One Indian Woman's Wish List

Wednesday, January 7, 2009
New Year, new wishes. All moms dream of things that would make life easier ("A robot that cooks and cleans...and breast-feeds"). Here, some of my wishes, specific to being an Indian mom. Somebody please look into these--many would be a post-it-note "why didn't I think of that!" moment I am sure...!

Beyond "Identity" Fiction

We get it. We, as Indians, sometimes feel torn between the east and the west. If we were born here, we are intrinsically "American" but, at the same time, we have values rooted in a decidedly un-American heritage. Thank you to all the literary trail-blazers who put "identity" fiction--and literature about South Asians in general--on the map. But let's get on with it already. How many times do we want to read about one foot in New York and one in Delhi? Eighteen times pretty much sufficed. Onward and upwards, let's see what else the glorious Indian women who roam the pages of fiction can do.

Netflix for Indian Clothes

I have learned the rules but they still don't make sense. That $1000 lengha? With the hand-done embroidery and gold spun by hand? You should wear it once and carry around a spotlight so everyone can see how gorgeous it is...but then you can never be caught dead in it again. Okay. I'll play by the rules. But why not let friends reap the rewards of that spun-gold and Swarovki glory. Or forget my friends, let a stranger wear it, why does it have to hang in sad confinement in my closet (read: lay in a sad pile under my bed). Somebody has got to get on this. Bindi Borrow or Steal. Or something.

A Turmeric-Sensitive Cleaner

Members of my family believe that turmeric is a magical panacea. When my kids are coughing up lungs and their noses are perpetually leaking, I would try voodoo so turmeric is completely fine with me. But it is a disater on my home. The faint yellow residue has left impressions on high chairs and fabric long after the colds have passed. There's got to be something to get this out and even my magical Folex has failed me.

While we're at it: How about something to get that "I just came back from india" smell out of your clothes. Don't even tell me you don't know what I mean. Febreeze doesn't cut it, it just makes it seem like you were hugged by an Indian airport that had a Febreeze free sample kiosk.

Luxe Lipsticks for Brown Ladies

I have found foundations, blushes, skincare and eye makeup that I think looks great on Indian women but, for some reason, most lipsticks still manage to make me look like a clown. It's not that hard is it? Listen up Chanel: We have money to spend (sometimes): Give us a reason to.

A Short Primer On Important Traditions

I need to be able to sift through which traditions are really important to my extended family and which ones are really just filler on the calendar. I am a mutt--half Gujarati, half South Indian--and my husband is Punjabi. In terms of tradition and culture, we may as well be from different countries, it seems at times. I need some Cliffs notes. AND, I would LOVE to know what the ritual and pomp and circumstance surrounding the many traditions I've never heard of actually mean. I am still trying to get to the bottom of the significance of the strainer at karva chauth. And are we allowed to steal shoes at all auspicious occasions? And is eating panjiri THAT important?? I wish the people behind these books would get on this.

More South Indian restaurants

Just saying the word "dosa" makes my mouth water. There's more to Indian cuisine than Tandoori chicken and yet, many people have no idea.

"Petticoats" that don't suck. And lenghas that don't attack you.

I have war-wounds from some of the Indian garb I have worn. Cat-claw-like scratches under my arms from bronze adornment on lengha blouses. Near-rug-burn on my waist from "petticoats" that need to be "so tight they hurt--if it doesn't hurt it isn't tight enough." And the "petticoats" (love writing such a silly word!) are often of this horrible synthetic, satiny material that feels horrible against my skin. I'm thinking it doesn't have to be like this. Somebody please show me the way.

Non-cheesy Indian-inspirted housewares

I don't need Ganesha on my plates and I would prefer not to have Lord Shiva on my accent pillows. But it would be great to be able to showcase Indian art in my home. We keep hearing about how thriving the Indian art scene is but it remains difficult to gain access to it from here. I would much rather throw some money at a modern Indian art emporium than Design Within Reach--if I knew how.

Got Any Indian-Inspired Wishes on Your Wish-List?
Sandy said...

I whole-heartedly second the cleaner that can get "India out of clothes"! I honestly end up throwing away the wardrobe I wear to the motherland!

arp said...

I wish they would stop selling "henna kits" and "Ganesha totes" at Urban Outfitters! It's kitschy and really relegates our culture to gag gifts. Sell the Gita if you must.

Kiran said...

NYC Cab drivers whose first question isn't "What's your favorite Bollywood movie??" I don't watch those okay?

Druggie Dreamer said...

