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Archive for the ‘In My Experience’ Category

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Indians love queues. Despite the diversity, there is nothing that aligns all Indians like a long line. The image of Indians standing in a queue is the national symbol. In India everywhere you go, every situation you encounter, every activity you attend there is a queue waiting for you and plenty of Indians waiting in the queue. Indians are born with the gift of forming queues, and they never miss a single opportunity to do so. Opportunities are abundant in India; queues are ubiquitous. The unique ability of Indian fetuses to form queue inside the womb is the key to population boom. Indians never grow out of it and spend approximately half of their lives waiting in a queue. The other half they spend waiting to join one.

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Indians love their idols – not the kind that was recently copied from America, but the kind they had for a long time. And it must have been a really long time since they came up with really bizarre ones — some grotesque, some mutant: one with monkey face, and other with elephant head. Then there is the one with thousand of female reproductive organs — and you wonder why he is the king of gods; even gods cannot resist. But the one that sticks out is the idol for the god Shiva: it is the winner! Literally.

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There are two distinct tribes in India: the one that went to IIT, and the one that did not. If you are wondering, how to tell them apart, I have good news: you do not have to. They would tell you before you can finish your hello. At times all you need is a glance at them, and they are too eager to blurt out, “I am from IIT, and my name is Raju.” And in case you missed the introduction, not to worry. They would repeat the information like the stock ticker: I love Star Wars…I first saw it in IIT…my wife does not get it…she is not from IIT…one day we will have kids…I will send them to IIT…the same IIT I went to…did I tell you I am from IIT?…

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Forehead is the choice of canvas for fine arts in India: the designated destination for decorative art. In a land where lipstick on lips is frowned on, there is complete freedom when it comes to forehead. It is not just the married woman, it is everyone: small children, gown up men, domesticated animals, and of course the still idols of god. Anyone one with a reachable forehead is a fair game.

I am told that there is deep significance in the placement of the dot in the middle of the forehead. This is place where the third eye is: you know the wisdom eye. So the dot is just a wisdom eye patch. Indians are just wise pirates.

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Indians cannot wait to part with their bodily fluids, and saliva is no exception. Everyone spits all the time and everywhere: no respite from spit in India. What are they trying to do? Is it part of a nation wide distributed grass root mandatory irrigation project that I did not know about? Are they trying to fend off the next drought?

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Okay, the title is annoying. It is dishonest, and what the heck is luv. What language is that? But I won’t get into that right now – may be another time. There are some Indian fascinations that baffle me. More importantly, they vex me. I am not talking about individual idiosyncrasies, we all have them. I am talking about the things that captivate the countries collective soul. Things when mentioned, Indians everywhere proudly to say, “Oh I luv it.” And that my friend, is far more annoying than the title.

Indians love their movies. Most Indians thank me for saying so, oblivious to the irony. A rare few, suspicious of my tone, would look at me funny and say “So?” The absurdity is not self evident to them, and they need someone to explain to them. Let me explain then.

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Origin: Origin of India is a confusing one. The confusion is caused by Columbus when he decided to discover India in a different location. Despite significant migration in the later part of the twentieth century, the relocation was never completed, and the confusion persists. Even today, inhabitants of widely spread call centers across the country insist they are from the land where Columbus wanted to relocate India.

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Bargain may be just a skill in most part of the world, but in India is an art form. It takes years of practice under the supervision of skillful masters, such as your experienced grandfather, your fast talking aunt, or your street smart uncle. What separates a mere skill from an art is the passion. Indians bargain with passion. While the rest of the world may be happy with simple financial advantage, we seek a deeper joy in a good bargain. Bargain in India is a battle of wits: it tests our cunning, our verbal skill, our ability to think on our feet, and our desire to win. The battled is waged everyday, at every street corner, in every store with every hawkers and shop keepers. We even bargain when we bribe. Most of the times, it has little to do with financial gain. Rather, most of the times it has to do with little financial gain. Yet, for the believers of the art it is a matter of principle.

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What did you witness first: a birth or a death?People in our neighborhood had livestock: a few cows, a chicken coup, a small army of goats. There were always the string of stray dogs and cats. It was only natural that we witnessed animal birth on regular basis. All the children in the neighborhood would anxiously wait the arrival of a new calf. We would spread the news of the fresh batch of yellow furry chicks. It was also not uncommon to find dead animals: a still body of a dead bird covered in crawling red ants on winter mornings; at the far end of the mud road, a rotting body of a dog crowded by humming big fat blue flies. At times a few of us would get together and go to the burning ghat on edge of the canal to see the dead bodies of cows, and on special occasions, buffaloes – some white thing coming out the mouth, the tongue sticking out, the eyes still open wide. Those were normal part of daily life in the rural India of my childhood. I am not counting those. I am thinking of human birth or death.

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India may lack literacy, but not language. We are proud of our mother tongues. Name another country on this planet that has twenty-two official languages. We are not even counting the unofficial ones and dialects.

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“Are you Indian?” It is a common question for Indians in a foreign land. I am told. They may be attending a two day conference in Singapore, or on a weeklong package tour in Malaysia, or on semiannual visit to their children in America, or born and lived their entire life in London or Johannesburg. It does not seem to matter. The question is always the same. It meets with a definite yes.

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“Why you spend so much money on hay?” I once asked Ramu uncle.

He was busy feeding the cows in his backyard. His overworked body was scarred but strong. He had no time for a pesky boy. I asked again.

He tuned to me with visible annoyance in his eyes, “What is that to you?”

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You like it or not, Valentine’s Day is upon us. It is a recent import: came in the same box with McDonald and outsourcing – accidentally. Like most invasive imported species, it is thriving in the new land, surpassing its success in the native land. That is not a surprise. There was a saying in our childhood about the food habit of a Hindu who just converted to Muslim: he eats more beef than a life long Muslim.

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Indian mothers are a mystery to me. They baffle me every step of the way. Every aspect of their existence confounds me; every action of their lives confuses me. Yes, I am talking about all Indian mothers, every single one of them. No, I am not talking about Indian women. Just Indian mothers and what they do as a mother.

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