Outsourced this week (Episode 7, “Truly, Madly, Pradeeply”) had two intertwined plot threads: Todd’s continuing pursuit of his beautiful employee, Asha; and the sudden emergence of Gupta’s addiction to smokeless tobacco, or “paan.”
I have a friend who is married to an Indian-born man. He thinks this show is silly and unrealistic. Well, yes, it’s a sitcom! His wife, who has traveled to India numerous times during the course of their marriage, sees some interesting aspects of Indian culture being portrayed on the show.
Smokeless Tobacco, or Paan
When I watched Episode 7, I agreed with both of these assessments. On the silly and unrealistic side, Gupta’s addiction to paan seemed to come out of nowhere. Suddenly, he was popping up every other minute, it seemed, and scoring the stuff just outside the office building.
But somehow, watching him doing it every chance he got, and watching Mid-America Novelties’ Assistant Manager Rajiv follow him around so he could catch him in the act and report him to the boss, was funny in a Keystone Cops sort of way. Rajiv’s face tells his whole story. He’s an amusing type who makes you laugh just to see his avid, mustached face and beady eyes.
Some research revealed the apparent truth that this paan (also called “gutkha” on the street) is a problem among Indians of a variety of ages, starting with preteens, and also in other South Asian countries.
Love and Dating vs. Arranged Marriages
The other cultural tidbits in this episode came up with the Asha-Todd flirtation. I missed Episode 6, but evidently the “Bollyween” show involved a kiss between the two. He was already smitten with her, and now he’s more determined than ever.
She has a stack of -applications? resumes?–of profiles from a list of potential marriage partners, all Indian, and she’s going through them at work. (This is allowed? Where is Rajiv?)
Todd tells Manmeet that he is sure that he is the one for Asha. He’s so confident that he writes up his own resume, with the fake name Pradeep, and slips it into the stack when she’s not looking. In describing himself, he says that he has a “wheat-colored” complexion. He had seen this on another application and asked Manmeet about it. Manmeet told him that lighter-colored skin is considered more attractive.
Todd’s American naiveté shines through. He knows Asha will choose his resume, and, like Cinderella, he will live happily ever after with her-or at least date her.
But he has a rude awakening when he shows up in Madhuri’s place next to Asha at the Bollywood concert. The shy, sweet Madhuri has given him the ticket Asha passed on to her, knowing how strong Todd’s feelings are for Asha. Asha, surprised but not thrilled to see Todd when he arrives, tells him that she has chosen her future husband. He was supposed to come to the concert with her, but couldn’t make it. That’s why she’d invited Madhuri.
She explains to a bewildered Todd that his kiss was lovely, and she admires his intelligence, good looks, etc. But the bottom line is, she’s going to marry an Indian man, as her parents want her to do. For these people, arranged marriage trumps physical attraction and chemistry.
I haven’t been to India-but I’ve been to other Asian countries and I’ve talked to many Asian students in America.
They usually say that arranged marriages are not as common or the same as they used to be. But there are parameters set up by the parents. Often the girl has arranged meetings with young men of her age, social level, educational level-and especially from her country and language group–and asks them questions, and can choose from among them.
And although I have an American friend who is married to an Indian, I think it’s still pretty uncommon to find Asians marrying Americans. As one Korean student’s parents put it, when he left home to study in the United States: “No blue eyes.”
Can You Learn About Another Culture from a Sitcom?
So I still think Outsourced is a good source of information about the country and part of the world in which it is set. Silly? Yes. As I said, it’s a sitcom. But it serves up its cultural information in a way that is easy to digest, and accessible to all.
Finally, I’m grateful that there weren’t as many products being pitched, and-will wonders never cease-no cheap, vulgar sex toys on display this week at the Indian call center of Mid-America Novelties on Outsourced.
Many Characters on Outsourced Are Indian, But Not India-Born
Outsourced Episode 10 Is Funny If at Times Crude