She will take you to a faraway Indian restaurant in East London for “curry”, even though she wanted dosas. She is a veritable mine of recommendations for the best Indian restaurants in Brick Lane, or Chapel Market, or indeed, wherever one happens to be.
The good Indian friend ignores, on such occasions, her own cravings for grocery-store hummus.
The good Indian friend knows all about the perfect way to make “chai tea”. The redundancy keeps her up at night. But the good Indian friend refrains from informing you that the term makes no sense.
She is as affable to the stranger who asks her about cricket immediately upon discovering she’s from India as she is to the writer who will discuss only Salman Rushdie with her, and to the women who drag her along to a Bollywood Karaoke place.
If, one day, the good Indian friend is informed how “calm” she is, and asked: is it because Indians have this “deep, meditative air to them?” Even if the good Indian friend is a refugee from a home filled with meditation and saffron-coloured memoirs by Swamis, she will nod thoughtfully, appreciatively.
The good Indian friend will be present at every single South Asian event, whether it is a Carnatic music recital or a seminar on the hermeneutics of Bhangra.
At a Sainsbury’s, standing before the aisle that is a wonderland of more spice varieties than she has ever seen, the good Indian friend might once be asked which one is cayenne and which one is chili powder, and which of those is best suited for a curry. The good Indian friend will know the answer.
The good Indian friend blushes gratefully when she is told how articulate and beautiful her English is.
The good Indian friend never notices when her white friends turn peculiar shades of orange. She never brings up fake tans. The good Indian friend smiles when told, “I wish I was tan like you.”
The good Indian friend is absolutely always able to hold long conversations on Bollywood.
“Can you teach me any moves?” The good Indian friend might often be called upon to become an impromptu Bollywood dance instructor. She will always be up-to-date with the latest moves, and will always be ready to demonstrate. The good Indian friend knows all the lyrics of every Hindi song ever written.
When two people enter a music room and the good Indian friend goes for the piano, she will be gracious at the others’ surprise that she knows how to play the piano, but not the tabla or the sitar. The good Indian friend will help you wear a sari. She will automatically know how, by virtue of her Indianness. She will then pick out the perfect bindi for you.
The good Indian friend will hear in detail about white people’s weddings in Jaipur. Here, she must feign interest, act as tour guide, offer insider tips and names of hidden spots.
As for her own hypothetical future wedding, she will, by default, say yes to everyone who asks to be invited. The wedding will, of course, include elephants, Bollywood dancing, horses, and fire.
The good Indian friend cares for her white friends’ feelings. She does not wish to make people uncomfortable. She will never speak ill of her country, or of the several carefully constructed systems that brought her here in the first place.
At music festivals and elsewhere, the good Indian friend will be in awe of all the bindis and shiva T-shirts. The good Indian friend celebrates their edginess.
When she is confronted with a white poet who immediately launches into a verbal reverie about his experiences with ketamine in Hampi and Benares, the good Indian friend will add productively to the conversation. She will admire his spiritual journey.
The good Indian friend listens with interest to your stories from the gap year you spent in Rajasthan teaching rural children English. She always looks suitably apologetic when you talk about the poverty you witnessed. She is always grateful when you talk about the difference you made to the children.
Neha Margosa lives in Bangalore, India. She's interested in writing about music, food, and memory. You can find her on Twitter here.