Desis, dont smile at me please!

When I was a fresh off the boat desi, I was quite amused by the friendliness of americans in spite of being perfect strangers. They would smile at you, comment on the weather, hurriedly enquire on how you were doing as they jogged past you on the sidewalk. In stark contrast, I noticed that desis just saw right through you – as if you did’nt exist. Unlike now, at that point of time I was quite oblivious to the ins and outs of desi behaviour in the US. But soon enough, I learnt to be stone-faced when I faced other desis and appear friendly to non-desis. Asian (not south asian) people are an exception here, and due to my limited knowledge of their characteristics, I am quite unable to explain their reason for being stone-faced.

Indian stone-facedness has a reason. I learnt it the hard way. During the first one or two months in the US, I seemed to fall victim more than once to the uncharacteristicly stranger-desi-friendly desis. The first time, my friend A (who had been around 3 years and still didn’t know) and I were at Kohl’s looking around. A desi lady and her 5 year old daughter commented on how pretty my red embroidered kurti was and got to talking about which part of India etc.. etc.. In my over-enthusiasm to make new friends, I was very happy to exchange numbers with her. In a week, she called me and enquired if I would be interested in making more money on the internet. I pressed for more details and was surprised to see that no further information was forthcoming. I told her I would talk to my husband and get back, and when I told him, he told me this was one of those Amway kind of schemes. I was never interested in that kind of thing and so the next time she called, I politely declined saying I had found a job and didn’t have time. But, this lesson was not enough. In a few weeks, I saw a desi lady at Sams club with her twin little boys. The kids were so cute, that I was watching them and (by mistake) returned the mother’s smile. That was an invitation for her to trap me. She came over spoke very sweetly, said she was working in the IT industry in downtown Chicago, and commented on how her sister had the same name as me, etc..  The fact that she was in the IT industry somehow convinced me that she wasn’t one of those marketing types, so I gladly gave her my phone number when she asked. Soon enough she called me and asked if I was interested in trying out some beauty products and that her friend was going to display it at her home etc. Should have know it’s one of those Avon marketing schemes. So I told her right away that I wasnt interested in any of these marketing schemes. Since then, I’ve been really careful not to appear like I have any interest in desis around me, and I’ve learnt to put on my best stone-face when I see them. Our latest experience was however hard to avoid. The couple out of nowhere called out loudly “Madrasaaa?” at JCPenney and eagerly told us what they do and spoke to my daughter as if they were her ‘god parents’. My husband and I knew something was fishy but because we didn’t want to snub them, gave them our phone number, but we have been careful since then not to pick up their call. After all the conversation did end with “I will get in touch with you, my friend is doing some market research, so you might be able to help”.

Unfortunately, we could end up being really rude to the genuinely friendly people. We almost did that to one couple (P & S) who wanted to talk to us because they had just moved to our apartment community and hadn’t found any indians around. Fortunately, they were quite persistent and we soon found that they had no evil intentions. They are now very good friends of ours.

So much for kinship..


29 thoughts on “Desis, dont smile at me please!

  1. My3

    Tell me about it. Every smile came with a big price, especially since I am never quite sure how to say NO!! Fortunately for me, I have a husband made of sterner material than me :D! Avon, and there is another makeup that I spent money on… Sheesh. Now we live in a small town and nobdoy bothers us.

    Rekha: Good for you

  2. Pradeep

    Very true.
    Even in office, its the desis who never smile at you..As if you were a Bin Laden and then were Bush.. huh!

    Rekha: It’s hard to practice one rule at work and another at the supermarket. That’s probably why

  3. I know a lot of grad students without on-campus jobs who are into such stuff, and so-called homemakers as well.

    I still smile at desi-women for obvious reasons!

    Rekha: Just as long as you are not smiling desi-women who have already made homes. 😉

  4. Laksh

    met ppl at malls, exchanged numbers, been invited for ‘tea’ and sat through make up presentations. all in the name of trying to find desi friends.

