Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Desi Male POV

There are many phrases containing the word desi that can lead you from Google search to my blog and some of those them can also lead you to one called Desi Manifesto (not terribly PC or censored but definitely worth checking out). So, I found this blog while checking my site stats some time ago and wrote to SI to see if he and his compadre/s might be interested in doing an interview. They were gracious to accept the invite and here goes :

Me: Why a desi male manifesto and not something more gender neutral along the lines of what can brown + curry do for you ?
desimanifesto: We want to talk about the shared experiences of Desi Men. There are plenty of "well rounded" blogs out there and frankly, they are a little boring. None of them really speak to our experiences and they never allow their commentators to really say what's on their minds. We needed a forum for our stories especially when you don't have a lot of Indian friends locally.

Me: When you say our experiences are you talking the gen 1+ or the FOB experience ? It seems to me that in the desi world, vintage is like the modern day caste system. Do you see the gen 1 desi man being fundamentally different from the FOB desi man ? Is your forum open to the FOB dude ?
desimanifesto: Gen 1 basically, Indian men born or mostly raised here in the US or Canada.It is open to anyone, but tailored to those like us. Those of us who were born here are fundamentally different from the IBI (India born Indians). We have been heavily influenced by the US culture and certainly we miss many aspects of Indian culture, both good and bad.

Me: As a desi woman, I have found very little to tell a desi male gen1 or gen0 apart except for the accent perhaps. Could you name a few things that would clearly separate the two sets ? Assume an affluent, cosmopolitan upbringing for the FOB dude.
desimanifesto: Value systems. One thing is what they think is important or acceptable. It is not always a tremendous difference, especially if someone is very cosmopolitan but not all of them are. However, I'd say what they expect from their women usually is different. Similarly their understanding of race and relations in the US and worldwide is different as they are the vast majority in India. It is a stretch to assume they're all cosmopolitan though certainly, that would lessen the differences.

Me: A desi being raised in a typical desi household in say a Parlin or Edison NJ ends up with a ghettoized brand of desiness - if I may use that phrase. They see far too much of desis than they would (or should) need to living in the States. Do you think that has something to do with gen 1 angst about being brown in a white country ?
desimanifesto: Having never lived there, I can't totally relate. I have never lived around a huge Indo population but I bet it contributes to them being annoying and clique-based Indos.

Me: You mentioned earlier that there is a difference in expectations from women based on vintage. What would a gen 1 desi male expect from a woman in a relationship ?

desimanifesto: First off, I don't think most desi men are as progressive as they could be. I believe that most of the Indian men here have seen plenty of Indian women in the US succeed at the highest levels of various industries. So there is an expectation that women will be educated, capable , independent to an extent, etc. I can't say that the IBIs I've met always share that view of women. I'd like to say that those born here don't expect women to cook, clean, etc but that may be speaking for myself more than for most Indian men. Again, I was never part of the larger Indo community. My friends and I never really liked them all that much either.

Me: Is it fair to say that the not so average desi man would be comfortable with a woman who is Indra Nooyi at work as long as she can serve a four course dinner desi thali style for dinner each night ?
desimanifesto: Well, if she could do it and enjoyed doing it, sure. But do you mean, would an average desi man feel OK if his wife did these things out of duty rather than enjoyment? I think the average man, regardless of race, would feel OK with that.

Me: I guess my question had more to do with how desi moms raise their boys. That's where the domestic expectations come from. The world outside can teach a desi man that women can do just about everything he can do and better but the disconnect in relationships sets in because the playbook for domesticity is way out of date. With the desi gen 1 man being everything the doctor ordered for the desi gen 1 woman, why would she even consider looking outside her cultural comfort zone as she most often does ?
desimanifesto: Well I'd say desi moms generally spoil their sons rotten as do fathers with their daughters so both sides have unrealistic expectations of norms much of the time. However, the bottom line is that women control the dating scene and it is easy for them to write off desi men because brown women assume they know what all brown men are about. Growing up in the US, they never see brown men in larger media as sexual objects so it makes it pretty simple to say "they're not attractive to me, white men can be hot, etc." Brown men who I know never write off Indian women regardless of what we go through.

Me: So does a desi male have to work extra hard to remain competitive in the American dating scene ? By your reasoning a FOB desi female would not have trouble finding a gen 1 desi male attractive being that they've grown up thinking of Arjun Rampal, Dino Morea and Milind Soman as hot.desimanifesto: I believe yes, a brown man absolutely does have to work harder to even be in the mix in the US dating scene. 100%.

Me: Yet gen 1 desi dudes will quickly reject a FOB desi female. What gives ?
desimanifesto: I can't agree with that. It might be because IBIs are brought up to think that those born in the US are ABCDs therefore unacceptable, unintelligent, lacking culture, etc. Gen 1 desi dudes will NOT always reject a FOB desi female. However, the same standards of beauty apply perhaps unfair as standards in India and the US are not the same. 

