The joke as performed by Anish: Okay, so, one Sardar was tanning on the beach in England. A lady asked him, Are you relaxing? Sardar answered, No, I am Banta Singh. And then another guy came by and asked the same question. Sardar answered the same way, No, I’m Banta Singh. And then, uh, a third person came by and asked the same question again, so Sardar got mad and decided to move positions on the beach. While he was walking he saw another Sardar and asked him, Are you relaxing? The other Sardar was much smarter and responded, Yes, I am relaxing. So the Sardar slapped him on the face and yelled at him, saying, You idiot, how can you be just sitting here while everyone’s out looking for you?”
Anish informed me that the Sardar joke is a popular joke type in India, comparable to the dumb blonde joke in the United States. He said that most Indian people should be familiar with at least one Sardar joke, as even Indian people that have lived in the U.S. their entire lives know the joke type. He learned this particular joke and several other similar jokes at school from his friends in India when he was a young teenager. He said that he always considered this joke cheesy, but it was also one of the funniest of its type.
Anish also explained that Sardar is a title for members of the Sikh class, a group of aristocrats and warriors in India. In this particular joke, the point is that relaxing sounds like Relax Singh, and most members of the Sikh class have the last name Singh. Although the Sikh class is an upper class in India, its members are stereotypically stupid and unaware of whats going on.
In the U.S., dumb blonde jokes seem to be a way of pointing out faults in an otherwise rich, popular and attractive type of person. The Sardar joke functions in a very similar way. Although the Sikh class is higher and more respected, these jokes offer a way for the lower classes to expose their faults in an acceptable manner. For the most part, the jokes are lighthearted and not truly offensive. Thus, the jokes offer a way for lower classes to be rebellious against their superiors but in a humorous and inoffensive manner.
Anish performed this joke in a room with two white people and one other person who identified his ethnicity as Indian, although he explained that he was born in Michigan. Only Anish and the other Indian person laughed at the joke because it is linked so specifically with India and the caste system.