Click click click
Amelia Smith opened the door of her home and entered with books and files in her hands. She put them on the entrance platform and turned around to lock the door. “Hey! You have a courier, wait,” said Miss Sonia Shah her next door neighbour who worked in the stock market. “Thanks, Sonya”.
Sonia lingered for a while waiting to strike up a conversation or to see what reaction Amelia gives to the courier. Unable to contain herself, she said “I have made golgappas, you know the popular Indian street food, those Semolina balls filled with chickpeas and mashed potatoes and sweet and sour tamarind mint water. Would you like to have them?”
Amelia looked at her and then says nonchalantly “Oh pani puri! Yeah I know about it. I also love having bhel and the pizza that they serve at the corner of the street. You know pizza, the white crispy roti with yeast, tomato ketchup with lots of subjis or bhaji in it and topped with Cheese? I am going to order it, would you be interested in it?”
Shocked and slightly embarrassed at her generalization and stereotyping, Sonia politely accepted her offer and said “I’ll also get the pani puris and then we could have it together?” Amelia smiled and and nodded, as she went inside her room to change and freshen up.
This was not the first time that people had tried to decipher Indian food to her. It had been ten years in the country and five years to the place where she was currently living and yet people always took upon themselves to help her out with the culture. She saw how she was treated differently by people around her be it colleagues, friends, neighbours etc. She saw the pride in their voices and seeping into their voices when people described and deciphered Indian food for her. However, when she began to talk about the Mediterranean food with the same tone she typically received three different responses – 1. People went starry eyed and awed while she
explained it 2. They stopped listening to her showing that they were offended by her tone 3. Deciphering it according to their culture which made hummus into a paste or a bland chutney!
She was amazed at the people around her and felt being treated differently. There were so many stereotypes that she was being subjected to , like when she was asked about her theistic preference, they took it for granted that race = religion and white race = Christianity. Initially, she’d often explained that she is more of a spiritual person than religious and was met with peculiar and confused ‘okay…’ which ended up in them persisting to give one word answer. Later on, she simply played her answers to the gallery.
However, her experiences were mixed. She was considered ‘partly’ Indian when she’d talk about her experiences in various pilgrimages that she’d been to or when she’d talk about yoga, or anything that comes across as an Indian origin. Yet, this image would transform completely when she’d walk down the street to get groceries or came back home late at night. She would feel people’s eyes following her sometimes with lewdness in them, and sometimes astonishment. She could decode what the men were talking about as they hushed at the turnings of the street after she’d walk past them. She’d often hear the remnants conversations about ‘these firangs…’ ‘availability’ ‘drugs’ ‘threat to indian culture’, ‘open’, etc.
There had been a number of times where she was flashed to in public, her butt was pinched, catcalled, or slapped their hands on her breasts, etc. When she talked about these incidents with people, the same pride filled voices would turn silent, or they squirmed in their seats, and the people who were offended by her pride in her voice, defended saying that it’s a universal problem not just in India to which she’d partly agree but neverthelesz would choose to debate on the gravity of it. The most peculiar and varied was the response of the people who tried their best to see similarities or relation between her background and that of India. They asked absolutely ridiculous questions like what was she wearing? What were the men eating and had their own equally ridiculous and appalling reasons behind asking these questions.
Often people asked her where she was from under the pretext of conversing with her, and sometimes she’d tell them that she is from India and was met with wide eyes and mum voices.
She identified herself as an Indian. In spite of its own drawbacks, she felt closely affiliated to the country and it had become and inseparable part of her life. She loved the vibrant culture, festivities, food, the warmth of the people, etc. Her experiences were different and she loved the liveliness and enthusiasm of the people during every small or big social gathering. It in fact left her quite amazed in the beginning that people in India didnt need a ‘legit’ or important reason to get together and have a gala. Impressed and enjoying life in India, she decided to settle down in India for good and worked and earned money to save and eventually bought a home for herself five years back. Even when she was working hard to be able to afford to buy a house, people often found it hard to believe that she was not someone who was born with silver spoon. The foreign currency was not enough to buy a house in the Indian homeland.
As she pondered on these things, the door bell rang and Sonia was there standing waiting with all the boxes and containers. Amelia let her in, ordered pizza and soon they began eating and talking about general things.