A conversation – 1

This happened a couple of weeks back. I have been wanting to share this with you but like a plethora of other things, this got submerged in my ever piling bucket list.

You may not think of this as something big but it kind of hurt me somewhere deep inside and I find it challenging to express myself in words and the feeling that encompassed me then and now.

I travel by train to and fro from work. Okie, 2 trains, one LRT and a bus. Yes, I can be as crazy as my travel. “So, whatever happened to Singapore is a small place?”, you ask me? Well, it is but then small is always relative right?

Not digressing but providing you with a context there.

So this conversation happened in one of my travels. It is hardly a conversation because it was probably just a couple of dialogues.

I was sitting in one of the reserved seats for the pregnant, elderly and those with physical disabilities. Before you tsk tsk at me, let me gently share the fact that everyone had a seat and so I thought it okay to grab myself one and this was THE only one.

I must have dozed off because let me be honest here, I occupy a reserved seat to sleep coz’ it bolsters my dancing head. And then, I felt someone tapping on my shoulder. It was a train service personnel who wanted to “gently” remind me that there is an elderly man in the compartment. I got up immediately, still in daze and feeling guilty. After offering him a seat which he politely refused saying that all he does at work is to sit in one place and hence wants some stretrching, I further insisted. Reluctantly and smiling beautifully, he sat down.

He was accompanied by a family member. I have no idea what the relationship was and it doesn’t matter here. So, she started telling me how the work is so sedentary and it makes us all the more tired when we sit in one place all day. It is so true. And then after some of this glib talk, I started reading something.

As the station where they had to get off neared, she told me that she will be getting off. Suddenly, she noticed my bangle. A small note about the bangle. I was wearing a red bangle with a wide groove which is fitted with another gold bangle. I wear it coz’ I am relatively newly married and so kind of did not want to remove it and show off.

Anyways.

She looked at it and asked me “Very nice. Gold ah?” I smiled and said “Yes, it is.”

She: Oh, newly married? (She was a Chinese lady but kind of knew a lot, I thought.)

Me: Ah, yes. Kind of. hehe 

She: Oh, I thought. Dowry ah?

Me: (shocked) No, it was a gift from my mother in law. (Not knowing what more to say in such a short time given that the train stopped at her station)

A million questions ran in my head then. I get angry and upset when India is known by unpleasant features. I admit it maybe a feature.  Am not going to be euphemistic about it. It is a big big challenge our society faces and has its roots deep inside our structure. Okay, agreed. But c’mon, that’s not all, right? I maybe over-reacting but I felt pained. Miserably. I felt pained that I could not explain in detail how there are so many families that don’t ask for dowry. And how dowry is not what every married woman wears as jewellery.

There are million other instances many of you may have come across where opinions are formed and impressions are created. People judge people, people judge traits etc. Jokes are made and labels attached. Given the variegated sections in our world, it is only natural for this to happen. And we’d be foolish to let this affect us deeply.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, I succumbed to it as well. I felt hurt because I want people to talk of India as a beautiful country. Only because, India IS that. Because inspite of female infanticides, there are adoptions of girl babies. Inspite of corruption, there are passionate workers who slog it to get into Public Service and help people genuinely, coz’ that makes them happy. Inspite of bad roads, uncovered potholes, there are new metros. Inspite of never ending delays in constructions of anything, there are completed projects. Inspite of communal riots, there are amazing groups of multi-cultural, multi-lingual friends who communicate across barriers using broken speech and sheer eye contact. Inspite of dusty road travel and long train journeys, people love them because the sights are too beautiful to miss. And inspite of impure drinking water that seem to affect the interstinal walls of visitors, there is the most amazing roadside panipuris, masalapuris, bhel, dahi puri and all of that chaat and the most most most most amazing food. I could go on and on only to end up being too emotional.

If everything was “perfect” (which again is a term that makes no sense to me coz’ everything is so relative) then everything would be so mechanical. Frankly, it would make me happy to get my paper work done in no time and pay no one etc but lets face it – it is not happening unless we try and we are not trying much. But still, it doesn’t change everything, no? Attempts are being made in whatever measure. Ours is a huuuuuuuuge diverse country and whom are we comparing ourselves with? We’ll get there, get nearer to better-dom. We have miles to go, yes. But that shouldn’t stop us from celebrating what we have now, right?

I want to change perceptions. It is like, I have this burning desire to make everyone see and experience what I feel. I know that expression you have now.

But after all, I guess it is for them to opine and us to know, right?

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35 comments

  1. Jas · May 8, 2012

    I agree. People all around the world live with a perception of India, carved years ago that was very rampant with all these evils but now the face of country is changing and I am hoping the vision will too… and it is people like us who will change that…

    • kismitoffeebar · May 8, 2012

      Ya Jas. evils are there but there are both sides to the coin, no? and yup, we have to change that, definitely.
      thanks Jas 🙂

      • Jas · May 8, 2012

        Yes there is and only we can show it to the world… 🙂

  2. Visha · May 8, 2012

    Pre-conceived notions of a certain country or a certain sect are everywhere in the world.

