Prease Exprain!

Unlike good old India – I refer to the one I was brought up in – having kids in the US means chauffeuring them to a bunch of unnecessary classes at a ridiculously young age. Quite contrary to my own liking, my kid happens to be one such victim of a couple parent-chauffeured classes – not to be confused with parent-driven classes. And in the true esprit de chauffeurs, the parents always wait outside for that measly half hour, chatting other parents up.

On one such occasion, I had a chance encounter with this interesting rady lady from Japan. I could tell from the corner of my eye that she was sizing me up. After giving her the customary 5 seconds to do so, I flashed her a the-world-won’t-perish-if-we-say-hello smile. We did, after all, have something in common – a half hour to kill.

She took me up on my offer, and with this authoritative conviction, stated, “You don’t rook Indian!” Surprised as I was, I decided that must be Japanese for ‘Hello’. Quite paradoxical, that statement. If I didn’t look Indian, maybe I wasn’t. Why then, would she even think of mentioning it?

I’ve often read, and even experienced, that the Japanese are one of the most polite peoples in the world. Given that I very obviously look Indian, I started wondering if there was a deeper, underlying meaning to that charge. Surely this must be some form of humor. Polite Japanese humor, perhaps. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself with an ignorant “Oh but I am Indian!” That’s tantamount to admitting you didn’t get the joke. I felt obliged to reciprocate in just as absurd a manner, and replied clumsily (but politely), “You must be from Croatia.” Lame! But it somehow seemed to satisfy her. “Asia, yes. But no crows, onry buildings.”

Our conversation went on to the weather, other small talk, and the coming long weekend. She asked me if we had plans, and I told her we’d be going camping. “Camping!! Indians don’t camp!” (What?! Whatever gave you that idea?). But again, the conviction was unmistakable. She must know something I didn’t. Besides, I didn’t look Indian, so even if I did know, I doubt how much it would count. My curiosity got ahead of me, however. Before I could stop myself, I had asked her why she thought so. “Oh, my neighbors are Indian,” she said confidently, “they never camp”. Aha! That explains it! Case closed.

Apparently, the case wasn’t closed. What do you know, I had more to learn about myself! “You don’t seem the camping type, my dear. You want to stay inside the walls of your home, with your comfy bed and your comfy satin sheets.” I was flummoxed. Where was that crystal ball that was telling her all this?

I didn’t even know where to begin. Should I tell her how wrong she was? But even there, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Apart from the crucial truth that I did in fact believe myself to be “the camping type”, I would find it very hard to breathe inside the walls of my home. Unless there was a hole drilled to hang a painting and then forgotten about. Besides, satin sheets are not my idea of comfort. The slippery things would keep me fidgeting all night. Do they even exist outside Hollywood and commercials for 7-star resorts? It didn’t matter. I didn’t care to know.

I was exactly at the point in the conversation where I wasn’t sure if I was losing patience or beginning to enjoy this. I decided to give her what she’d like to hear. My cheap thrill in doing so would only be a harmless by-product. “We’d be taking my husband’s truck,” I played along shamelessly. “We always take the bed, mattress, bedding set, heater-fan, microwave and our little TV. And the generator, of course. But that’s all we take. What’s the point in camping if you take along conveniences like washer, dryer and the Jacuzzi? We’ll buy dinner from Olive Garden to take along.”

I doubt she actually bought that, but by now she was visibly convinced I was outlandish enough to actually do it. I could tell she was debating whether to believe me. She opened her mouth to say something, but thankfully, her son was out just then and she had to leave. She muttered a good-bye, which I acknowledged with a we-must-do-this-again nod.

In the course of our interesting conversation, I failed to notice this fly on the wall all along – a partly amused, partly embarrassed American lady. As she watched Miss Cleo leave, she leaned towards me and almost apologetically said, “That’s not really how all Japanese are, you know. I spent three years in Japan; they’re wonderful people.” It was nice of her to say that. “Yes, I do know,” I assured her briefly, with a smile.

Of course I knew. It wasn’t so much where Miss Cleo was from, it was what she was about. That’s just how it is with some people. They are simpry beyond expranation.

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16 responses to “Prease Exprain!

  1. Interesting story!

    The Japanese woman sounded rike a Shinese though.

    lol :) -g

  2. traveling? yes! camping? eh? developed an aversion to it after school. but am a bit surprised. A jap? I have a feeling you met a Korean. they can be nasty. for a jap talking to a stranger itself seems pretty rare.

    but it was nice, reading ’bout the ‘ole incident..

    I’m going to have to disagree there, Maddy. Know a couple Koreans with an amazing sense of humor. And they make terrific Kalby too! Yes, some people aren’t very comfortable accosting strangers if there’s no good reason – I’d say it often depends on the personality though, rather than nationality. Of course one cannot discount the cultural factor, but people tend to assimilate pretty quickly when they find themselves in another land. I wonder what they have to say about us Indians…I wouldn’t really use suave if I were to describe us ;)

    Aversion to camping? You should go like I do…with TV and all ;) -g

  3. Hi g,

    Loved the layout especially the top titles. g , you have a very unique writing style .Keep it up.

    Sandhya

    Thank you so much, Sandhya! Hope to see you around often :) -g

  4. Blog hopped from somewhere and I rike it hele :)

    Can’t blame her on that camping question. I have met couple of them Indians who thinks camping is for Americans. Such groups prefer only potlucks and chatting up in divided groups.

