Monika’s Musings: Khoonisita, App tables & partying with desis

“Do you want a khoonsita?” I was bemused. I was at a party and the hostess was offering me a khoonsita. All I wanted was a cocktail or failing that possibly a glass of champagne or vino Bianca. A khoonsita was certainly not part of my drinking vocabulary. The hostess laughed and put a glass of Bloody Mary into my hand. “Ah”, the batti switched on! The choice of name did lead to a debate on whether it is appropriate or should actually be ‘khoonisita or khoonimariam’ assuming Sita is not a good enough translation for Mary.

Attending parties in the US is kind of different than India. Most of them are held on weekends and sometimes these weekends get booked up months in advance, especially during the summertime. Impromptu gatherings are not that common. Distance plays a factor for people not living in the city and failing that people just do not seem to have the time. Most Indians seem to prefer catering Indian food for their parties. There are some women who prefer to cook everything including making samosas and gulab jamuns. I never made them in India and certainly do not mean to start here. There are plenty of able caterers to fill that void.

When the party commences, people make a beeline for the ‘app’ table.

At first I was trying to understand why they all wanted apps. I figured cell technology has truly invaded our homes so even at a party people want to sample apps. It was later I realised it’s a short form for appetizers more commonly known in India as hor d’oeuvres or starters. I resist these ‘app’ tables. I feel like a starving hobo who has never seen food. Many people try not to eat the day they have to go for a party. They attack the ‘app’ tables like they have been food deprived. The ‘apps’ are formally served with plates, cutlery, small napkins and an array of savoury snacks. I like the more discreet passing of snacks that happens at Indian parties where you do not appear greedy and instead elegantly pop a small bite of something into your mouth. I also dislike snacks that necessitate people getting a glimpse of the entire mouth cavity. Of course, I do understand there is no help in this country and have resigned myself to ‘app’ tables. I personally do not plan an ‘app’ table when I entertain. I lay it out on small coffee tables and plan finger foods that do not require whole plates to be balanced in the hands. I think it is a juggle to hold a drink and a plate. I have my priorities.

In the US, It is normal to see everyone pitch in to help from laying the food, clearing up and finally doing the dishes. But I am anal and have a system so prefer everyone stays out of my kitchen. Instead I leave the dishes in the sink or allow them to clutter the counters so I can focus on dessert and liqueurs. The dishes can wait till guests leave. And if the size of the group is too large, disposables come into handy. Disposables are not preferred in India but make life much easier in the US. I have to admit I am a disposable snob and like to shop for the “authentic crockery and cutlery” lookalikes. Party City is a sure bet in this department.

As I ponder the insignificant differences between Indian Indians and Indian Americans, I realise you can take the Indian out of India, but you cannot take India out of the Indian. I feel we (as in those from India) are more sophisticated in how we entertain and dare I say more modern in our outlook too. When I talk to people, I feel their outlook is archaic. India is progressing in leaps and bounds but people who leave India, are stuck in the mindset of the times when they left. God forbid your parents left in the 30s, 40s or 50s. You may as well be living in another universe.  As the globe is shrinking and with so much available online, Indian fashion in the US is finally coming out of the dark ages.

Having said that, I still feel people veer on the side of the traditional. The more avant-garde designers do not find much of a market among the older NRI population. The younger ones are a different breed. They may not be Indian in their outlook but at weddings, engagements, baby showers, they sure love to dress and dance desi. Indian sangeets give the young women and their male counterparts an opportunity to present a great spectacle as they gyrate and thrust their hips to Bollywood’s latest.  They could almost be in India until they open their mouth and out comes that Brit/ Yankee/ Ozzie accent.

I also find it amusing how situations in India mean so much more to desis outside the country. While I was still living in India, I got into a huge debate with Indians in the US who felt justified in attacking issues in India. The topic of our argument eludes me right now but it was something critical and I did not agree with their point of view. As someone who lived in India, I knew the ground reality they did not. Of course, media today has done a great job of presenting their points of view and stirring up controversy. Desis rise to the occasion and take it as gospel truth.

As for me, I shudder to think that the longer I live here, I may actually go down that path. I immerse myself into US issues and politics because it is actually a safer topic despite the desi Trump supporters. As a sapiosexual, Trump is someone I find revolting.

Each time he comes on the screen, I need to reach for a ‘khoonisita’ or else I might end up a khooni!!! Cheers.

Monique Patel

Monique Patel

Monika Patel – Monique to her friends – is now a permanent resident of New York City, but her heart is permanently in Pune, her home for 28 years.
Monique Patel

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