There are 1.3 billions Indians in this world, give or take one or two. Besides Gandhi, it’s near impossible to say who is “the most Indian.” Is an Indian living in India more Indian than an Indian living outside of India? Does it make a difference where you were born? So that may be difficult to decide, but can one say that a non-Indian is more Indian than an Indian? Say the person is American and knows how to speak Hindi, can recite the vedic scripts, does yoga, and knows every Amitabh Bachchan movie inside-out, is this person more Indian than an Indian who can’t do any of the above? And does it even matter? As part of our culture we are very open to sharing our culture with others, and this of course, includes food and Bollywood movies. Some of you may not know this but the (un)official food of England is curry. This is how much we want to share our culture that we kick the British out and then go to England to sell them curry.
In medical school my roommates and best friends were Vietnamese. During our travels I had a chance to ‘expose’ them to Indian food. The one with the weak digestive system barely smelled the food before he was off to the bathroom. With time he developed a stronger stomach lining and an appreciation for chicken tikka masala and naan. The other roommate also enjoyed the food but took a fond liking for Bollywood movies, especially Dil Chata Hai. About a week ago one of them sent me a picture of their fridge with a shelf stocked with frozen Indian food. I firmly believe that last week he ate more Indian food than I did. So does that make him more Indian than me? It doesn’t matter, as long as he is partaking and enjoying in our culture. I believe everyone should have a brown friend, especially when they go to an Indian restaurant to help them out. I give these guys credit for being open-minded and trying new things, unlike Cherif, who refuses to wear spandex.
Outside India, most of us have several friends who aren’t Indian. The one thing we are good at is that when they come to our house we feed them. But some get really caught up in the culture and do something incredibly Indian that makes me feel less Indian. I got an email from my sister informing me that some of her friend’s friends are starting up a chili sauce company. The company is Bandar Monkey Sauce (www.bandarfoods.com), and their first two sauces are spicy mango and mint cilantro sauce. What blew my mind was one of the two co-founders was white. Even his name screams, “Hello I’m white”. His name is Dan. That name is so white, you can show up from India, go through immigration without a passport and say “Jello officer mere naam Dan hai.” The minute the officer hears your name is Dan he will let you go right through without a passport, because that’s how white the name and guy is. He teamed up with an Indian friend and they just launched their company. Dan is now part owner of a company that makes chili sauces, quite possibly and soon to be one of the world’s largest producers of Indian chili sauces.
As Dan assimilates more of the Indian culture in the very near future you may hear that he is also known as Dharmendra Balasubrahmanyam, something just a little less white. Bandar Chili Sauces, sauce so spicy it will make you spank your monkey!