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.

4 comments:

Jyothi said...

hey! i came across your blog while googling about the book (which I read recently and absolutely loved!) and ended up spending a full hour on your blog... Love the way you ramble... :)

Arun said...

hello jyothi, thanks a lot !! glad that you found something worth spending time in what i wrote... all the best...

journalost said...

dont understand why you call yourself a bad writer :-)

(ref: the one-liner about-me)

Nice reading this.
Will come back.

Cheers

Arun said...

journalist who's always lost :)

thanks a lot, a LOT, for your comment! I needed that today :)

that thing about bad writer: its a munkoor jaamyam against accusations about bad grammar, incomplete sentences etc (though by not even the remotest flight of imagination i consider myself as a good writer). most times i dont have the patience to re-read what i wrote, i just write down what i feel like and press post, hence there'll be plenty, plenty of mistakes in my writing...

once again, thanks for your comment...