Curiosity never kills the cat… in Mumbai

My Indian people are infinitely curious and opinionated  by nature… it seems they pop out of their mother’s womb questioning what just happened, and then answering the question simultaneously. This is something they never outgrow, quite the contrary,as they become more worldly and knowledgeable it intensifies.

The first time I encountered this I was dumbfounded… Why did a complete stranger on an elevator need to know what my husband did for a living, how many children I had, how old they were, how long would we be here and (my favorite) how much money we made each month? I was from the land of “been there done that” where everyone was fastidious about personal space and preferred to pretend they were alone in the elevator than say hello and risk sparking an obligatory conversation. Caught off  guard I stammered through a few mumbled responses, avoided some questions, blamed myself for making eye contact in the first place and fled when mercifully the doors of the elevator opened. I pondered this encounter all day and decided that I must have had the bad luck of being caught on the elevator with the building’s resident gossip and began devising my strategy for deflection should we cross paths again. Imagine my shock and surprise when this happened to me again… in the grocery store… at the local market… at the mall… just about anywhere that entailed interaction between someone else and myself.

In most instances these question and answer sessions would be peppered with unsolicited and forceful advice. “You MUST go to the park across from your building on Sunday evening, everyone goes you know and they have a nice walk around the park, else wise they just sit and watch the children play, it;s a very lovely activity to do and you will enjoy it”  Ofttimes the advice would be peppered with personal references which of course adds authority and authenticity to the words of wisdom. “You should not buy your fruits and vegetables at the supermarket only you know, they are very expensive and the quality is not so good. My cousin bought fruits there you know and by six months he was broke and also one of the fruits had worms which gave him a very bad fever, you should go to the market it is much fresher and cheaper”. Well, who am I to argue with wisdom and personal experience.

Over time a funny thing began to happen… rather than shy away from, and deflect these interactions I began to enjoy them… I learnt how to answer without really answering and jump on the offensive before they can get started so now I walk away knowing more about them than they about me. I love the fact that there is no event too small which will not fascinate them and pull a small to medium crowd depending on the event. I realize that they have never lost their joy in the little every day things which we on the western side take for granted. Our children are bored with life by the time they are five years old, they have seen and done it all… whereas a grown person here is still fascinated by the ordinary, everyday things and turn them into events… everyone will gather around  and give an opinion and give information to passersby about the exact nature of what is taking place… it is now one the funniest things I have experienced here.

I’ll give you a scenario as an example;

If I stop in the middle of the sidewalk and start looking up into the sky I can guarantee that in about five minutes there will be at least five to ten people standing beside me looking up as well… conversations and speculation will swirl around me…

“what is she looking at?”

“I don’t know but I think it is up there”

“The sky is very blue today”

“I had a cousin who looked up into the sky once, well a pigeon was flying by, dropped poop into her eye and she was never able to see from that eye again”

“well my sister’s, best friend’s fiance’s mother had a friend who looked up into the sky and stumbled over a rock, she broke her leg and when she went to the hospital they were not able to set it right. As a result she now has to walk on the heel of her foot only”

“Yes it can be dangerous to look up into the sky”

“children stop jumping around – go and play over there away from the road”

“perhaps she is looking for rain”

“But doesn’t she know it rains only at the monsoon time?”

“well you never know  – she is american you know”

“I have some very good quality sarees for sale just over there in my shop, also outfits for the little ones”

“I will just come with you after we are done looking up there”

“what is everyone looking at”

“I am not sure but I think a pigeon pooped in that lady’s eye and her husband broke his foot”

Well you get the general idea. So at home where my first instinct is to run from a gathering crowd and look from a safe distance… here I try to get as close as possible so I can hear the stories, perhaps pick up a tidbit or two and generally just enjoy the moment with people who still know and understand what it means to live in the moment, enjoy life and still find the joy in little things.

 

One Love, One Heart, One People…

 

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