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Desis and eye contact?
Vague title? I know…but read on. I have a theory about non-resident desis and the eye contact they make with fellow countrymen they run into for the first time. And that’s what this post is about. Of course, my expertise is limited to those in the US since that’s the only breed I have exposure to, but I suspect a broader generalization might still be valid. This is a pet peeve of mine and used to bother me greatly while I lived in the US. Since moving back home, not so much – except on my trips back to the States. On a recent trip back here, I was walking down the street, and the memories came flooding back. It did help that the Bay area abounds in desis and they are a truly representative sample! I believe that on the subject of eye contact, Desis fall in 3 broad buckets – yes, 3 buckets and no more.
The first is the kind that wants to pretend that they haven’t seen or noticed you at all but in reality they accomplish a lot more than that. They see right through you or better yet, look the other way and communicate in no uncertain terms that they want nothing to do with you. Insulting as that is, this group is the safest bunch because they will cause you no further harm.
The second is the one that gives you an angry, unhappy stare – its a strange combination of a “I just swallowed a goat and I think its moving inside me” and a “How on earth did they let someone like you inside this country”? Not pleasant by any stretch of imagination, and leaves you wondering if you left home without your pants, or if you showered this morning or other shady thoughts along those lines. It leaves you with a bruised ego the first few times you subject yourself to this treatment, and other than briefly questioning yourself, no more harm will come of this group either.
The third category is seemingly the friendliest and most cheerful of the lot – but beware, it is not without reason that appearances are said to be deceptive. They try and make eye contact and maybe even eke out a smile. More often than not, these close encounters of the third kind typically happen in the aisles of a Walmart or a Safeway. As they get closer, that smile gets broader and you can almost feel their warmth. That’s a sign to get your antennae up – soon, you are going to be asked if you’ve met before or told that you look very familiar. Rude as it may seem, turn around and run as fast as you can for you are about to be sold on the virtues of joining Amway Corporation. Chances are you have been at the receiving end of one of those sales pitches before, but count your blessings if you haven’t and save yourself while you can.
So…in summary, regular eye contact between 2 strangers in the Desi community is a myth – and no eye contact is a better, safer place to be. Lesson learned from true, traumatic experiences over the years. And a survival tip? Beat them at their own game – quickly put yourself in one of the above categories and show them how its done. Just do it!