Your burning questions about India/ being Indian…. Answered – Part II!

This is part II for a post I wrote a few weeks ago. That first post on India has received 1,800 views to date – and even at a conservative estimate – that’s 1,400 more views than I have friends and family – so thank you!! By comparison, my next most popular post has 201 views – so I’m going with shameless pandering for this post and addressing questions about India that I left out the first time around.

1) Indian food is so spicy – why is that and how can you eat it?

First, lets get this straight – salt is not a spice, neither is sugar – and so the use of “exotic” spices like cumin and pepper and coriander really isn’t something to marvel at! Also, there’s a huge difference between spicy and flavorful. So, dont let the supposed spiciness of Indian food scare you from trying it – order the jalfrezi and tikka masala – munch on a papad and try the achaar – go ahead, be daring – eating food should be a contact sport!! Oh…and also BTW, the reason Indians can eat all this spicy food is because at birth they perform a delicate surgical procedure to remove a vast number of our taste buds – no, no, I’m just kidding – the procedure is usually done when you’re 5 years old.

2) How come Indians speak so many languages – how do you understand each other?

So each state in India has its own language which is awesome because truly, speaking the same language is such a barrier to effective communication. For example, in my language, Marathi, the word for a clay flower pot is “kundi“. This same word means butt/ass/bum/posterior in the state of Kerala where they speak Malayalam. So – imagine for a moment, trying to buy a clay pot in Kerala – as you wax poetically about the details of size, shape, and color of “kundi” you would very much like – this can result in some very strange reactions!

3) What’s with the whole arranged marriage thing?

Well, as someone who had a “love” marriage – yes that’s truly what the non-arranged marriages are called in India – this is a difficult one for me too. You can think of it as eHarmony or Match.com – with a parental twist. So instead of a computer figuring out who suits you using a complicated hierarchical algorithm taking into account your personality, your likes and dislikes, your wonderful and not so wonderful attributes – for an arranged marriage, now your parents do the first sorting. Its actually a pretty elegant system if you think about it – shouldn’t the people who helped make you the screwed up person you are today help find the most optimally matched other screwed up person so that you can get together and have kids that you can together screw up in different yet harmonious ways?!!

4) Saris are so beautiful – how do you drape a sari?

Ok now, pay attention because it couldn’t be simpler. The first thing you want to do is get a blouse – this is a short tight top that extends to approximately the bottom of your bosom region – I use the term region because this part is not as well defined for some of us as for others. Now, and I cannot stress this enough, this blouse needs to be tight – if you can breathe easily, its too loose – if you can lift your arms above your head and NOT lose feeling in your finger tips, its too loose – if your arms below the sleeve do not bulge out attractively like little (or big) donuts, its too loose – catch my drift here!

The second thing you need is something called a petticoat – an underskirt that serves as the foundation of the sari. This must be tightly tied around your waist region – there must be a clear and present distinction between the tire of fat above your waist and below your waist – many of us already have this spot pre-defined due to the wearing of jeans – think low rise!

Now, the star of the show – the sari! 6 yards of material waiting to be draped to make you look like a goddess! In India when you buy a sari the shop keeper very helpfully sews on a strip of cotton to the bottom inside portion – this is ostensibly to keep that area from getting dirty from your shoes hitting it as you walk – but in reality its to maximize your chances of face planting in the street as your shoes catch in it and you trip over like a drunk camel! Don’t believe me? Guess what this strip of cotton is called – the FALL – that’s right, it’s the fall of the sari! Well named ancient Indians!!

Now, hold the the sari with the fall by your feet and, starting at your belly button start twirling the sari counter clockwise, all the while tucking it into the underskirt so the bottom of the sari just grazes the ground. Got it? Excellent! Now, take the other end of the sari, pleat it into 5 inch thick pleats and wrap it around you so that it goes under your right arm and dangles over your left shoulder – that’s called the pallu. With me so far? One last step – take the excess sari at your waist, pleat it like the dangly bit over your shoulder and tuck it in at your waist just to the right of your belly button….and you’re done!

You’ve just draped a sari – congratulations!! At this time you should look like an Indian goddess, ……or a hippopotamus in a sackcloth. If you notice an unflattering resemblance between the person in the mirror and the aforementioned hippopotamus, undrape the sari and begin again. This time don’t forget to put in about a thousand safety pins at each stage. Don’t worry if they come out and poke you – that just means the sari is not coming down, and that’s a truly comforting thought – also, looking like a true goddess comes with bloodshed!

Once you’ve done this all a couple of hundred times – this is good cardiovascular exercise too – and you’re sweating up a storm and your sari looks like a crumpled soggy piece of lettuce and you’re bloody from having stuck yourself with a million safety pins – repeat after me “F#*$ IT!!” and wear a shalwar kurta instead!

If you have any more burning questions about India or being Indian – leave me a comment and I will be sure to address it in another shamelessly pandering post!!

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13 comments

  1. Samhita……I knew in kanadi (state of karnatak) Kundi meand same as in malyalam!!!! BTW….wearing sari and coming front of you will be scary for me now!

  2. This girl would skip straight to the shalwar kurta for sure! Maybe next you could discuss the henna tattoos. Have you Googled “simple henna tattoo”? Not so simple!

  3. GOOD EXPLANATION SAM but now a days there are ready made saris stiched by size available .just put it on and zip it!! rest readymade pallu on shoulder AND YOU ARE DONE.

  4. I could have written this piece perhaps not as eloquently ‘kundi’ because I am Punjabi and yes I was tattooed with a dot on my forehead at birth and spice courses through my veins instead of blood and beef is off the table because my grandparents were reincarnated as cows.

    And no I have never corrected someone that my name is not spelled Anew or pronounced Ann

    Great blog Sam..part 1 & 2. Thx for making me feel that I am not alone in this vast Indian diasphora.

    PS my wedding sari was entirely pinned because it was meant to b skirt like for this new yorker but the taylor ruined it. The entire pleating, pallu, and blouse were held together by 200 safety pins 🙂

  5. Hi,
    In your next blog, maybe you could elaborate on “Randi” and “Rape a ( read – Repu) Randi” and what it means in Telugu.

    Good blog overall..

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