An Indian (unknown to me) set me off last night.
Between place of residence, place of work and business trips, I have done about forty countries. Give or take. Take away my outward appearance and a somewhat westernized style that has come out of extended and extensive international exposure….cut me, I bleed Indian. Therefore, the stupidity, the attitude and the content of the overheard discussion (I know, I know – eavesdropping – not good), but this guy was on a roll and a tad too audible. He cut me, indirectly, I bled. Indian. It’s that simple.
So the whole story….
A four-hour bus journey on the back of a red-eye flight (red-eye plus delay not a good combination), saw a sleep depraved self, extracting everything I had in me, to function optimally at work on the morning of the night before. So I knocked off work, thirty minutes before the usual nineteen thirty hours, and decided I needed to grab a bite before I hit the sack earlier than the norm. It’s altogether another matter that I managed to sleep but two hours before I was wide awake watching a Netflix original, The Outsider, before I went back to sleep at four am. Only to be up again at six thirty.
So this grabbing of a bite on the evening of the day after, took place at this open air restaurant at The Metropole, one of my favorite haunts. Beautiful weather, lovely breeze, and me seated at my preferred table, promised a good bite, and possibly deep sleep.
Chinese I decided, and proceeded to order, but the Maitre’D recommended against Chinese. “Sar”, he went, “Chinese chef nat well only”, and some more valuable input, “Sar, assistant cooking, nat gud”. So out with Chinese and in with a mix of continental Cream of Vegetable soup, and Indian Vegetarian Kofta Curry (red), accompanied with two butter rotis.
As I hungrily wait for the meal, it starts to drizzle (not the season, so some errant weather pattern), and I’m ushered into the indoor restaurant. I’ve been to The Metropole scores of times, but never ventured into the indoors. I just prefer outdoors.
So the gaps between the tables outside gave way to seating at closer quarters.
As I went through emails, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Hangouts (all work), and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (all personal), I glanced around to size up the rest of the dinner crew. A most uninteresting bunch, and so I went back to doing what I was doing. Part work, part passing of time, and then came the soup. Delicious, no regrets at this forced change from Chinese.
Halfway through the soup or thereabouts, I hear this voice, Indian, deep and distinct accent from one of the southern states, and I think, Mallu (referring to people from the state of Kekarala). I still haven’t glanced up, as my face is in the soup, and then I hear (a much softer), foreign accent (male). Ah! So I am thinking’ Mallu eats dinner with foreigner, and cannot but help marking the stark difference in the decibel levels, between said Mallu, and said foreigner.
Mysore, just like the rest of India, is no stranger to foreigners, but the foreigners who come to Mysore or pass through Mysore, are either into Yoga, or then are here to study or learn the beautiful culture. Mysore, after all is the home of art and culture in the state of Karnataka and indeed of The South.
With all the international exposure I’ve had, unlike a lot of us Indians, I don’t flinch, nor do I stare at foreigners. Well, sometimes I’m compelled to stare.
This time, no staring, but just a glance to my right to get first glimpses, of Mallu and foreigner. Foreigner, dignified. Mallu, nerdy and completely awestruck in the presence of foreigner (yes I’m judgemental). For those who know my five second rule, they won’t be in the least bit surprised.
As I said at the outset, I don’t usually eavesdrop, except sometimes I do. Its kinda fun!
So not merely snatches of the conversation, but due to the rather high decibel levels, I’m able to hear it all. I could probably write pages on the conversation, but I will give you a gist.
At a high level, it goes something like this, Indians are like…..(negatively depicted), a complete generalization, and made to sound by Mallu like….this is not about me, I’m not Indian, it’s just that my skin is a rather deep shade of brown. That’s like me at Daytona Beach, post tan, speaking in an American accent, passing myself off, or at least trying to, as an American.
Indians don’t know anything about Yoga he goes, we need foreigners to show us how its done, because they are so much better. Yeah, right. Isn’t that exactly why scores of foreigners come to India and in particular Mysore to learn Yoga?
Now Yoga is another thing that sets me off these days. Why? Because, everybody and then everybody else seems to be into Yoga. And the kind of Yoga they do, is something that will probably make a dead Yogi turn in his or her grave! It seems to have become all about exercise, a weight loss fad, and has mostly lost its philosophical and deeply spiritual roots. You don’t really know much if all you are taught are one mantra, or do you? And then just last night, I see a video on Facebook, posted by a friend, which shows a Yoga class or studio (as its called these days), where the students are sipping beer whilst doing the Yoga postures! Incredulous. The video says it helps people relax. What next, designer drugs and Yoga as a logical progression?
Leaving Yoga on the back-burner, for a more detailed dissection of the modern-day Yoga social scene (some call it Yoga class), lets move on to other negatives as explained by my Mallu friend.
Indians don’t like to spend money. Indians are miserly, not generous and so on….. Right again! I was about to jump into the conversation and comment, but did manage to hold myself in check.
I wanted to move to another table to save myself from getting upset and reacting, or maybe I was just saving said Mallu….the outdoors had been moved into the indoors, there were no free tables. And thus I had to suffer this kind of depiction of India for another half hour as I went through the soup and main course. Good meal, stupid India, didn’t gratify.
And so I ask. Why aren’t Indians proud of who they are? Why are Indians so completely in awe of the West? Why can’t Indians just be Indians and not try so hard to conform? Finally why can’t Indians realize that kissing ass, or running down “Indians”, is not a way to suck up to a foreigner. Are we so damn stupid that we think that by sucking up, by degrading anything and everything Indian, we will earn the respect of foreigners?
Said foreigner, did try of a few occasions to put some of the utterances from Mallu into perspective and even did try to refute some of them, but since the man was in full flow, he simply said, that the poor foreigner didn’t really know, and stuck to his guns.
That’s all well and good….this Why business. I decided that this buster needed to be set right, so I waited for him to leave the restaurant, and met him in the parking lot, just to tell him that he’s a low life, ass licking individual, not fit to be called an Indian. You should have seen the look on his face. I loved it!
I guess I should balance that out, by saying that there are some things we Indians do not handle well, generally speaking, that is. We don’t take criticism well. We take it way to personal. We don’t like to follow rules and processes, but we are good at a time of crisis. We don’t know how to say no, we would rather say yes, then fail, and then make excuses. We are excellent in saying that it’s “almost” done. We wait for a deadline, and don’t provide a heads-up that the deadline will be missed, until the penultimate moment. Yes, that’s us, generally speaking.
But, cut me I bleed Indian and that’s not going to change anytime soon.