Tareq Salahi might not be South Asian. But he was following in the footsteps of a fine desi tradition – crashing big parties, especially ones involving food.

In a gray recession, with one out of eight Americans on food stamps, their crash landing into the first official state banquet for a visiting leader, is strangely in keeping with an almost forgotten slogan of “yes we can.”

The economy might be down, but yes we can still crash the party for the Indian prime minister.

   Indians have always had wedding crashers. Our weddings are big. Often they are arranged marriages, so both sides don’t really know each other. The wedding crasher is assumed to be a guest of the “other side.”

When we looked at my sister’s wedding pictures, we found some well-dressed young men sitting down to dinner. My mother thought they were my brother-in-law’s friends. My brother-in-law thought they were my friends. It turned out none of us knew them. They looked perfectly at home, tucking into the chicken, smiling at the photographer. We had our own Secret Service, usually a cousin, who was supposed to screen the guests, casually monitoring the dinner tables to see if someone looked out of place.

Party crashers know the rules well as did Tareq Salahi when he and his wife Michaele snuck into the reception President Obama was hosting for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

1. Dress well so you look like you belong.
2. If it’s a wedding a gift-wrapped empty box is a good accessory.
3. Smile with confidence. Make small talk with people around you. (Nothing gives away a party crasher as someone who is just lurking quietly near the buffet)
4. Bring an accomplice so you have someone to talk to.

The steps in the how-to-crash guide are unchanged but the goal is completely different now.

My sister’s wedding crashers were probably local young men who scoured the neighborhood looking for weddings where they could score a good meal. They were not looking for their 15 minutes of fame and reality shows. They wanted to eat their fill and fade into the night .

The nameless young men in my sister’s wedding photograph valued their anonymity. In fact, their success depended on it.

The Salahis posted their pictures on Facebook. Their success depends on maximum publicity. And it worked. They are all over the media. Even their estranged brother is giving quotes.

Aah for the days when all one hoped was that the chicken biryani was good, not whether or not one would land a reality show and an appearance on Larry King Live.

It almost makes you nostalgic for a more innocent age of party crashing .