    You should have told her well! we come in all forms. Campers and Non-campers, Miss Cleo.

    Hehe, sankyu vely much, Soriro :) Yes I know what you mean. And it’s fair, to each his own. Indians or otherwise, we all come in different shapes and sizes (for lack of a worse cliché :P). Most of us know and grant it. The rest become Mr/Ms. Cleos ;) Thanks for dropping in! -g

  5. Looks like we don’t get stereotyped by just Americans, but by everyone.

    Marking my attendance here. Will be a regular as long you promise to post regularly

    Fair enough. We stereotype everyone, not just Americans – eye for an eye…
    Attendance noted :) That’s a good incentive to post regularly! Though I’m sure you realize posting consistently once a year could also be construed as “regularly” :D -g

  6. jeeti raho!
    (now i have come and given ashirwad too!)
    he he . sad no?
    d

    no :) -g

  7. yello!
    i was here.
    too scared to comment – it may not make the cut.
    d

    D!!! Speaking of cut – cut it out!!! Come back here, you nut, lol! So glad you were here :) -g

  8. good one, g. the part abt Miss Cleo cracked me up.

    You should go back to India and start up classes on camping..then Cleo jr. will not be able to stereotype future NRI folks.

    Or, I could let them have their share of juvenile thrills and have g-Jr. blog about Cleo-Jr. ;) Thanks for stopping by :) -g

  9. nice blog!

    Thanks! -g

  10. He he , My Cousin used to tell me how Japanese pronounce l as r – “In McDonardu, I had a Mirku Shaku”. Nice experience and really nice answer to “You don’t look Indian!”.

    LOL. “If you take the Drive-thru’, keep wearing the shittu-berritu” ;)
    I like your seasoned bloggers’ outlook towards experiences – “an experience is either good or blogable. Either way, it’s nice” :-D
    Thanks! :) -g

  11. In Kolkata it was not possible to use rickshaws and buses unless you wanted to hang out (but I used to travel by the metro to work) at least when we were there! And we couldn’t afford a driver when we lived there, not that we wanted one! All my friends’ kids used to be driven in by the driver. That’s the done thing in Kolkata amongst the well-to-do.
    In Pune, rickshaws are more common but I never really lived there after marriage. And in Bangalore too I used to drive them to their various classes…on a scooter as the car was often with my husband. Rickshaws in Bangalore were quite unaffordable, at least for us.
    Now, when I don’t have to drive the kids anywhere, and would love to drive on my own, we are saddled with a driver! :)

    How times change, right? We didn’t have a car either, but I remember a bunch of parents would hire a regular rickshaw and all kids would crowd into it :) And when we were slightly older, we’d go on cycle, or ride the PMT. The kids have it so easy now! Or do they?! -g

  12. Hey loved the narration….its like a conversation with the reader rather than just telling!!

    first time here …..Came here thru Nita’s blog

    and Japanese are indeed really polite, I had a friend who was from Japan and she learnt Hindi for us! She says ” Aaraam se Aaraam se” Hansa fame “Khaana Khaake Jaana” and Namaste etc! and she even sang a song in Hindi “Pehli Nazar mein” they are very friendly and you wont feel they are strangers at all!

    Thanks so much, Sahaja :) Amazing that your friend was keen to speak in Hindi! I have a couple friends from Japan, and yes they’re extremely polite :) -g

  13. Quite rude this Japanese lady! Are you sure she wasn’t Indian in disguise? :)
    And yeah, as rambodoc says, me too done this driving the kids to classes thing, and it happened to be in Kolkata where my two kids were in the right age bracket (6-12) and it’s the maximum in Kolkata I thing, all the singing, dancing kind of thing. However I put my kids for karate too. That is the reason I took a part-time job in Kolkata, because the rest of the time I was the driver! :)
    Overall I thought this was typically Indian behavior, this driving to classes thing (only schools have buses) but looks like Americans send their kids to classes too. The driving everywhere thing I knew though.

    Who knows, that could have been her idea of friendly banter! Couldn’t be Indian for sure – she made eye-contact AND spoke ;) (I’m kidding, of course!) I knew about kids having n classes in India, but parents driving is a first – what did happen to local buses, hired rickshaws & bicycles? -g

  14. ah, but of course desis don’t go camping or bar-hopping or even appreciate, leave alone indulge in ikebena :-)

    Nice place you’ve made. Layout and all, except for the fact that the font in this comment box seems more suited for someone with macular degeneration on LVA. :p

    Thanks, rads :) Mac. Degen. – that’s when friends in optometry come to the rescue ;) -g

  15. ROFL. She is right in a way that not many Indians go camping. I know because I tried to get our gang here to go camping and none budged. This is a funny read :)

    Your gang! That must be them, the neighbors she was talking about :P Now I know :) -g

  16. Velly intelesting (I know, cringe at that)!
    Actually, camps are more a Pakistani hobby than an Indian one.
    If you think American kids are tutored in extra classes, wait till you see the modern Indian city kid! You have tuition classes for everything, and then you have the violin/piano classes, tennis, cricket, karate and whatever else is the fancy of the parent (usually) or kid.

    I know! That’s why I refer to the India I was brought up in! I hope they manage by themselves like we did, though – rather than parents taking them everywhere. -g

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