This self-referential colloquialism was created in the United Kingdom during the early 1960s to late 1980s and, in the UK is sometimes pronounced "Dezi."
In this sense, it can include:
Within India, desi connotes "local" or "indigenous", as distinct from videshi or pardesi ("foreigner").
During the heyday of the British Raj, many people from the then undivided Indian sub-continent emigrated to the UK or to other British colonies, in search of education and opportunity. The diaspora from what is now called South Asia increased dramatically following the riots and massacres of Partition. Families from the affected areas sought safety in various Commonwealth countries. Starting in the 1960s, the USA dramatically increased the amount of immigration permitted from Asia, leading to large immigration from the subcontinent.
Likewise with the split of the East Pakistan Wing from West Pakistan in 1971 needed a name by the Awami League and colloquially the Bengalis (both East and West Bengal, even before partition) had referred to their homeland as 'Bangla-desh' meaning the homeland of Bengalis. The National Assembly then adopted 'Bangla Desh' as the name for the country.
Communities that have remained distinct in South Asia have tended to mix in diaspora. Some second or third generation immigrants, but not all, do not think of themselves as belonging to a particular nation, sub-culture, or caste, but as just plain South Asians or Desis. Some Desis are creating what can be called a "fusion" culture, in which foods, fashions, music, and the like from many areas of South Asia are "fused" with elements from Western culture.
It may also mean "native" or "traditional." Common examples are "desi ghee," which is the traditional clarified butter of the Asian subcontinent, as opposed to more processed fats such as vegetable oils. "Desi chicken" may mean a native breed of chicken. Heritage varieties of vegetables and other produce can also be qualified as "desi."
Could someone have saved Desi? A tragedy grows; The brutal death last week of a 3-year-old Minneapolis girl, allegedly at the hands of her mother, raised haunting questions: Did someone know? Could it have been prevented?(NEWS)
Feb 14, 1997; In pictures from a family album, Desi Irving's hair is braided, complete with barrettes and beads; her dresses are...
WHO KNEW WHAT WHEN?; These details about Desi Irving's life and death were gleaned from interviews, police reports, legislative testimony and her mother's confession.(NEWS)
Jun 14, 1998; 1993 The unwanted birth Desi Monique Irving is born Nov. 28, 1993. Her mother, Mildred Irving, wants to put her up for...