A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Today was my hometown Bengali association's celebration of Durga Puja, an event that kind of boils down to a mix between Christmas, a family reunion, an Amish barn raising, and a tapir. It's a good time, soggy french fries and all, but I wasn't looking forward to dealing with the legions of fake aunts and uncles barraging me and my parents with questions about my career path.

(note to probably all except Reenee: because we Indians rarely come to the country with blood relations, extremely close ties are forged with our linguistic community, in our case Bengalis. I've known many Baltimore Bengalis since the day I was born and commonly refer to all of them as "mashis" and "kakus," the Bengali equivalent of "aunt" and "uncle." For more information, see Lahiri, Jhumpa, The Namesake, Houghton Mifflin, September 2003)

Mostly, the mashis and kakus were supportive, if a bit surprised. A few knew already and it was clear that the gossip chain was coming together. (I wouldn't be surprised if a random Bengali in Arkansas hears through the grapevine that I'm a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso in a week.) There were, however, some pretty funny questions. A choice selection:

"Make sure you don't come home with a Muslim girl." (predictable)

"Are you going to take out your earrings?" (ditto)

"Thank God, now you'll take out your earrings." (these people are direct!)

"What will you really be doing? (wink wink)"

"Now all of your mom's hair will fall out."

(multiple times)"Why couldn't you go somewhere more civilized like London/New Delhi/Sydney/etc.?"

"Are you crazy?" (yes)

Mom started to well up a few times, especially after someone noted that I wouldn't be coming to a Prantik Puja next year and that neither child will be on the same continent as their parents for a while. Oh was that fun to hear. Also amusing was the kaku who said to my mother "What did you do wrong? It's like your kids are itching to be as far away from you as possible!"

(note: the generic Bengali term for going abroad is "baye-ray," which generically means "outside." It's like they're Hobbits and think of anything outside of the Shire as outside their frame of reference. Often, people from outside the community (not to mention the country) are described as "outside people." Hilarious.)

To any Prantik heads that couldn't make it: the soggy fries were there, the khitchouri was tasteless, and the papadams didn't have enough masala, the prasad was the usual, and the aachaar was neither spicy nor sour enough.

Anyway, that hurdle is out of the way. It was nice to hear that apparently a party is being planned for me at some point with all of my fake cousins. Next up: Thanksgiving. That is going to be hella emo.