Sumati Huber on what to know as an Indian away from the Motherland.
Being Indian away from the motherland in this country of naturally hairless natives means that we still must try to retain our culture in certain ways. And it’s not just about throwing five-day extravagant weddings that leave hotels reeling in shock from the ruckus Indians can make. It’s about being savvy enough to meet our unique needs in our adopted home. Knowing things like…
Finding a hair removal specialist at any hour of the day.
Growing faster than India’s population is an Indian’s hair. And not the luscious strands we wish for on our head. From faces to backs and arms, no surface area is spared from menacing black fuzz. It’s quite the high- maintenance process to get ourselves ready for a simple outing, and even worse when the event is impromptu when we are in between waxes. “Gosh, don’t even look at my eyebrows,” girls say in horror over an unplanned dinner. We can only dream of taking a spontaneous trip to the beach and pretending it’s seaweed from the ocean on our legs and not an evolutionary curse. The only person who can save us? A much-needed hair removal lady, whom we must keep on speed dial, and who comes armed with spools of thread and cans of wax to save us at a moment’s notice.
Sourcing the best eggless cakes and baked goods.
Even if you’re not a vegetarian, surely someone attending your event is. But in this country where fish sauce rules and whole animal parts hang from street stall carts, it’s imperative to find someone who can fulfil our meatless needs. Denying someone dessert at a gathering is blasphemous, so it’s necessary to have a source who can whip up delicious eggless goodies for all to enjoy. Even better is being able to boast that a cake is eggless and still tasty, whereupon your aunty friends will clamour for the contact, making you the hit of the party.
Alternative medicine and treatments for ailments.
While some wholeheartedly purport there’s nothing that ginger water can’t cure, sometimes you need a little extra help with your health. When modern medicine falls short, a dutiful Indian is always willing to try herbal tonics, natural pills and alternative treatments. You must have on call (at the very least) an Ayurvedic practitioner, a homeopathic doctor, an acupuncturist, a Chinese medicine specialist, and a loyal pundit who is ready toperform a puja to remove any affliction. Bonus points if you also visit a Reiki master and have a regular masseuse who comes home.
Where to get your Indian clothes taken care of.
Not just anyone is willing to take on the insurmountable task of dealing with Indian outfits. These wondrous and heavy creations need a whole room of their own and the clothes just keep piling up because people refuse to repeat the same sari to a different event, for some reason. With layers of fabric and detailing, we need to have a pro seamstress who can open up that blouse due to all the jalebis that have forced themselves down our mouth.
And although chess is known to have been historically invented in India, modern Indians apparently still can’t put a functioning zipper on a lehenga skirt which requires a contact for local fixing. Not to mention a shop that is brave enough to take on dry-cleaning an Indian outfit, because do you remember what you put it through on that sangeet night? Chances are you probably don’t recall, which means it needs to be cleaned right away.
When Indian festivals and auspicious occasions take place.
Have you ever wondered how your mum, who doesn’t ever remember where she put her glasses (usually always left on her head), seems to know things like the phases of the sun/moon and all the numerous celebrations of Indian culture? Every so often you wake up to a WhatsApp that sounds like, “Today is a blessed day, the sun will have magical powers and it will be hot! Wear yellow and sprinkle salt on your floors.” Well, it turns out the local temples are quite savvy at sending out lists of monthly festivals and post all upcoming events on Facebook if you take the time to subscribe instead of only learning TikTok dances.
And elder community members also use the internet to find out specific dates for important occasions — quite impressive despite the fact that they still call it “the Google”. Thanks to the inbuilt aunty/uncle network this information is passed on quite rapidly in society and that’s why everyone (except you) is aware of what’s going on. And now you know!
An unreformed party girl and mother of two, writer, editor and observer Sumati Huber tries to make sense of our unique Thai-Indian society and the aunties that she will one day become.