It's only natural for the expatriates of any country to bond in closely knit communities in a new land. The Hill, Dogtown and Bevo are perfect examples of this in St. Louis. Because Indian neighbors are a relatively new development to most native St. Louisans, there are plenty of things each could still stand to learn about the other. For instance, you'll be hard-pressed to find a native St. Louisan who understands the term desi, or just how tightly tradition and particular family values are woven into the rich tapestry of thousands of years of Indian culture.
After an hour of online conversation in a Mumbai, India, chat room last week, Mahesh Joshi, an information technology student in Vallabh Vidhyanagar, India, trusted our intentions enough to give us a simple explanation of what desi really means to Indians.
"Desi basically means traditional, but actually it is more concerned with Indians getting together and feeling at home," he says. Mahesh then wonders what we're doing up so late, concludes that we must not be married and offers to help us find a loving wife. "What is your height and your caste?" he inquires.
Whether you're native to St. Louis or Mumbai, you'll want to consider checking out a St. Louis desi party sometime. Why not head to the Kastle (3207 Washington Avenue) for the very first of its Nirvana Nights? The event promises Indian pop music, food and fashion the last Friday of the month ($15, 314-776-2645, www.theylist.com). It's sure to become a splendid tradition for our local desi community and might be a great way to get to know your new neighbors. If you're catching the new Amitabh Bachchan film, Khakee, the same night at Northwest Plaza's Wehrenberg 9 Cine ($9, 9 p.m., Lindbergh Boulevard at St. Charles Rock Road, 314-423-9990), Nirvana Nights would be an excellent way to round out an exotic evening. -- John Goddard
Toot your flutes
You know that chick in your accounting class, the one who wears the Guatemalan-peasant dresses and has her hair in cornrows, even though she's as white as Alexis Carrington Colby? She works on macramé during class and keeps dipping into a Ziploc bag of trail mix -- you know, that one? She wants you to meet her at The Healthy Planet Natural Living Expo at the Webster Groves Recreation Complex (33 East Glendale Road at Elm Avenue, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; $5 for adults, free for kids younger than sixteen; 314-962-5419; www.thehealthyplanet.com). You'll find more than 60 booths with info on everything from aromatherapy to feng shui to Pilates, along with live Native American flute music by Mark Holland. Far out, man. -- Byron Kerman
A Breeze up Our Kilt
Having nice legs is a plus, but being Scottish is even better for the new Kilt Night at Llywelyn's Pub in Webster Groves. The event is billed as "an informal social gathering"; i.e., wearing a kilt is not required. But guys, c'mon -- when at a Scottish celebration, do as the Scots do, right? (We hear plaid is fashionable again this year, too.) In any case, the local branch of the St. Andrew's Society will be sponsoring this particularly "non-crap" event, which will feature bagpipes and McEwans and Tennants on tap. So memorize those Braveheart lines and stop on by (6:30 to 10 p.m., 17 Moody Avenue, free, 314-962-1515). Bagpipes are optional; Fat Bastard impersonations are discouraged. -- Ben Westhoff
Bag of Books, Three Bucks
The St. Louis County Library, unlike the city's public-library system, does not host a big centralized book fair with thousands of books and bargains galore. Some of the county library branches, however, do host their own book fairs, and the bargains are worth seeking out. Recent sales at the Rock Road, Jamestown Bluffs and Mid-County branches offered enough hardbacks, paperbacks, records, CDs, magazines and kiddie books to obviate any family trips to Borders for the next few years. The next sale is scheduled for the Daniel Boone branch in Ellisville (300 Clarkson Road; 636-227-9630; Thursday, January 29, through Saturday, January 31). Most items are priced at 50 cents or less, and on Saturday you can buy a canvas tote bag and stuff it with books, all for three bucks. -- Byron Kerman