We have our own brand of delightful Indianisms, cute to an outsider, often thought of as quaint, but to some of us without a sense of humour, downright repugnant. Starting with salutary greetings, the popular American “Hi!” is universally excepted, and easier to respond to with an equally spirited “Hi!”. “Hello!” produced with warmth and the right inflection is nice, but tamer.
At the Gym, it is mandatory for all the employees to say, “Good Morning Ma’am!” even if morning is long past, and irrespective of the fact that many of us workout late afternoons. I have tried (in vain) several times to convince them that it is appropriate to say “Good Afternoon!”. The management being great optimists instruct the staff to hold on to the morning even if it is over. I wonder how the late evening gymmers are greeted.
When someone I am introduced to says, “How do you do?” I am usually stumped. I believe the correct thing to say is “How do you do?” as a response, but I am not convinced…hard core Indo-Brits could provide the answer. On one occasion I actually heard someone answer the “how do you do?” with…”just as you do!” It is accompanied by a handshake, which is supposed to be “warm”, but most of the Indian handshakes I have encountered are limp, where only fingers slide into your palm, and, apart from a gentle pressure, withdrawn as if the handshaker has been accosted with a scorpion bite. This mainly from shy, gentle men ( and I don’t mean gentlemen) who are afraid of these emancipated women who dare to grasp a man’s hand.
Good friend Ram pointed out another form of greeting, “How are you?” And in case you think that the person honestly wants to know how you are, you are sadly mistaken. The “greeter” turns away before you can draw a breath and questions another person on how he or she is. The logical answer would have, in the old days, been “I’m fine thank you,” Today you should say “I’m good.” And God help you if you ask someone, “And how have you been?” Please be prepared for a torrent of complaints ranging from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome and hospital stays, not forgetting lack of domestic help and NRI children.” And do be gracious over it, having asked the inevitable question and remember to make appropriate noises of sympathy at the right time, whenever there is a pause, instead of switching off.
What I really love today is the hug, so freely given, especially now that I am past the age of being hugged by people with sinister objectives. But the mother of all embraces was the one I was locked in when I visited my small vegetable shop. Entering I admired a nice looking lady with an aquiline nose, on which sat a beautiful diamond besari which I admired. Determined to take a closer look at the design under the pretext of buying vegetables, I stepped on a fat shiny aubergine and skated into her arms which were trying to stem my fall. We were both locked in embrace moving from side to side as we teetered to gain our balance, or rather mine. The besari lady obviously thought that this nice friendly lady decided to give her a hug first thing in the morning and must have thought I was a true disciple of the hugging swamiji. The vegetable man grinned and loudly proclaimed that we must have been good friends who were meeting after a long time, for never had he seen a hug lasting so long nor a woman who, red faced marched out without buying vegetables after the prolonged hug.
We must remember to “lift the telephone” and “off the fan” and no amount of sniggers will change the hard core Indglish speakers. So and so is “going to come” and mercifully not coming to go. Apart from leaving some English purists speech less, we, could also come across some rare happenings, or situations created by well meaning Indians. Some months ago I read in one of our national dailies that a swan had been arrested in Vijayawada for not following the pecking order. A woman complained that a swan (khajana bathu) pecked at her daughter who was playing outside her house and alleged that the swan was chasing people and causing nuisance. The police arrested the offending creature and brought it to the station and booked a petty case, saying that an inquiry would conducted into the incident. When the Forest Department authorities pulled them up, and animal activists protested, Police released the bird which was tied up in the Police station without food or water.
And another caring bit of advice that kindly people give is “Take Care.” In the midst of swirling health problems in my family and associated critical situations, I receive hundreds of emails, phone calls besides cards and visits and at the end there are always these two comforting words…Take Care. Being Caregiver myself how do I take care? Wish someone else would do that for me. But I know that the advice is doled out by people who love and care for us. How have I been able to write this piece in midst of all this? Because writing affords me solace and I can handle any situation after I share my thoughts and more so if I bring a smile into someone’s life.
That is the way I heed everyone’s advice…”Take Care”