No eye contact please, I am Indian.
Three events in the past one week have had me thinking about something that I suspected for a long time. When we Indians see each other in foreign surroundings we do not acknowledge each other.
A few days ago, I picked up my lunch from a street vendor down the road. It was the typical “chicken kebab over rice” stall that you see all around NYC. The guy manning the stall was a desi dude. With a couple of other customers before me, he was friendly, making conversation etc. But when it came time to take my order, he all of a sudden turns dour and dosent even look at me while I am placing the order. Its like he dosent want to serve me, but has no choice.
On another occassion, I bought a newspaper from an roadside stall. In NYC, by some quirk of fate, every single newspaper vendor is manned by a desi. I regularly stop by at that stall, but the guy never looks up and talks. Ant that is only with me. I’ve seen him react with others, regular American folks….white, blacks, hispanics…. and he chats with them like long lost pals.
And these two events are not in isolation. Many a times when I encounter a desi looking person on the subway or so, we both instantly know that the other one is a desi. A brown brother from the same motherland. But instead of just a nod or acknowledgement, there is an instant turning away, as a in some way to say, I know u r desi and and so am I, but am ashamed to say it.
Now, we Indians are not the unfriendly sort. You just have to walk in any city and town to know that we will make it our business to know everyone’s business. So then why is it that in a foreign land, when we encounter someone of our own, do we turn away, and fail to acknowledge the other persons presence.
I’ve seen my german friends, who get all excited when they hear another german voice on the subway and say hi and start chatting up and exchanging pleasantries. If other cultures can do it, why cant we. Is it that when one desi encounters another, there is a play of some kind of inferiority/superiority complex ?
A typical scenario when one bumps into a desi is as follows. First the instant realization that the other person is your own desh. Then the turning away and a complete lack of acknowledgement. Then the surreptitious looks on the sly, when one thinks the other is not looking, and then finally a parting of ways. Seems more like a courting ritual of some primate, if you may.
You may wonder why this is something that I would write about and be so agitated with. Its something that I detest. As much as it is cool to be living in New York, or for that matter anywhere in America, it does not mean that we have to assimilate so much that we fail to recognise and acknowledge our own. It does not mean that we are losing our identity. It does not mean that the other desi person will latch on to you like a leech and suck you dryof whatever he or she can.
A simple nod, hello, hi, kaise ho, would simply mean that you connected with one of your own, 8000 miles away. It shows a funny twist of life, that of the 1 billion of us, we two could connect and cross paths in life, half a world away. Ain’t that awesome !
Of course, these are just my observations. I would be interested in knowing if you have had any such similar experiences, and agree or disagree with me. Please express yourself in the comments section below.
So next time you bump into another “brown brother from another mother” stop for a second and acknowledge them.
And I promise, that if I see you, I will do the same.