Me: You mean a FOB desi woman will need to compete against the best in the West when it comes to her looks ?
desimanifesto: The best Indian women in the west, yes most likely she will need to do so.

Me: To paraphrase then the FOB female will need to look like the ABCD but still be the FOB she really is ? Isn't that sort of an impossible thing to ask for?
desimanifesto: Let's assume we're talking about attractive women so looks wouldn't be the issue. IBI women that I've met are rarely, if ever, attracted to desi men born in the US so I've never seen the case of an US born Indo rejecting an attractive IBI who liked him - ever. Physical attraction will be an issue at all times both for men and women. Getting past that would yield the actual answers regarding personality, culture, etc. So we will have to assume that the women in all these scenarios are attractive in which case, I've never seen a US born guy reject a woman for being an IBI and I've never seen an attractive IBI go for a US born man who was Indian. 

Me: Now consider a scenario where a FOB and ABCD both look like Mallika Sherawat with all other factors being equal. The FOB has a strong ghati accent, the ABCD talks like she grew up in Bronx. Who would the desi gen 1 male select ?
desimanifesto: The person whose experience more closely resembles his own. In this case that would be the US born woman. It is just as if an IBI could choose from two equally qualified Indian men one from the US one from Mumbai she will choose the guy from Mumbai as he understands her world more closely than the other man. Not to say that exceptions don't happen but on the whole, this is how it is pretty much every, if not all, US born brown men I know. If given the choice between two equally attractive women one of any race/background and the other an Indian woman born in the US he will choose the Indian woman. I certainly would and I've always dated inter racially and I'm open to marrying whomever.

Me: Except for a small glitch as you had pointed our earlier - desi gen 1 females are not very likely to choose a desi over a white guy.
desimanifesto: It seems that way. Especially the very attractive ones I hope I'm wrong or that I've been exposed to the exceptions rather than the rule but that is how it seems.

Me: Could it be possible that the desi gen 1 males that are pursuing these smoking hot desi females are not that good looking themselves ?
desimanifesto: Quite possible. But for a desi woman to write off ALL desi men ? Again, our issue is not that desi women date inter racially it's that they say "Indian men can't be hot" or "I don't date brown men" etc. We understand that we generally not perceived as sexual objects in larger American culture and we accept that. This is a white country. But for our own women to write us off just like that hurts. Brown men would never do that to brown women at least none that I've seen. 

Me: I hear you. The west has not given the desi man his due. Harold and Kumar is about as far as the guy has gone so far. But would it also help for the desi gen 1 male to recalibrate his expectations and settle for someone less than smoking ?
desimanifesto: Well, here's the other thing. It's not like all desi men only want the hottest. Most people go for their "Looks equals". You see average looking brown men and women together all the time but the other thing is even attractive Indian men are not necessarily sexual objects in the Western eye sure, we certainly get more attention but to know that some of our female "looks equals" in the brown world won't even give us a chance chance is disconcerting. 

Me: What are you guys over at the manifesto doing to right this ?
desimanifesto: Getting the word out figuring out how to change OUR views on things. I actively encourage brown men to date inter racially especially other minorities. 

Me: That's a great starting point.
desimanifesto: Of course, the average desi man has messed up racial notions.Sad but true.Again, there are reasons my crew and I never mixed well with the larger desi crews.

Me: The bhangra and garba crowds you mean ?
desimanifesto: Yes exactly. And we do want to raise the point that among desis in general about how things are. It's good to hear desi women who don't automatically say "You're wrong, etc." or "Indian men are lame," etc. I'm never closed-minded to most logical criticisms of desi men. Anyone who reads the blog will see that we are pretty fair about the faults of desi men and how WE certainly don't like brown dudes like that either.

Me: Would your happy place be where brown men and women can meet each other without letting stereotypes get in the way of it ?
desimanifesto: At least giving each other a chance. The whole "I don't date brown men" thing is absurd like with ANY group of people. Only a small percentage will be uber-qualified. But you never hear a hot Indian girl say "I'm done with white guys" . I'd faint if I heard that!

Me: I guess it's time for the last question. Tell my desi female readers why they should take a good hard look at the gen 1 desi dude instead of clicking on the next profile of a SWM.
desimanifesto: I mean, I'm not trying to beg. It's frustrating, but when a girl has that attitude, you don't want to be with her anyway. However, if a woman wants a man who's attractive that is totally fine. Realize that attractive desi men DO exist. Do you have to look a little harder? Yes. By percentage, we're not bad but consider how few of us there are. When you see the raw numbers you know you will have to search. The point is, a well educated brown man with a progressive view would likely be better than any other candidate and it's hard to find the woman who is flawless herself. Women certainly have more choices in life specially the attractive ones but self-hating only limits your chances when you cut out those most likely to understand you without ever having to utter a word.

Acronyms: Curry Bear does an outstanding job of defining FOBs, ABCDs and everything else in between. This is like the Desis for Dummies and a Reference for the Rest of Us.

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