    Rekha: Thank god! Na bayanthu poitaen 😉

  5. Heheh.. good one..
    A gal who apparantly was living in my apartment complex scrapped me in Orkut.. i never got to the guts to scrap her back until..she scrapped me saying .. “Fear not.. No marketting” finally we did get to meet and found out our husbands were classmates once upon a time…

    Rekha: Ya.. poor folks who just want to be friends.

  6. Tell me about them! They get quite irritating. Even students do it and torture fellow students when all of us hardly have any time

    Btw, I second maxdavinci on both the points. 😀

  7. Been a lurker for sometime.

    Have’nt we all seen this. My brother has the same name as yours, internet based business opportunity, gushing too much, exchanging phone numbers first time over.

    I guess the guys who drive this business, drive it with missionary zeal. Few of my friends who were quite normal are total whackos now and everyone avoids them. The UT Dallas area is quite popular from the student community.

    Rekha: Vatsa, welcome to my blog (as a commenter).

  8. The irony and humour make for an amusing read. Your blog’s taking an interesting curve. Keep’em coming.
    P.S:Maxu, Adi:Naaty naaty boyz I say!

    Rekha: Thanks maami. Did I tell you that your blog has been inspiring me to keep it going?

  9. prem

    yeah…these guys are pretty wierd eh? but…the question is, does anybody entertain them? do they ever get a ‘gullible customer’? yetch…what a pain! this sure does contribute towards cementing my hatred for mankind… 😀

    Rekha: ha. Prem! Onglukkunu ippdi reasons to hate mankind.. eppdi thaan kadaekkumo!

  10. Hi Rekha, came here from Laksh’s blog. Totally with you on this one. I faced similar situations when I came here back in 2003 after my marriage. My husband used to tell his experiences, about te Quickstar trap. But I fell in the trap twice inspite of his warning. Then we got a phone with caller ID, to avoid taking calls from those people. The usual conversation would start in a mall like this, “ungala engeyo paartha madhiri irukke, madrasa?

    Rekha: Madhuram, Welcome to my blog. Yes, caller ID is a blessing for more reasons than one. And somehow we get drawn into conversations where someone tells us how we look like somebody else.

  11. The problem is not with the smile, thought it seems to start there. Let us imagine you gave your phone number to a STRANGE American for example.. I am sure he/she would not be calling about just exchanging services or products.. Guess we’ll never know.

    Rekha: The problem with Americans is the exact reverse. Firstly they are never interested in going beyond a ‘hello’ with strangers. Secondly, us giving them our phone numbers would only scare them further. So, I agree.. guess we’ll never know.

  12. //Firstly they are never interested in going beyond a ‘hello’ with strangers//

    You forgot the profound and inspiring discussions on the weather.

    Rekha: Oh Yes.. That of course! 😀

  13. Hilarious. I too fell into such traps, only to come out unscathed. In my case, though, both were Gults.

    Anyway, I am convinced that Indians would never smile at you and say a polite hello like most Americans unless they had something in mind. To quote the cliche, “Enna Ulagamada Idhu!”

  14. I can totally relate to this. Met a desi couple at a mall recently and they were so overtly friendly. We exchanged numbers and the the guy starts calling about some “Great Business Opportunity”. But if you ask any details there is nothing there. I figured he is Amway and gave him the slip.
    It is sad but desis in the US will smile at you only if they need something from you.
    Like you said “Desis don’t smile please”. It’s harsh but atleast your saving yourself a potential headache. Instead talk to the non-desis atleast they smile and talk about the weather

  15. 🙂 been there, been through that. In my case, the idiot wouldn’t take no for an answer easily. I still have an warrant and can of you-know-what out for him –

    A ready smile from a desi is indeed a Avon agent giveaway.

    Rekha: Yes. Even hanging up on them is difficult. They can be relentless.

