The strangest thing about being an Indian is that we believe quite a bit of all that dear Bollywood feeds us… or all that gets fixated in our minds because we have not yet seen the complete picture.
The give-me-some-sugar-in-a-bowl myth
Such neighbors are everywhere and there is absolutely no escape from them. There will be Mrs Bansal ringing the bell just as you are about to begin your breakfast.
‘Hi there, good morning,’ says Mrs Bansal, ‘I just realized that there is no sugar in the house. And Mr bansal wants his tea with lots of it. Can I borrow a cup please?’
‘Yes, of course,’ says my mother. What I see is a cupful of sugar going out and the image gets fixated in my mind. There are movies and now tele-serials where this happens simply too often.
But what I have not seen then is what I realize years later when another Mrs Bansal (not the same, of course) in a different city comes and rings our bell and repeats the same question. Specky, my wife smiles as she hands her over her sugar. Sweet smiles are exchanged as I sit there scowling.
‘What happened?’ asks Specky. I say nothing. But she has made a mental note of something that I get to know only in the evening as we are discussing the need for blogging as an essential ingredient to give history a sane existence.
I notice that the bowl is back. But Specky gets the bowl to the Study and says, ‘Mrs Bansal made some saboodana kheer and she has brought some for us.’
I realize that the bowl is never handed back empty. Thus this bowl strategy is #MoreIndianThanYouThink.
The speak-in-English myth
We certainly do not think in English but are forever speaking in this language. There was a time when I thought this was some form of vanity for those studying in English medium convent schools… or as a friend once commented, ‘These guys are show-offs, man.’
However, when I went to abroad, I realized how the French conversed with friends in French, the Russians resorted to their language, and so did the Spanish, the Greek, the Italians, and even the Arabs and the Jordanians… and we Indians deliberately avoided Hindi or Punjabi and spoke English. We weren’t showing off. We were not vain. We simply couldn’t bear others in the group to sit and watch us silently and we wanted everyone else to participate in whatever we happened to be discussing. It could be the bus routes from the Tower of London to Greenwich or even the best Indian restaurants in the city.
And then one of our Spanish friends spoke up, ‘You know we were talking about the same thing. In Spanish, of course. But I guess it is far better to use a language that each of us understands.’ We believe we had just started a new trend… a trend to be understood and not to remain intriguingly incomprehensible anymore. But more importantly, the myth about English speaking by Indians being linked to showing-off or being a progeny of vanity, was forever gone. So even English speaking is #MoreIndianThanYouThink.
The peep-from-your-window myth
Almost every Bollywood movie has people peeping from their windows and then moving back when the hero or the heroine calls for help is what I have grown up with… and, for some strange reason, found it plausible enough to believe that it is true.
But hey, I remember that time when I was walking on a rubble road in a small village and could feel a lot of eyes watching me as I moved. It made be terribly uncomfortable and conscious. And then I fell. In less than the time it took me to realize that I had a bleeding knee, three women from three different houses ran up to me and lent me a helping hand.
‘Get some Dettol from my bathroom, Savitri,’ said one to another.
‘I’ll get some cotton,’ said the third woman.
That day another movie-sponsored myth was shattered. Peeping from windows wasn’t for the sake of watching a tamasha but a mere act of observation. Yes, we have the time to sit and watch – and come out to help if this is what is needed. Peeping to be able to rush to assist is #MoreIndianThanYouThink.
The step-into-my-privacy myth
Every time I have travelled I have met strangers eager to strike a conversation. This is quite unlike the sort of burying-my-nose-in-a-book-or-a-newspaper sort of silence that I faced while travelling on trains and buses in Europe and UK. Conversations begin with straight questions.
‘’Where are you going to?’ or ‘That seems like an interesting article in the newspaper. Do you mind if I too read along?’ or ‘You look so much like the bad guy in a TV serial. Ha! Ha! Nice knowing you.’
I was once rather wary of these absolutely step-into-my-privacy moves and tried to sit with a don’t-you-dare expression on my face. But then there was obviously a first time when I relented and smiled. Our conversation hopped from politics to travel to eateries to books and then to the final destination of relatives and friends and a lot of others too joined in uninvited. Until this happened…
‘Oh! So you write articles. You blog. Right?’
‘Yes, I do.’
‘On technology too?’
‘Well, yes. Sometimes.’
‘My son-in-law is a manager with a multinational smartphone company. Give me your card. I’ll ask him to read your stuff.’
This is how I got my first break into technology reviews and how I realized that getting breaks through conversations with strangers is #MoreIndianThanYouThink.
Well, there is always more to being an Indian
We Indians squeeze the toothpaste to the last bit, listen in to what others are talking about, stare, pass on worn clothes to even kids of friends, lick fingers in restaurants, laugh loudly, talk louder, hug and shake hands with everyone we meet, dip biscuits in our tea, hand over visiting cards even when not asked to, honk while driving and then give a big smile… and I must say these are not bad at all. They are what makes me an Indian. Look, if Indians were not licking their fingers, would McDonald have come up with their astounding slogan? Something tells me that all this is finally leads to more joy… and yes, this reminds me that joy for us isn’t as good as more joy. We do love adding those extra words and I’m sure this pleases the world just that bit more.
23 April 2017