Thursday, January 03, 2013

Vignettes from Sea- Entranced Youth, Mirthless Mom

Dinnertime on Day One after a full day of being at sea. J and I have scoped out the potential options for dinner and made our choice. Turns out that desis think alike even if they belong to entirely different classes. When we arrive to be seated, we are handed a pager and asked to hang around in the neighboring bar area for about thirty minutes. So J and I walk over to said bar to find a cluster of Class B desis occupying several couches waiting to be seated just like us. 

They give me a withering look of disapproval. The only open spots are at the bar and they follow me with their eyes to see if I will do the unthinkable - sit at the bar with a young child. You can never put anything past the clueless Class C types. I spare them the moral outrage. The rest of the world is scattered around but they have been unable to create a force field specific to their country of origin as the desis have done. We decide to hang around the stairs instead so I have a good view of the crowd and can also hear the pager beep. That is when I first see Entranced Youth (Class A) traipse down the stairs, her permed hair following behind her. She is floating in dream state, her head held so high that it interferes with her line of sight.

I wonder if that is how she carries herself at all times or if this is some cruise ship specific thing that Class A desis do. Class mannerisms can be difficult to grasp if your vantage point is at the bottom of the barrel. Anyway, I observe Entranced Youth with fascination. I figure she is a junior in college. She reminds me of some family I have in NY area (very Class A folk). Like her those kids act like they are the chosen ones who have truly lived and owned the "American Experience" and the rest of their desi peers are not quite in the same league because they never received the"Members Only" memo.

They tend to be the queen bees of their little Class A communities and have the ability to stare through the average population like it were a homogenous transparent object.  The parents from what I have seen in my own family, are in considerable awe of these kids and treat them like they were the embodiment of all things America that they aspire to. The expectation from Class C relatives such as myself is to watch and learn from the best and ofcourse be respectful. Sadly, I failed to meet expectation on all counts and my uncle and aunt have not been in touch with me for nearly ten years now. When a Class C is offered a chance to upgrade and they are obtuse enough to pass, there have to be some consequences.

The local accent is overdone just a tad, almost to overcompensate for any stray traces of desiness that may have rubbed off on them from their parents - they tend to worry about stuff like that a lot. Entranced Youth's hair is a halo almost. The outfit a cross between waif and hipster - clearly I am not fashion forward enough to understand the statement she is making there but am able to sense lack of clarity. In my simplistic view, a young girl with a slim figure can choose to show leg or not, bare midriff or not, bare arms or not - in any combination. What we had going on here was a little different. A pair of tiny shorts and dark pantyhose, a diaphanous long sleeved shirt with a collar over a tank top and then the clouds of permed hair and the "natural look" interpreted as no make up. In the time of The Big Bang Theory, where being confused and desi is nearly impossible, Entranced Youth has made it her life's mission to grapple with ethnic, cultural and racial identity.

I look at her and dread J morphing into that thing at twenty. I glance at J sitting on the stairs minding her own business and wonder what if any measures I can take to prevent that from happening. Then I see Mirthless Mom enter the stage. Maybe it has to do with age, but she is no longer able to stage the Queen of Sheeba entrance like her daughter. But the woman is grim - the last time she smiled the house may have caught on fire - what else may explain the permafrost on her face, her hair is a smaller halo and sits stiffly around her head. She makes no eye contact with the world and like Entranced Youth has the floating walk that makes you worry if she may collide into something. I look back at Entranced Youth and notice the non-smile imprinted on her face. Maybe it runs in the family.

You almost need someone to be in charge of clearing the way for these ladies to walk their dramatic walk. Mirthless Mom is with Regular Dad - the standard issue desi male, average height and weight, well aware of his surroundings, present in current space and time, dressed to blend in and not stand out.There is absolutely nothing about Regular Dad that would call attention.You could stare exactly in his direction and completely fail to notice him. There is something to be said for taking being average to the extreme. Maybe the combination of Mirthless Mom and Regular Dad produce one such as Entranced Youth. Maybe there is hope for J yet.

Regular Dad looks up at J and I, does not smile and looks away promptly. Desis I must point out always catch sight other desis in their vicinity. I am guessing I have been correctly classified as a Class C. The pager beeps, we are famished by now and are very ready for dinner. J has been entertaining herself the whole time, chatting with me sometimes but generally happy on her own. She has no idea she was in the presence of Entranced Youth and family.

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