  16. Sakthi

    ellaaam chumma appadi H1 kuduthu engae junks ellam vandatchu.. community mix up… Indians ellame vanthu sirrikarathukko smile panrathokku.. rompa vilai kodukkuranga! its very expensive thing here in the US, and in the office if some Desi is permanenet employee with a green card or Citizen ship.. apporam solave venda.. naam contractors ellaam avanukku adimai thaan.. for example Pepsico—Chicago downtown.. ammaadi.. epppadi vazharathu. Deisye Paarthal Doore vilangungo Maami. kitte varadhingo.. ellarukkum adhu thaeen nallathu…kandippa…

    Rekha: 🙂

  17. Kumaran


    The blog is good. I will tell u onething. Everybody works for money. You smile at your own boss like he is GOD for you. You have promoted the network marketing negatively and u still have a network of fans following you. If you would have promoted positively, you could have made more money.
    And somebody had written “Quickstar trap”… its actually “QUIXTAR” . You dont even know the spelling. I dont know how do you qualify to talk abt a 7.2 B$ corp? Its a Fortune 19th company and some 234 Fortune 500 companies have partnered to sell their products(over 1 Million in count). You call this a trap or crap?? Please check your data before you talk about anything. Network Marketing is the next wave of the future. This is written by most of the Economists of the world, including Paul Zane Pilzer , economist for 2 of the US govts (Presidents Ronald Reagan and Goerge Bush).
    Thanks and All the Best!!


  18. ravi

    Dhustanai kandaa dooraa vilagu – is a proverb! but it doesn’t hold good as u don’t know whether he is harmful or beneficial to u – till you study him/her well!

    hence, let’s not make any urgent comment and say he/she is from Net work marketing and come to u for his/her benefit alone! u also get the fruit – mind u!

  19. Divya


    Iam in bench at present and have been reading quite a few blogs and came across your blog recently. i have enjoyed all your posts except this one. i totally agree with Mr Kumaran, and i wonder why you havent replied to the last 2 comments. is it coz they dont agree with u or u dont have an answer to them?And one more thing, with the recession hitting big time job goers like u will hopefully come back to their senses and not make fun of people who do soemthing extra with their free time.

  20. To the last 3 responders, you children are taking this blog entry a tad too serious, don’t you think? No one forces you to read this blog, and if you don’t like what the blogger has to say, here’s a thought: don’t read it. Plus, the author isn’t required to respond to everyone’s comments, so deal with it.

    Anyway, as a 2nd generation’er, I am always annoyed at disgusting, fobby, repusive, smelly, non-deodorant wearing Indian dudes staring women down as if we’re fresh meat or something. (Seriously, we can all smell you. Start using that stuff called soap and stop re-wearing your clothes everyday without washing them.) Attention all you creeps: this ISN’T India where you can visually harass women and get away with it. It may be accepted as common culture in India, but in semi-civilized societies like the US, it’s considered RUDE and INDECENT. So stop staring and buy a Maxim or buy some porn if it’s really that’s bad for you.

  21. Saurabh

    I was new to the US, I met an Indian man at the local post office. He was very friendly and told me how he was self employed. I was new and easily trust people, specially when they talked in Hindi as that is my mother tongue. The man then invited me to a meeting, he asked me to dress formally. I was charged 30$ entree fee. In the meeting I saw hoards of people all dressed very well and on stage a select few people doing a presentation of how rich they were and all the good things in life they had, during dinner break I was shocked to see there was no dinner served! If every one there is so rich and the meeting was of filthy rich people and 30$ entree fee I was expecting a dinner! I was amazed to see these men and women in suits pull out wall-mart bags of home made food from their swanky leather briefcases and eating while they stood out of the hall, no table chair to have dinner, having directly from plastic bags standing. I was truly amazed. The man who got me to the meeting then asked me to fill form and pay couple of hundred dollars, I dint want to so I said I need to think, He kept calling me for weeks every time he called I would ask him to pick me up for meetings at some far off place and never show up, His wife was very good looking and she was a very sweet lady, I feel he used her as a honey trap to lure people into his pyramid scheme business. He knew I enjoyed her company so he made sure she was the one who explained me the business when I went to his house. She tried her best to convince me to join their growing business, she was very warm lady full of hugs at smallest reasons, she hugged me a lot and told me she felt I was her long lost relative and she hugged me saying I was part of their family. Her cleavage was also always on the forefront of explaining the business. I also made him pay for a few dinners in hope I will join, later he understood I am not interested and gave up.

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