    Tell me, what first comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘African’ or for that matter ‘European’?

    🙂

    Indians are painted in a certain way thanks to Slumdog Millionare and the Pushkar festival by the international media. Its upto us to explain the facts the way they are.

    Case in point – My colleague in office has broken so many of my notions which I had with regard to Muslim women.

    • kismitoffeebar · May 8, 2012

      Agreed. I won’t fight it coz’ it IS true that there are pre-conceived notions. The post is all about the frustration behing making people see them as one.

      As for your question, “African” reminds me of my guitar teacher coz’ he was from Nigeria. And European reminds me of bacon and eggs 😛 I can be shallow like that.

      But got what you meant 🙂

  3. aame · May 8, 2012

    That’s really shocking and i can very well relate how u must have felt.And am sure this isn’t the first time any one of us has come across such remarks and notions about our country.And it hurts so bad, one seethes with revolt. What i find more pitiful is that there are people in our country who go on highlighting and blabbering about the ‘negative’ India.I mean there are nations poorer than us,parts of countries steeped in corruption…it’s a global issue but most of us don’t ever fail to mention our country first when it comes to such sensitive topics.Kind of taking pride in it.There are people who can very well ridicule Anna or Aamir without seeing that no matter what they are atleast trying to make a difference.And i believe each of us can.We may not be able to instantly transform the government or the state of affairs of our nation but we can all atleast do our bit.Like am sure if you would have got those 5 mins more you won’t have let the lady go with this misconception in her mind.Though i know and can’t care less if she or anyone else continues to think the same way but atleast we would have the satisfaction that we tried.

    • kismitoffeebar · May 8, 2012

      You just spoke my mind. Thanks aame ! 🙂
      I refrained from sharing the part where some say things like “ah, you must come to India and you will know what it is like”. It maybe true but somehow I am not gracious enough to accept the sad part and conveniently forget the amazing part.

      • aame · May 8, 2012

        Neither am i 🙂 Googli-woogli-woooch same pinch !

      • kismitoffeebar · May 8, 2012

        ta na na na – 🙂

      • aame · May 8, 2012

        he he he…we definitely struck a chord there 🙂

  4. Destination Infinity · May 8, 2012

    We should find out the equivalent Chinese superstitions and social practices and keep it as a ready reference. Just in case if this happens again… 🙂

    Destination Infinity

    • kismitoffeebar · May 9, 2012

      hehehehe DI.
      All I want is like a few minutes to tell them how WRONG they are !

  5. greenboochi · May 8, 2012

    I loved this post…:) While its not fully possible to change away that pre-conceived notion on our country immediately, we can try to explain where ever it is possible… Dowry was just one of the things she knew of our country and we know much better… only that they cant see!

    The perceptions will soon change!

  6. Confused D · May 8, 2012

    This post reminds me of the best scene from Namastey London. I am sure you must have watched the movie.
    These people say there’s is a developed cuntry and they have such narrow-minded thoughts about us! This is sad!

    • kismitoffeebar · May 9, 2012

      Hey Cd,

      Nope I haven’t watched Namastey London 😦
      Ya, such notions. They outdo themselves at times. this is just one example.

      • Confused D · May 9, 2012

        Watch this clip. This is what I was talking about. This is how outsiders think of India and this the ‘the most amazing reply given ever’ by Akshay Kumar! And thanks to movies like Slumdog Millionares, our impression has become hopeless 😦

  7. Atrocious Scribblings · May 8, 2012

    I love it when people have these opinions and I get the opportunity to shatter them with the actual truth – the look on their faces is what constitutes a million dollar expression.

    Its sad that they have such negative ideas about our nation, the blame for that should fall onto the media which potrays our country as nothing but negative to the outside world with dowry deaths, infanticides and terrorism which have suitably replaced Poverty, Snake Charmers and Elephants 30 years ago. Maybe that’s why we should promote tourism and get the people of the world to experience the real deal.

    • kismitoffeebar · May 9, 2012

      AS ! 🙂

      Ya, agree agree to all of that.
      Tourism ! Ah, don’t get me started. have you noticed how they take pictures of huts and other poor areas even if there is an urban enclave gawking at their face?
      We need to promote tourism wisely and bring to the forefront, all kinds of positives.
      I’d love to catch that million dollar expression too ! 🙂

  8. Bikramjit Singh Mann · May 8, 2012

    I know exactly what you mean, I hear all this here also , in my office No one dare say anything about my country now , they know I will react to it.. No matter how bad the nation is or whatever problems we have .. It is still the Best nation in the world.

