2. Master of Culture
Jill of All Trades
Master of Some Stuff, Maybe
A blook written on an iPhone.
" The Las Vegas Stripper Factor."
As part of a blue-collar working family, we barely spent time together and when we did, we were watching TV. Unfortunately, most of that time was spent with my sister and I translating every minute of the show for our ESL parents. That is, until my parents discovered the computer. It was quite possibly the most wonderful thing that ever happened to our family. Why? Because now we could watch TV with pre-approved Serbian subtitles. No more translation necessary.
Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that the Serbian television we were streaming rarely offered American programs. Family TV time had now become a choice of teaching English verb conjugations or.... watching a Bollywood Soap Opera.
(Did you know that Bollywood as an industry is more popular than Hollywood? That's what I thought, Sh%* he@%*.)
At the time, neither option was compelling so I went on a whim and decided to give Bollywood a shot. And it was at that moment... I was introduced to Balika Vadhu. The first time my dad had us all watching the show, I was completely consumed by the confusion/hilarity of watching an Indian Soap with Serbian subtitles. I was also completely caught off guard by the tingle in my pants when I saw the hot man with stern face:
Canada is a cold, cold place. The meteorologists don't measure the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit, but in the number of minutes it takes for frost bite to kick in. But the cold is a small price to pay for the perks us Canucks get here. The education system is rock solid, the roads are all kept, and the health care system (sort of) knows what's going on. But the best thing about this place is the immigrant value. I love being an immigrant in Canada.
It's like being a stripper in Vegas: our names are flashy and it wouldn't be the same without us.
Canada has what's called the "Vegas Stripper Factor", commentary on the multiculturalism of the nation. And within this Factor, names like Nadeem Panderjeet and Miloradislav Kuzmentitsova are commonplace.
There is only one downside to the Vegas Stripper Factor. It's when "fresh-off-the-boat" parents tend forget you're not growing up in the mother land. To illustrate, my mother did not teach me how to speak English. Television did. To be precise, Danny Tanner, Tony Micelli and Will Smith taught me. And if it wasn't for my parents' aversion to the English language, I wouldn't love television so much. This is why I don't mind watching Keeping up with the Kardashians.
A short Clip of Balika Vadhu. If you pause at 0:25 you will see hot man with stern face.
My silence indicated that I was willing to watch the first episode (I was also drooling in silence). I sat through every 5 second "expression closeup" like a champ. And while hot man with stern face was a yummy piece of eye candy to watch, little did I know... I would REALLY get into the show. As in, I joined a fan club. And I'm not just saying that. It got to the point where I was able to have a full blown conversation about it with strangers.
To prove this, let me share the following. Last year I was in Vancouver getting my eyebrows threaded at an Indian beauty salon operated by two Korean women. The women seemed bitter and angry. Probably because they're are no decent men left in Vancouver (sorry Vancouver, it's true).
I was feeling very uncomfortable the moment I walked in because I am very particular about my eyebrows. Just like Brooke Shields, my eyebrows are my thing. I may not get a lot of compliments based on looks and I don't have a full A cup to compensate for any flaws, so pluck one wrong eyebrow hair and I fall into a fit of depression.
I decided to say something.
"How are you today?" I asked.
I thought I'd lighten the mood for everyone, but my voice was hoarse, shy, intimidated. The last thing I wanted to do was upset these woman even more. They didn't say a word. The air was so thick with tension, it felt like someone had secretly farted and everyone was upset about it.
I quickly looked to the exit. Damn. Leaving the salon was not an option since they already took my coat.
What should I do to lighten the mood? I have to do something! Quick, Jill, think!
Suddenly, as if touched by a Bollywood angel, I noticed a Balika Vadhu poster in the corner of the salon. I couldn't believe it. Here? How?! Without wasting any more time I decided to use the poster as ammo. I turned to one of the women, now looming over my forehead, dangling a piece of thread.
"Umm...I'm sorry if this might be a random question, but do you watch Anandi?"
I braced myself for the worst when suddenly--
"Oh my god! You mean Balika Vadhu? Our boss made us watch it, and now we're streaming it on our computers at home!"
"Me too!" I shouted.
The room fell quiet again. Too quiet.
Did I say too much? Impossible. But maybe my delivery was off. The women just stared at me. I cleared my throat and started again--
"Can...Can you believe what Jagdish did last week? I mean sleeping on the street and leaving his entire medical practice behind just because of some woman?"
A pause. Then--
"Ugh, my god I hate that bitch," chimed the assistant.
"Yes! Oh my god it was so hard to watch. All he needed to do was call Anandi!" said the woman with the thread. She sat up and started waving it around.
"Did you see Jagdish forget his shoes at Anandi's engagement ceremony? And when his grandma found them and knew they were his? I can't believe how she just missed him by a second," said the assistant.
"Yes! Anandi!" I yelped.
I couldn't believe it--it was working. I had seduced these women into a relatively pleasant state of mind. My eyebrows were going to look fantastic, I could feel it! But just as I was getting into the conversation, the woman looming over my forehead hit me with one big metaphorical stinker:
"Did you hear they-re re-casting the role of Anandi?"
I nearly choked on my own saliva. I'm sorry, what? One of the reasons I loved Balika Vadhu so much was because of the actress (Pratyusha Banerjee). And they were axing her?!
"No they're not axing her," either she read my mind or I had spoken out loud. Either way, I was devastated.
"She just wants to leave the show. Who can blame her though. It's been like, 2000 episodes already."
Easy there Nancy, you're ruining the mood.
But it was too late. I shut down immediately. My spirits crushed. It's as if, for that moment, I didn't care about my eyebrows. There were more important things going on in my life right now. Anandi was not just the star of the show. She (and hot man with stern face) was the reason our family came together every night at 6:15. She (and hot man with stern face) was the reason I started wearing colors other than black! And now she was leaving, and now I had no reason to watch Balika Vadhu anymore (other than man with stern face)!
My eyebrows looked great. I can give you their number. I, however, left the salon feeling like an empty shell of a human. I felt like I had to do something to stop Pratyusha from leaving the show. Naturally, I searched for her agent's contact information and I wrote him a heartfelt letter. I also started a petition, and signed another one that another fan had already started. Sadly, my attempts were fruitless... Pratysha indeed left the show. They replaced her with someone. Someone so... not her. Like replacing Mayim Bialik in Blossom with a girl that was on that commercial for five seconds once.
The rest of the story is neither here nor there. Don't worry, I figured out a way to get over my sadness. But the bottom line was this: I was sitting in an eyebrow salon in downtown Vancouver speaking to these two Korean women about an Indian Soap Opera that I watched with Serbian subtitles in Canada.
The original Anandi and Jagdish from "Balika Vadhu."
This, Master Readers, is the mastering of "The Vegas Stripper Factor."
I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but had I not known about Balika Vadhu, those women could have purposely forgotten to thread my unibrow.
So as to not disappoint the title of this chapter, I will now briefly address my life as a stripper.
Just kidding. I'm not a stripper. I'm an actress. But according to my father, it's the same thing.
In conclusion, you should come and visit the great white north. While I can't guarantee any strippers, I can assure you I will teach you more about the importance of multiculturalism and the "Vegas Stripper Factor." I will also teach you how to pronounce "szkc" and may even throw in a free ice scraper for your car. You'll need it.
Until next time Master Readers.