end of the banana to start peeling. And (according to a friend of mine), on some occassions they would eat fruits and spit out the seeds and give them to the wife to put in the trash.

The only thing about America that impresses him is the multitude of Desi temples that his son takes him to - where, if not given to him in the first place, he would demand and obtain the prasad.

(6) Your cousin's dad (a. k. a your 'Uncle')
In my book, meeting an Uncle in this country is only marginally more pleasurable than a dentist visit. These dads usually have green cards, which means they lead a Jekyll and Hyde life of living six months in India and six months of summer in this country. While in India he behaves like he is a Mayflower American, whereas in the USA he is a Vedic Desi, demanding onion-free dinner on certain days of the week. He usually has a long list of medical ailments and if you did not make a fuss about it, he would be very upset and spread stories about you to your dad.

He also has a bagful of tales - except that his tales would be always about his kids and grandkids. Usually they are about how his son made him proud by becoming the president of the local Tamil Association and how his grand daughter recited the entire 'Baa baa black sheep' on stage in the India Association Basant Bahar function. When in front of him, make sure you smile a lot, talk very little and play the music real loud.


FAVORITE THINGS - A true 'pop' song for all visiting dads
(sung to the tune of 'Favorite things'. Well, sort of.)

Buckets in bathtubs and
'Lottas' in kitchens
Saturday Bhajans and
Jeopardy questions
Newspaper coupons for assorted drinks
These are a few of my favorite things

The weather Channel and
ABC world news
India Abroad and
Glasses of fruit juice
The fun and frolic a Blue Light Sale brings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Desi parties with
Nubile young women
Finding a match for my
Slob of a son-n-n
Flaunting my sex appeal in striped-undies with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

When the plane leaves
When I reach Desh
When I am feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so ba-a-a-a-d.


Copyright Ramesh Mahadevan