    I got it so much , especially when i talked in english they were like OH you can talk in english, but did not like when i said We in india write and speak the proper english better then the british themself.

    and what beautiful places we have , I just it point blank to anyone who says anything now that FIne why are they spending so much money to go on holiday to india then.

    Slowly we will get there

    • kismitoffeebar · May 9, 2012

      Bikram, so true all that !
      I think you have done so well in telling them what India is all about 🙂
      And talking in english – that was too much !

  9. Privy Trifles · May 8, 2012

    It is really sad to know this. My brother who is also settled abroad told me about the notion people have about Indians. It does pinch but then it is only us who can make a difference and make them realise that there is much more to India than just dowry or poverty. We have a wonderful culture to be proud of, so many forms of classical dances, beautiful heritage buildings, palaces, histortical monuments… no doubt we were called Sone ki chidiya which attracted one and all to our riches many centuries ago… 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · May 9, 2012

      True PT 🙂
      As I am reading all your comments, I feel so nostalgic at what we have amidst us 🙂
      We have to make them realize and I guess we are on our way ! 🙂

  10. techie2mom · May 9, 2012

    Hey Hugs to you…I can understand how bad it feels.
    I used to work with a team in Canada, and i came across such stereotypes many times. They know India of Slumdog millionaire.
    But there was one time when i felt ashamed about the situation. It was when i was pregnant & one of the team member asked me about the gender of my baby & i informed him that in India it is illegal to check the gender of the baby because of female foeticide. I really felt ashamed about the prevailing attitude towards a girl child in our country.

    • kismitoffeebar · May 9, 2012

      Hugs right back !
      I understand 🙂 well, we do have our unpleasant share but we need to quite fight for the others to acknowledge the other part.
      Thanks for coming by techie2mom !

  11. shaktii · May 9, 2012

    hi,

    new to your blog, i am also from singapore.. and experienced a lot of the same sort before.. at office and at parks.. no matter what they think even now the same abt india..dont know why

    • kismitoffeebar · May 9, 2012

      Hi Shaktii !

      Can’t say how happy I am to meet a blogger from S’pore ! 🙂 Welcome !
      Ya, it is true isn’t it? They have such notions. Initially I used to feel that I am being over sensitive but sometimes you just know !

  12. My Era · May 9, 2012

    I too have noticed and have actually borne the brunt of such insensitive remarks while I was overseas. I personally feel the success of slumdog millionaire has only added fuel to fire for it actually went ahead and won Oscars bringing all the crap about our country to limelight.

    I mean, we all know and understand that like each one of us, every country too has it’s good and not so good features but do we ever call someone a liar, hypocrite or anything else on their face? Never
    Then don’t we shy away from such insensitive remarks about one’s motherland or home?
    It is indeed a pitiful state and extreme of bad manners 😦

  13. pixie · May 9, 2012

    I totally understand! 🙂
    Our country is beautiful 🙂
    and I have told so many people the same thing!

  14. The Girl Next Door · May 12, 2012

    I so understand what you mean. I haven’t been abroad too much, but have heard such questions behind asked about India and it hurts me too. India is more than just the Taj Mahal or the Nilgiris or just the elephants and snakes. You have to live here for at least a couple of years to experience a bit of what it really is. Honestly, any country is more than just its weather or its mountains or lakes. There is a lot more to it, which we can know only when they live there.

    I face the same questions when I tell people I am from Ahmedabad. They tell me that all they can think about when they hear of ‘Ahmedabad’ is its communal riots. Hello! I agree Ahmedabad was in the news for the communal riots, but riots don’t keep happening all the time. There is much, much, much more to Ahmedabad than that!!! Its food, the people, its handicrafts, and so on.

    The same is the case with Bangalore. People tell me they know Bangalore has beautiful weather. There is much more to the city than just that!!

    However, that said, I would say the Chinese lady’s question might have been just a polite attempt at conversation, based on what she has known or experienced about Indian women. That doesn’t mean she thinks that that’s all India is about. 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · May 14, 2012

      TGND,

      I so agree with all that. Honestly, any country is more than just its weather or its mountains or lakes. – Hi-five to that one !

      Ya, maybe it was an attempt at conversation. We’ll never know. Lets just hope it was that 🙂

  15. The Girl Next Door · May 12, 2012

    My feelings are pouring out on reading this post. Maybe I should do a similar post on my blog to vent out. 🙂

    Isn’t the same the case with people too? People are judged by one particular thing that is known about them. ‘She reads a lot, so she must be very intelligent and a snob’, ‘He is very rich, so he has no problems’ – isn’t that so common of our society? Well, there is a lot more to a person than meets the eye!

  16. kismitoffeebar · May 14, 2012

    Definitely ! Being judgemental is what is innate on most but the hatred for being judge is also the highest. Err….. human nature.
    It takes a lot to give people a chance and then again step into their shoes and think of it from different perspectives.
    And I believe reading and travelling and meeting people will help us do that to a better ability 🙂

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