Thursday, September 11, 2008

ABC to XYZee

American Born Confused Desi Emigrated From Gujarat, Housed In Jersey, Keeping Lots of Motels, Named Omkarnath Patel, Quickly Reached Success Through Underhanded Vicious Ways, Xenophobic Yet Zestful

This is the fun part of it. The difficult part is living the life of an ABCD (or American Born Confused Desi) as second generation Indians in America are mockingly referred to by first generation Indians studying & working there.

Being an ABCD is tough. It carries with it loads of anguish – being the one that is discriminated against by your own people; and an identity crisis – not knowing whether you are Indian or American as you live the life of an Indian at home (enforced by parents) and of an American outside.

Living with an identity crisis must be tough. Not knowing which side of the fence you belong to, you are constantly being torn apart by two worlds. Your family & your friends as well as people you interact with outside your home push down totally contradictory set of values down your throat. And if that isn’t enough to deal with, you are discriminated against by people who share your ethnicity yet consider themselves superior to you as a) they know where they belong, and b) they made it to America on their own merit & hard work whereas you got American citizenship served on a plate!

Most ABCDs deal with this by building a wall around themselves that they let only other ABCDs in. This doesn’t earn them any brownie points; in fact only makes things worse for them as they are perceived to be snooty & arrogant.

What few people understand is that this is their defense mechanism. Most ABCDs would be happier if their families just let them be what they are for all practical purposes – essentially American. Because they go to American schools, study American literature, watch American television, live on pizzas, burgers & Coke, live by the norms of American society, have American friends, teachers, bosses & peers, date Americans (secretively if not with the consent of their parents), work at McDonalds & Starbucks when they are in high school, hold summer jobs etc.

Parents would not only be doing them a huge favor by letting them be, but also prevent them from suffering from the complex that results from not knowing where you belong.

The antithesis of an ABCD is an FOB (Fresh off the Boat). This term is used to refer to people who have freshly arrived from India and who :

  • Speak with a strong Indian accent ala Appu of ‘The Simpsons’
  • Haven’t been introduced to the concept of bootleg jeans; rather wear straight-leg or (even worse) tapering jeans that get bunched up above their ankles and keep slipping inside their sneakers
  • Have unshaved legs or armpits (in the case of some women)
  • Do not understand the concept of standing in a queue
  • Do not believe in saying ‘Please’ & ‘Thank You’ to housekeepers, janitors, grocery-store workers, bus drivers & other such “miscellaneous” people
  • Say ‘rubber’ instead of ‘eraser’, ‘lady fingers’ instead of ‘okra’ & ‘brinjal’ instead of ‘eggplant’
  • Have not been introduced to beef yet
  • Wait to come back to India to get a hair cut as hair cuts in America are expensive
  • Try to bargain at Walmart
  • Whose exposure to American television is limited to ‘Friends’ & ‘CSI Miami’ and who think ‘Saturday Night Live’ (or SNL) is a show about places one can party at on Saturday nights
  • Who don’t understand the concept of having a beer on a Sunday afternoon

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