Monday, September 13, 2010

I live outside. I meet foreigners everyday. I write something. Can it be "good" by default?

One thing "cool" about staying in a foreign country is that every day is full of new experiences.

Just like almost anyone in India.

But with the privilege to put fancy country names in front of each character: My Vietnamese friend, the Czech girl, and such.

Does that alone make anything special?

Some people write poetry and books about it, some people just live along it without even thinking of it, some people write random blogs about it.

Well, enough of meandering.

I have this Vietnamese girl as a friend.

Our friendship started when she smelled the KPL Shuddhi Coconut Oil with which I was cooking. I think it is "arguably" the best cooking oil smell one can get. She apparently thought the same, and asked me the details, and we were soon friends. She gave me a flower pot for my birthday, called me when she did a Hot Pot, we went to watch the latest Shrek and ended up watching an Argentinian film with French subtitles. We hiked and hitchhiked. We shared our travel stories, and our lab stories. She also told me that she prefers to be mistaken as Japanese than Chinese. She told me that they had to study heroic poems about Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap, which I promptly passed on to my father- subscriber of Deshabhimani for three decades.

So, after an year, last week, she was leaving France for Germany, for continuing her studies. She invited me for the farewell party, but with the most dreaded condition : "bring along some Indian food if you can".

I tried my best and cooked some Chicken Munchurian, but ended up eating what I cooked.

I felt enormously guilty.

I could have escaped unhurt by taking a bottle of wine instead, but I was too lazy to go and buy one. I decided to let go the first of the Indian Souvenir Stock I had - a neatly carved wooden elephant that me and my mother bought from City Center, Thrissur. With this elephant in my pocket, I marched to the farewell party place, only to be met with the sight of some 10 Vietnamese people cooking the weirdest of meat and sea food. There were things that looked like snakes, that looked like all those fancy species from sea, lot of green leaves, etc, in the middle of ten people who are enjoying their Vietnamese friendship. But I could not find my friend there. May be she would have come later. May be she was taking a restroom break. But I felt extremely awkward and foreign standing there, in the middle of the weirdest meat and 10 people I had no idea of and who were royally ignoring me.

I meekly walked back.

My friend tried phoning me later, to ask why I was not coming, but I was too afraid to go to the party, and let the call miss.

Once again, I felt extremely guilty.

But then I met her a few days later, and handed her the elephant. She was mad with happiness, and carried the elephant in her bag for the rest of the days here. Last time I met her, she told that she had found something to give me, and would come to my room to give it. But sadly, she left before she could do it.

Now this is not the story I wanted to write about when I started to write today.

It was about serving Aloo-Gobi-Carrot curry to a member of Indian Academy of Sciences - an author of 150 journal papers and the emeritus professor and former dean from one of the premier research labs in India. And eating lunch with him and a chain smoking Bengali professor in our small kitchen, and discussing and arguing about Narendra Modi, Pinarai Vijayan, Coq au Vin, and Judgement of Paris. And explaining Data Mining and Gene Regulation Networks to him (with plenty of modesty and shame).

Or about the Sikh guy from Mumbai I met in bus today, who is "onsite" from an IT company. And listening to him talking about his Guru's teachings, his Kirpan, and life in an IT company. And the fact that there are about ten times Pakistani Punjabis here than Indian Punjabis. And his curiosity about them being Sikhs or Muslims.

Or the little spat between Romanian and French colleagues in the lab today, when the former mentioned that she liked the Museum of Resistance, and the later mentioned Gypsies.

And perhaps, about Mumbai itself, my thoughts and feelings about the place.

But, coming back to the initial thought: even if the country and place names by themselves dont make these experiences interesting, I feel that I am more observant and thoughtful here than in India.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why one can buy a camera only today or next Monday?

Because on Thursday I have to prepare for my presentation on Friday, on Friday we cannot buy because its not our day and is Muslims' day, and we never buy anything good on Saturday because it is a bad day to buy new things. And on Sunday every place is closed, unlike India.

- A post doctoral fellow working in Physics :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hard Sun

Into the Wild never ceases to move me.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Weakness of the molten hearted

We, a group of Indians, were coming back from patinoire (ice skating place), around 11 o clock. Not too late. We could take a short cut and walk home in 25 minutes. We turned our asses and started to start to walk.

Suddenly everything changed. A Colombian girl appeared in the picture. We didnt know her, but she was asking us how to go to a very famous hostel, situated in the most happening place - campus. Very pretty girl, but sadly, the way to her place was way out of our way. But. Instead of helping her with the way and tram number, fellow Indian (and Bengali) R - who never fell in love with a girl in his life - told her that we would accompany her to her place.

What! We would have to take a detour for an hour and then walk another 25 minutes!

Now, none in our group knew the way except me and him (others are all new), and they would have done whatever we told them. But what!

I told this to R and tried to make him understand his folly. But poor R has a molten heart and visions of poor hot Colombian girl walking alone or waiting for the tram, and we finally took his advice and followed his plan. Ten Indians taking a detour of 1 hour for 1 Colombian girl they didnt know and probably would never meet again.

Anyway, I made the best out of the situation, and tried my French on her, and even found out that she adored Gabriel Garcia Marquez. She told me about Love in times of Cholera - which I'd not read, but had heard about in plenty , and hence I lied to her that I'd read it (bad French giving good cover from any possible questions). And she loved One hundred years of solitude, which I'd read. Then she talked about a book that I had no clue of - a man who was forced to live alone in the sea for several days - which again she loved (I doubt if it was The story of shipwrecked sailor). Anyway, after walking for the above mentioned time to her place, I had to agree that I had a good time with her. And I added a +1 to the time tested belief that Latinos and Colombians are hot, cool, etc.

Another Bengali friend from our group told me later - Now, did you understand why he wanted us to go with her?

Men are weak. Flesh is weak and mind is weaker. They go weak kneed in front of Colombian girls walking alone at mid night.

But is it only Latinos and Colombians?

So my Marathi friend decided to flaunt her culture by making me watch Apsara Aali song from Natrang (Marathi super hit film and song). I watched it (and even liked it), but now I had to flaunt back - but instead of inviting ridicule by showing The Pot Belly of Mohanlal Swaying with Music ( it's difficult to argue with people who dont watch Adoor saying that he is the best actor in India etc, after they saw his current figure and dance), I decided to try some AR Rahman numbers from Tamil (safe bet, any day).

But suddenly the molten hearted Bengali R came to our room, and after seeing some "South Indian" song playing, started making comments - "what's so special with this? I dont see anything special". I got angry but kept my mouth shut.

After that song, the Marathi girl got the chance for attempting show off , but this time she put on a lot more traditional and culture dependent song (i.e, easily inviting ridicule). I merely decided to try my "What's so special" line. Pat came the reply from R: "Different people might find different things likeable, may be she likes it and may be you dont, but you cannot say its bad because you dont like it, blah blah blah".

R the molten hearted, savior of pride for many Marathi and Columbian girls. Who never fell in love.