Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Familiar Unknown Faces

It's nice to have a unique look. Sometimes it gets me in trouble when someone recognizes me, and I have no clue who they are or where I've met them, but overall, I like the experience.

So what's this unique look I speak of? Well, I do seem to stand out a bit. First of all, I'm a minority in America. And, among minorities, I'm a minority. I'd say Indians take a backseat to Latinos, African Americans, and Asians (and by Asians, I mean Orientals) when it comes to population. I'm often asked about my nationality though, because I don't look like your run of mill Indian.

Let's take a little trip to India, shall we? There, amongst the endless hoard of people you'll see the rail thin, to the plumply chubby and all in between. I would guess the average height of most men there is about 5'8, the younger of whom are pretty skinny, and the older of whom have been healthily fed along the way.

And then there's the Beautiful Giant (me :) One might think that I would blend in, walking through the land of my ancestry.

Think again.

At 6'2" and 205 lbs, I definitely stand out (and "over"). I guess it's a combination of the food in America (hormones in food, as well as my omnivorous, not to mention plentiful, diet), my working out, and some heredity factors that contribute to me being built so differently than most Indians.

Combine that with the fact that I dress differently (and much more fashionably if I do say so :), and it's apparent I stand out.

So how does this all relate to the title of the day, "Familiar Unknown Faces?" Well, it's interesting that, no matter where you are, people always feel a natural bond to people of similar background.

In India for example, whenever I saw white people, I always wanted to run over and say "Hey Guys! How's it going? Where're you from?!" From a cultural standpoint, I just felt the need to connect with fellow travellers from my home! (Nevermind the fact that most of the "Whities" ended up being European)

In America, Indians behave the same way.

Example 1: Indians that I don't know always smile at me in the streets while passing by.

Example 2: There are a couple of Indian guys who work on my floor at work. Despite not really knowing them, they always stop by my office to chit-chat and make small talk, and are particularly friendly. This happens to no one else in my hall.

Example 3: When I used to work at Tennis Warehouse and took customer calls, it was always interesting to note the behavioral differences when an Indian customer learned my name. On the phone, it's impossible to know my ethnic background, but upon hearing my name, Indians were always particularly friendly.

In fact, on a couple of occasions, the Indian customer didn't hear my name at first and proceeded with whatever question the had. Then, towards the end of the call, they'd ask my name. As soon as they heard it, they immediately became doubly friendly and ask me about my day, how I like California, what I'm majoring on in school etc.

Example 4: There's this Indian restaurant I used to take a lot of my friends to in college. My roommate and I had been there a few times, but the staff was always EXTRA nice to me (above their general friendly demeanor). They'd card everyone at the table ordering beer except for me (despite me being the youngest), and would always give me a mystery 10% discount. My friends named this "The Countrymen Discount."

Example 5: My dental hygienist is Persian. Somehow, she feels this special bond with me though because our countries are relatively close. Whenever I go, she shows me pictures of her kids, talks about how "properly" I must have been raised by parents with good (Asian) morals, and has begun scolding me like a mother for not brushing my teeth after each cup of coffee. She's ok, but I think it's hilarious how, if I were not Indian, we'd have a normal friendly relationship, and since I am, it's like a familial relationship with my Aunt concerned about my dental health.

I suppose some of that is Asian culture though. In India, we call all significant elders "Uncle" and "Auntie," irrespective of any actual relation. The Uncles and Aunties in turn, usually treat you with the same affection that they would their own nieces and nephews.

Yes, despite any real life familiarity, it's fascinating how we gravitate and automatically elevate people with whom we find cultural similarities.

I've decided to begin testing this trend of "similarity gravitation" on purely physical appearance.

The Question: "Are supermodels particularly attracted to people with similarly stellar looks?"

The Experiment: I suppose I'm going to have to be the guinea pig and and hang out with a lot of supermodels :) All in the name of science!