While I was searching and surfing around, I found this comment on an old thread at the Zulmnet forum , and it just cracked me up:
There is no way to prove to you that I’m a white American guy, but I can share an experience I had with Tamil DVD searching – I live in NYC and if I don’t order Indian movies online, I go to Jackson Heights Queens (Little India) to buy them, which is a 45 minute ride from Manhattan. For some reason, when I had looked for Tamil DVDs in Jackson Heights, all the DVD shopkeepers look at me as if im crazy, because no one carries Tamil DVDs. I see Tamil and Bollywood DVDs pretty related. But I guess that Jackson Heights is an extension of Northern India… So I get advice where to find Tamil DVDs and that is in Flushing, Queens, even further away than Jackson Heights. I’m told of some store on some side street a mile away from the subway. I finally find it and it’s more of a wholesale-looking store than a typical store someone is supposed to go in. And I’m looking around the store and start asking for a couple Tamil DVDs I’m looking for…after a while of browsing, the store keeper finally asks me, “Are you doing this for a school project?” In the back of his mind, I could see his true question “Why the f*** is a white man looking for Tamil movies on DVD in the middle of nowhere?” I tell him, “no, I like Bollywood/Tamil movies.” And the usual question I get then is “Do you understand hindi/tamil? Is that why you are looking?” It’s just funny because there is no way that they can understand a white person searching and asking for certain movies from India/South India… It’s as if they understand that their movies suck and have no understanding of some foreigner looking for their homeland movies… I love the reactions and the stares I get going in those stores…
Now, I have had similar experiences re. buying Indian DVDs in Jackson Heights, with some small differences…
1. I don’t have to travel for 45 minutes to get to the Indian DVD stores in Jackson Heights because they’re about five to seven very short blocks away for me now. (But if I lived, say, in Manhattan I would go to “Curry Hill,” around 28th Street and Lexington Avenue, first. As I’ve said before, sometimes it’s actually nicer – or at least more relaxing – going into those places than to most of the stores near me. Plus, if one is feeling awkward about being a “white person” looking for Indian DVDs, I think they get more gora in those stores. The first time I went into the one right on Lex, there was a group of about half a dozen European tourists milling around.)
2. I haven’t really asked anyone in these Jackson Heights stores for Tamil DVDs because I can see most don’t carry them, and the ones that do have them squashed in some corner alongside Telugu and Malayalam DVDs, on shelves one-twentieth the size of the shelves for the Hindi DVDs. There are a couple of stores where I’ve actually seen fuller selections of Bangla DVDs and Punjabi DVDs… I would agree with the assessment that Jackson Heights is more of an extension of Northern India – and Pakistan and Bangladesh – than of South India.
I know what that guy means about the stares that people give you and comments you get, and it has made me feel a bit awkward sometimes. But I don’t have to worry about that in a couple of DVD stores in Jackson Heights where the guys at the counter (and in one case, the girl at the counter) have realized that I know more about the classic Bollywood movies than they do. I still sometimes encounter the attitude that this guy talks about in other places, especially in the smaller stores. Though I probably encounter it less from the shopkeepers than from an occasional other customer.
I did not get this attitude in that store in Flushing. Assuming it’s the same store. (And I didn’t see any others around that would carry these movies, in this area where the vast majority of shops are Chinese, not Indian. Though there is a possibility that he was talking about another store, since this was not a mile from the subway; in fact, it was less than ten blocks. But I suspect he was exaggerating that part.)
The guy working there didn’t act at all puzzled or surprised when I asked for the Tamil movies; in fact, he didn’t even ask if I wanted any help picking something out. Maybe it was a different guy from the one that the other “white man” mentioned on the forum. Or maybe after that other guy visited a few times, this shopkeeper got used to the sight of an obviously non-Indian person coming in for Tamil videos. It also happened to be the day after A.R. Rahman won some big Hollywood award, so maybe there were quite a few non-Indian people walking around on this day looking for Tamil films and music.
He did mention to me, since I had asked for “old Tamil movies,” that they didn’t have anything “very old,” which is true. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot any titles I knew from the classics of the 1950s and ’60s. I might go back, though, when I can think of a few titles that I’d like to buy from a slightly later period, because there were quite a few of these.
The store also had a very tempting supply of Golden Age Hindi DVDs for $5. The selection here was interesting, because the companies were different for the most part from the ones that generally supply the DVDs I’ve been finding for $5 in Jackson Heights. This might be a worthwhile place to go apart from the places I’ve been frequenting in Jackson Heights, just for Bollywood DVDs.
Unfortunately, when I visited that store, I didn’t have much money in my pocket. I’d actually wandered over there because I happened to be in Flushing after being summoned to the Department of Labor. I could have gone to an ATM machine and taken out more cash, but that would have cost me extra bank fees, too. And I wasn’t feeling that inclined to be spending extra cash, because there’s a reason I had been visiting the Department of Labor.
But sometime in the near future, I think, I’ll be heading back there. (I know where it is by sight, though unfortunately, I didn’t take down the address for reference here. But I can tell you, go past the subway, going down hill, turn left around the corner, and up the next hill a few blocks – if that helps.)