Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Turning Indian, I Think I'm Turning Indian, I Really Think So

For those of our readers who have lived, or are currently living, overseas, I think you'll agree with me when I say that there are moments where you catch yourself doing something that is so out of character for your home country, yet so inline with what people in your adopted country would do, you can only marvel at the experience. Let me explain.

Last night, I was sitting at my computer listening to a lecture. Over the sound of my professor's voice, I heard quite a bit of shouting coming from outside. We live on a busy thoroughfare, and there's often shouting, so I ignored it for a little while. However, as the sounds persisted, my curiosity mounted and I started stalking from one balcony to the next in an attempt to discover the source of the noise. I realized, after a few minutes, that the argument was coming from within our apartment complex. I was so excited by this that I ran outside the front door and stood watching as the fight moved down the stairs and out into the parking area. I watched unabashedly, discussing the possible motive for such screaming with my neighbors. Brad eventually wandered out and he stood with me for awhile while the argument carried on. As the gentleman in the middle of the dispute turned back on the building, I gazed down at him with curiosity, damning my inability to understand Hindi or Kannada. It was like Desperate Housewives: Bangalaroo and I had a front seat for the action, which was oh-so entertaining, even if the subtitles weren't working.

Now I want to be clear about the difference between how I would listen in on a fight in the US versus this one. In the US, if one were to hear a fight going on, they would of course take notice. One may even come up with some sort of ruse to move a bit closer. However, to be caught listening in would be the height of embarrassment. Americans don't want to look as if they are poking their noses in someone else's business. In India, there is no shame. If you're going to get in an argument, you better believe that the people around you are going to listen in and perhaps even take sides. By the time this argument hit it's peak, there were at least 20 people involved. I'm certain that those people didn't start out as part of the altercation, but they decided to help out, as best they could.

One of the best things about living in a foreign culture is watching the ways in which the society permeates in your everyday life. I'll never be an Indian. But I may end up an American with a dash of spice.

7 comments:

Brad said...

Another interesting thing about the shouting match (which involved only a small amount of shoving) was the way in which the security guards (there are about 10 of them) watched from afar. As the argument moved further away from the building (and, thus, closer to security), I swear the guards backed away. Perhaps we should stop calling them "security guards" and refer to them as "the ten people hired to open one gate."

joshwall said...

Awesome. I think those cultural interactions permeations are rather fun... though a little weird. Part of you says (this should be wrong) but most of you knows that right now... it's not. Awesome. (I know I really shouldn't use that word there and I'm not sure if it accurately describes what my response should be... but after reading your post that was the first thing that popped into my head... perhaps revealing that my teenage-self is still kicking around in some corner of my head...)

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Anonymous said...

Hey Brad! Dolores Watson here. Do you remember me? I'm still your advisor, did you know? (smile) Let me hear from you. How's Harvard going? I know that you're doing well already. We're having an "in care" gathering on February 26th at Community Congregational Church of Short Hills. It begins at 630pm. Hope you can come. Anyway, my email address is dolores.watson@firstccucc.org. Please give me an update.
Peace and Happy Holidays.
Dolores

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