Ayervedic valium. Especially for the in-laws visits. HA.

Anonymous said...

Spas that incorporate Indian oils, massage, techniques--at Indian prices!

Bhavna said...

My MIL told me that, in India, after you have a baby, you aren't allowed to do housework for a month and somebody comes and gives you a massage every day for that month. That's on my Indian-inspired wishlist. As it is, I am due in February and don't really think one hour will go by without housework after the baby is born! And massage? Maybe for the baby!

Anonymous said...

OH the Netflix idea is brilliant! Blouses may be an issue though.

Purva said...

We should collectively write the Tradition Book! And there needs to be a chapter on the psychology of the traditions, like how some of them are all of a sudden the Most Important Things Ever...just because we have kids now!

Anonymous said...

A device to tell you the exact moment to give your mom or MIL a call, right before they call to give you an epic guilt trip about never calling.

Shona said...

Cheaper tickets to India so my kids can really know their great-grandparents.

KS said...

How about a one-stop-shop where I could get my eyebrows threaded; buy Indian groceries; maybe get a pedicure...with childcare.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU. About the Indian fiction. If I read about how colors in Boston remind some woman writer about plump mangos one more time I am going to kill myself.

Lisa said...

On the fiction: I think it's coming, we will see it soon. Fiction and content that don't deal so squarely with being "Indian" but instead feature Indian people as part of the regular landscape. It may be "Harold and Kumar" (for better or worse?) but it's coming.

Sonali said...

Instead of railing against South Asian writers for writing ethnic stuff, make a point of boycotting publishers who push this sh*t. I have a novel set in South Asia that was read by several agents, and who all turned it down because it wasn't South Asian "experience" enough. There is a reason why you see mango-drenched narratives, it is because only those are sought and sold in the niche market of American publishing. Just as anything and everything about the oppression of Muslim women in Arab countries is a niche market. Books celebrating Arab women in Arab nations do not see the light of day in western publishing. All Arab women are oppressed, and yearn to be in the West: that fits the narrative and that gets published.

Auntie N said...

If somebody ends up writing the primer on Indian traditions let me know where I can buy it (I spend more time on Google trying to figure out things like "holi traditions" than I will ever admit!)

Sonali, you should self-publish! There are many of us who would love to read about Indian women who aren't utterly confused about their identities!

Anonymous said...

I am so in for the Netflix! When I lived in the Bay Area, several women used to sell thier finery on Craigslist before Diwali! If someone were to launch this, I would invest!

JB said...

I second the investment in the Netflix for clothing concept. I would love to rent a sari--and return it without having to fold it, to boot!

Preeti said...

YUM dosa. It actually isn't THAT difficult to make--more prep time than actual "cooking."

valmiki said...

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After receiving an overwhelming response , the Rang Rasiya Freedom of Expression Art Competition, a nation wide contest, a venture by Infiniti Film Entertainment has extended the closing date of entries till January 21, 2008. This Art Movement is an endeavor to bring about a socio cultural movement in India and provide a platform for new talent who are passionate about Art.
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Anonymous said...

I found a cleaner that for sure takes turmeric stains out of clothes. Its awesome find. LA's best cleaner.

Anonymous said...

How come you say that you are Gujarati, so that's being specific, but then you say South Indian... which isn't. I know you probably didn't mean anything, but it sounds like you are being demeaning to South Indians, like they don't size up to being Gujarati! By the way, which language does the South Indian part of your family speak?... Not that I am being judgmental or anything.

And are you teaching your 3 kids any other language as well as English? I suppose it may be hard because you both don't speak the same language, but I'm curious. I would LOVE it if you wrote about this! It would be an intriguing read, about teaching(or not) your kids to be bilingual without one of you knowing it!

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jondotkom said...

Amen on the South Indian restauran observation! There is sooo much variety and regional diversity to Hindustani cuisine, it's such a shame that most of us Americans are served up the standard chicken tikka and biriyani style dishes.

Hell, here in Seattle, seemingly 95% of all Indian dining establishments are run by Punjabi families. The food is fabulous, without a doubt, but limited in its scope; there tends to be a stereotyping in terms of the cuisine 'round here.

Luckily, we have a couple of really great South Indian joints in my area, Seattle. There is nothing like the thrill that fills ones heart as a fresh and crispy "paper" dosa the length of my arm comes to the table all filled with some choicely spiced aloo masala. Bahut accha laga!

And we even a goodl ol' fashioned "chaat" shop that serves up some of the coolest variations of Hindustani street food around. Great stuff! I wish more folks could enjoy these delights.

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