Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Punjabi Culture: The Pervy Uncle and the Kala Mu Wala

A social circle would be incomplete without a token pervy uncle. You know the ugly man old enough to be your father and should be drinking whiskey with the other 40 somethings but instead he spends half the time at a party walking past your table and leering at you. Or (in)conveniently busts a move behind you when you're on the dance floor. Pervy Uncle may even be bold enough to cop a feel when you go in for a polite hug. It is usually the moment you realize how nasty old men are and maybe hugs should only be reserved for the kids.

In my dad's tales from the pind, there was a sort of vigilante justice performed when a man was caught bothering a young lady. Nowadays we hear it as the cuss, "Kala mu wala." The accused would be hog tied and roughed up. They would blacken his face with the ashes from the dung fires, string a garland of rotting shoes around his neck, saddle him on a donkey and send him on a ride of shame through the village. Unfortunately, stoning wasn't involved. Somewhere safely on the outskirts of the village he would squirm off his ass and a merciful friend or stranger would cut him loose. Publicly humiliated, and with his tail between his legs, the dog would hide out for a while before showing his face around town.

As much as I wish this tradition was still in effect, it's not. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has to deal with Pervy Uncle, other girls have and have been through worse. Some might be too scared to say anything in case they get in trouble, or perhaps they are too ashamed. I empathize with them. But that does not mean they are helpless. Always try to avoid situations in which you can get hurt, and be constantly aware of your environment.

1) This is the most important rule: get angry. It'll empower you, and make you feel like you can do something about the situation. Feeling angry is a thousand times better than feeling helpless.

2) Don't go somewhere or do something you're not comfortable with. Follow your gut feeling, it's there for a reason. You're allowed to say NO.

3) If you are somewhere and you've got that uneasy feeling stay with someone! A sister, a cousin, someone's biji. Start up a conversation, or just politely tag along. They'll look out for you.  This has always worked for me in any situation I have ever been in, regardless of culture!

4) If all else fails get a shank/tazer/pepper spray. And then use it 'on accident.'

Lastly, invest in some sort of defense training, whether it's a one day course or martial arts or boxing. Your body is a tool and you should know how to use it, especially to defend yourself! 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mother's Day

This past Sunday was the greeting card companies' mid-year event: Mother's Day.

Of course you love your mom every day, but on this special Sunday in May you show it! With expensive jewelery, fancy appliances, bouquets of roses, or something not so rough on your wallet like breakfast in bed and even home made gift cards.

Indian moms are different, and my mommy definitely fits the mold. She doesn't expect ANYTHING on Mother's Day, and we've got a long history of living up to that expectation. I'd be surprised if she actually remembered that such a day existed. And the only way that would happen is if Hallmark had infiltrated the Indian channels on the dish (which would be a tragedy).

Mom hasn't worn the D&B purse we got her for last mother's day, and she had no idea what to do with the jewelery set Dad got her one year. She insisted that she would rather have a set of dishes, or a brand spanking new kitchen appliance. This strikes at the heart of two Indian traits, practicality and frugality. Or maybe you could roll all that into one trait, namely being cheap.

Indians can find a use for any object that comes their way. Second-hand, ragged sofa? That's OK, sew some new seat covers and it's perfect for the make-shift living room in the garage. Desis are masters of re-purposing and conservation. It makes sense to not waste all that hard-earned money on something you could get for next to nothing or make for yourself. On the other hand, old jam jars and Tupperware last for years, piling up in shelves and in the back of dusty cabinets in the all-purpose abyss known as the garage. Said jars will sit there for years on end, unused until some tragic accident occurs. Likely lost in a hasty escape upon the arrival of INS/IRS officers.

It's OK to laugh at that last part. My parents are tax-paying Americans.

So, what did I get such a wonderful woman for Mother's day? A flower ornament I made out of sticky notes. When all else fails, origami is the way to go. Damn Asians have the answer to everything.

I leave you with a clip of one of my favorite Indians. No introduction necessary.

The Basics:

1) Tell Mom you love her.

2) Clear junk out in the middle of the night. Then throw it away in the neighbor's trash can. The neighbor TWO houses down.

3) Learn how to wipe your own ass. Best gift anyone can ever give.