Dr. Desi Strikes Back

by Ramesh Mahadevan

Dear Netters,

Some days ago, there was a vitriolic character assassination of me in this very net. All kinds of stereotyping was done and was attributed to me, as if everyone else is leading a perfect life. Those who live in glass apartments should make sure their glass is bullet-proof. This careless analysis was probably done by a sociopath who is still in his 'oral stage' if you subscribe to psychoanalysis or who is still trying to compensate for his inadequacies if you are a fan of Adler or if you believe in Carl Gustav Jung...Anyways, offense is the best form of defense, says the coach of L. A. Clippers and so here I go.

What about you, my esteemed student friends? Let me choose Mr. Ajay Palvayanteeswaran as an example. Unlike you, I want to protect his identity and so let me use his given name, 'Machan'. He belongs to a special species that is hardly going extinct. He is from that prestigious college in the quintessentially southy city of Madras and technically a part of the dhoti subculture. In his college, rhesus monkeys, deer and doe-eyed does roam around freely and cohabitate with the students. But, just to be fair to him, he could equally well be from that institute in Bombay (the 'Mistake by the Lake') or the one in Delhi (the 'Mistake by the Dhaba') or the two others in some vague villages somewhere in India. What do they call them these days, Bharatiya Takhniqui Sanstan? Machan, although you are from the boondocks of your state, you desparately want to give up your southiehood and want to be someone you are not. You don't realize that you can join the order of universal brotherhood without being ashamed of your roots. You no longer do 'southy things' and you wouldn't be caught dead talking in tamil or telugu. And you are no Lord Chesterfield when it comes to english language skills. When you talk in english, your baud rate is so high that you don't communicate meaningfully even with the pizza delivary person. You lived in some kind of Disneyland, completely untouched by such great minds as Freud, Nietszhe, Mozart, Gandhi or Jorge Borges or any goings on in India. The only literature you read while in college was the GRE guidebook. You don't know anything about Marx, be it Groucho or Karl. You cannot give a five minute lecture on Indian music or literature or history. You try to emulate American teenagers and glue your ears to top 40 songs. All you want in life is a good job and wife, material comforts and nothing more. At least, I am hanging on to some principles tenaciously, to the point of looking ridiculous. In twenty years, when you become a Dr. Desi or a Pope, you will not know who you are.

And Machan, I am married and you are not. You are doomed to celibacy for almost the duration of your Ph. D, which could be, say anywhere between two years and oh, lets see, eternity. We will have two recessions and three recoveries by then. Elizabeth Taylor would have had her eighth husband. Protons would decay. (And we may still be watching the Cosby Show) But, you are perennially hopeful. You go to the various 'parties' and try various approaches to 'pick up a girl'. First you try to simulate the 'naive technique' and tell the girl "I have never danced before, can you teach me?". And when you dance, you are like an orang utang in heat and step on her feet all the time. Pretty soon, you are confined to the wall, gulping a beer like some gold fish. On other occassions, you try the aggressive "Hi babe, can I buy you breakfast" routine and get sidelined by the presence of some hulk. You soft focus your sights on the local Indian women students, but you are jinxed, because they get married precisely two months after you set your eyes on them, to someone whose salary is large enough to finance a covert war somewhere.

Just last year when you arrived, you were so full of pep and ego. But this year, having been in the melting pot for a year, you are more chastised and realize that you are not held in awe like perhaps you were in your old college in India. You still send entries to the Publishers Clearing house Sweepstakes and try to be the tenth caller to win a free cassette of "Pugnacious Sweating Tendencies" or some such rock group. You join the RCA club and apply for twenty credit cards.

I have bought shares in AT & T, not because it is the right choice, but because you are a chronic telephonoholic. You have to talk to all your wingmates, classmates and primates every week. You will have to tell Sidey from Jamuna that PJ from Ganga has got his driving license. When they show up in your town, you will go to a topless bar and drool over it, and wish that the exotic dancer include some bharat natyam 'mudras' in her repartoire. Not a weekend passes without a huge pot luck dinner plus movies and childish games like 'Anthakshari' and 'Charade'.

You will buy a two hundred dollar car for five hundred bucks and it is always falling apart. Every one of you has an uncle in New Jersey (actually not a real uncle, but the cousin of your neighbor in India) and ten of YOU will get into the car and drive off, without any sleep or food and with only one driver to do all the driving. You describe the trip in dehumanizing terms like "I am going there for good food".

The point is, we can go on and on. I may find whatever you do silly and in turn, you might laugh at me even if I scratch my back. Instead, let us be positive and sensitive. Let us not accuse each other of being in need of psychotherapy. Let us live in peace and brotherhood.

Dr. Desi

Copyright(R) Mahadevan Ramesh