The other week, I was in the Indian store, holding my box of Alphonso mangoes (had scored the last box that day), there was another couple in the back alleys of the shop, struggling to find the Poha with their required thickness. And they were talking in Gujarati ( the 26th most spoken native language in the world according to Wikipedia). Yes, that’s my mother tongue too.
The moment I heard them, I smiled to myself. If they were closer at the moment, I could have made contact right away. Wait, I am not that desperate to make friends, I don’t need to run to them, hug them may be and ask them if they are also from my city.
I waited. Apart from the woman in front of me checking out at the cash counter, there was no one else in the store, They would have been behind me in the line.
I wanted to work up a nice opening line till they finish and surprise them with my Gujarati speaking ability that I’ve been surprising my parents with since the age of 15 months. (sometimes they wish I would shut up though!)
Right when they were supposed to stand in the line behind me, another member of the shop opened a second cash counter and they rushed there. It all happened in a blur…
I was still waiting behind the woman who had probably bought things that didn’t even seem to exist in the store. And the Gujju couple quickly rushed out. I missed my chance.
But they didn’t even glance at me. It was also my fault that I didn’t reveal myself as a fellow Dhokla-eater, but they were haughty and uninviting or may be just in a desperate hurry to cook poha.
And then they were lost in Manhattan-like Quadrat of Mannheim. The idea of making their sketch (Have you seen these Poha-enthusiasts?) or luring them to me by wearing a thepla-scented perfume next time has crossed my mind.
Why did I hesitate in talking to them right away? Well, people from India tend to be not so friendly right away in these cold corners of the world. I’ve learnt it the hard way. It isn’t UK or the US of A where in some cities you may feel like you’ve not left Mumbai at all.
But even the group of Indians who meet over their so called soirees, or festivals are mostly about who has been here for how many years, one-uping about who knows the way of their adapted country better and it all breaks into a patronizing pissing contest. Most encounters with the unknown fellow country people have been awkward and uncomfortable. Though enough of generalizing, I’ve a bunch of really happy, funny, realistic Indian friends here too who have no airs whatsoever…
Any way, new place does give you new stories. Perhaps in getting rid of my own prejudices, I missed out on communicating with may be the only Gujaratis (apart from us) in the Quadrat that day.
Now I’m back in dear Lampertheim, reveling in the idea of being two of a kind in the 50 mile radius, for now.