Dear White People,
Hello, and welcome to my special world. I am Indian, and as many of you have already surmised, I have an amazing skill.
I know every other Indian in the world.
How else could it be that upon meeting me, and recognizing—from my characteristic countenance, dead-giveaway name, and special head-shaking mannerism—that I’m Indian, you never fail to ask whether I know the Indian that you know. That Indian guy Singh who runs your local bodega. That Indian Dr. Sunita Patel at NYU, the woman who examines your hoo-ha. Or that Indian Darshan-something, the guy who lives down your hallway.
Of course, I know them all.
First of all, Singh is a completely distinct and unique Indian name that only one person claims from all of India. And of course, I know that Singh. How could I not? He, of West 77th and Amsterdam corner fame, with the mustache and distinctive coal-black eyes. Yeah, I know him. We met back in 1981, and I never forget an Indian face. Because? I’m Indian.
Your gynecologist? Gimme a break—do you even have to ask? We’re street sisters. That is, I passed her briefly on West 12th Street once, made her immediate acquaintance in that manner all Indians do, and forever etched her in my brain.
And Darshan-something, the dude down your hallway? Man, I’ve got you covered. You may have forgotten his last name, but I haven’t. It’s Kapoor. We used to party way back when, two lonely frosh at Dartmouth. We had so much in common—neither of us legacy, both of us Indian.
Now, you’re probably wondering how we do it. When there are 1.4 billion of us, how the hell do we keep track of every one of us?
I’ll tell you: it’s a single-minded quest, an endeavor of 49 percent sweat and 51 percent perspiration.
We spend all our time meeting other Indians, so we don’t fall behind.
Ever wonder why our weddings are crazy humongous? Why every Indian has a million “first cousins”? Why we jump on Air India and go “back home” for months?
It’s so we can commit to memory every man, woman, and child in our vast subcontinent.
“Namaste,” we say. “Let me remember thee, sajjan, so I can report back to Josh or Jenna, Celia or Delia that yes, of course I know the one Indian you know. Let me devote this neuron to you, Singh. And this one to you, Sunita. And save this one for Darshan.” Bam! Thus we imprint those millions of names and faces in our brains.
Now I know you’re going to wonder if you can do it. Could you know the Jones who runs my CVS, the John Hall who’s my proctologist, and the David-something who’s a guy down my hallway?
I hate to break it to you, but you can’t. White people simply don’t know all the other white people. You’ve made global warming, you invented chicken fried steak, and you gave us Twitter, but you just don’t have this skill.
I know this because I’ve asked.
When I meet a random white person, I ask them if they know my Jones, my John, or my David-something. And you know what? Every single time they just look at me like I’m crazy, shake their head, and say no. It’s almost like they’re wondering why on earth they would know all the other white people that I know.
But don’t lose heart. Give yourself a break. It’s no mean feat to be acquainted with 1.4 billion other human beings in a vast and disparate diaspora.
It’s just Indians. Only we know every Indian that you know. Like only we can.