Being in a brown club at 3am
First thing you need to know about Bollywood songs – their primary identifier is not the singer, or album, but the movie they come from, and the actors on scene when the song plays.
My Bollywood club jam is Desi Girl from Dostana – recently popularized by the Nick Jonas/Priyanka Chopra union, but really, I love it for its celebration of being a brown woman, and all that it encompasses.
I’m not a very good Indian – I don’t keep up with the music and movies, I fumble with the language, I struggle with beautiful fabrics, I don’t like the desserts – I’m barely in touch with my roots. But put me in a club with other Indian people, and ply enough alcohol down my throat, and when this song comes on I am feeling that shit.
Generally my preference in sounds (and vocals) is for lower tones and heavy bass – and for some reason female Indian vocalists are always hitting those high high notes, so they don’t usually make for my favourite verses in songs. But in this song – the first couple of verses (and choruses) are sung by men, and it’s great and all, but then Sunidhi Chauhan brings her chorus, and my hair stands on end.
It’s a fairly tiny difference in lyrics – in fact I just tried to google it, and all the sites I visited don’t even differentiate her chorus from the others.
You see, in all the other choruses, this is what we get:
Dekhi lakh lakh pardesi girl Ain't nobody like my desi girl Dekhi lakh lakh pardesi girl Sab toh soni saadi desi girl
Translation (from BollyNook):
We've seen millions of foreign girls Ain't nobody like my desi girl We've seen millions of foreign girls The most beautiful and down to Earth is an Indian girl
But then Sunidhi Chauhan shows up for her chorus, and what we get is:
Dekhi lakh lakh pardesi girl Ain't nobody like
adesi girl Dekhi lakh lakh pardesi girl Sab toh soni laagti desi girl
And that sense – of brown girls pulling together, building each other up, and celebrating their grace, beauty, and strength which happens every time this song comes on – is enough to make me forget any insecurities I have about not being brown enough, not being woman enough, not being anything enough, and I remember that I come from an incredible community and history.
And for those few minutes at least, I am all the power that being a desi girl means.