Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jumbo mumbo on route 620

When I was in the 3rd standard – in 1992 or 93 – being schooled the Nilgiris, I became friends with The New Girl in class. She, with her family, had just moved back to town from the States. I remember asking her, so what’s it like to go to school in America, and she had said, it’s alright but everyone thinks in India we go to school on elephants.

On elephants?! How ignorant IS America?! I wasn’t thinking all white families must be like the one in Small Wonder with a dictionary-learning ROBOT in a red frock for a daughter! Somebody get them off the Jungle Book diet. We are not all called Bagheera! In fact I don’t know anyone who is!

So anyway, I never went to school on an elephant. Mostly in school buses, sometimes by foot (I have to say, more because school was 10 mins away rather than we were too poor and only collected firewood in our spare time), and often in army trucks that would break so suddenly, all of us would collapse on each other, and tomato sandwiches would spill to the ground and dirty little feet would trample all over the white bread leaving marks of Bata shoe size number 2.

Yesterday, I saw an elephant outside my boyfriend’s house and 3rd standard came back to me -- the new girl, the stupid yank notions of 4-legged school buses; it was too good to be true. At 8.30 p.m, right in the middle of a swank colony, there was an elephant ambling along, least bothered about stalling traffic, making a snack out of the Ashoka leaves, and carrying a mahout talking on his cellphone. The mahout was taking the elephant for a kiddie birthday, which is not the same as in India we go to school on elephants, but still, you had to be there.

Hungry elephant stalls traffic as the taste of dust-ridden
leafy AShoka branches is right up his alley

Caught his eye, looks like


The Unbearable Banishment said...

The U.S. is an insulated nation. Almost shamefully so! In school, there was no need (nor the encouragement) for me to learn a second language. It’s scandalous! No worries. Soon enough we’ll be forced to learn Mandarin.

Han said...

Hmmmmmm. Was The New Girl my sister? I remember kids in the US asking me similar questions. And one kid asked if we lived in teepees.

Nimpipi said...

UnB.B: Pity. We're not much better. I know my sense of geography is appalling. As kids, my brother and I would randomly be quizzed by our father:

He: 'Ok, kiddies, what is the capital of Texas?'
Me: Ooh! ooh! Florida!

My brother would just laugh and call me an idiot, but the dismay on my father's face.. what can I say. I think I loved shocking him with how genuinely little I knew.

But me apart, I know that for many north Indians -- and I've noticed it a lot here in Delhi -- every place south of Bombay ((now Mumbai)is Madras (now Chennai), and every person with the slightest hint of a south-Indian accent is a 'Madrasi' or a 'Tamilian'. It's bizarre. I can't sound too righteous about this though because, well for one, I can't tell apart Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Singaporeans... and I've been on a friend's case whose studying in New York to explain it to me, because little miss MBA finally figured it out.

Foreign languages, yea, we had to choose between French and Sanskrit!

Han: I'm sure you can tell apart a Mallu from a Tam. Tell me how.

New girl in class was your sister, yes. Figured you'd get it without me resorting to names like Vinny or Eliza.

In theoriginal post, I was rambling on about Vinny/ Eliza (without calling her that), her brother (you) and my brother, S, also being friends at the same time, but if you remember India, you'll remember that lights often go, and with them unsaved blog drafts. Sigh.

Still, it's interesting how those two friendships panned out. E and I aren't really in touch. Facebook means nothing. You and S aren't really in touch. Facebook means nothing. So you'd agree that neither of us are really friends anymore with the other's sibling. AS for you and I, we never really spoke in school or thereafter and which is why this virtual, online camaraderie was most unexpected. Pleasant but, really, who'd'vethunk.

To borrow from an email a blog-commenter/ online friend sent me last night: 'The blogosphere was it's own rhythm and we are attuned to each other according to the frequency of our posting. Sometime it picks up, sometimes its slow, but it's been something like two years, and I'm glad for it.'


Han said...

Mallus and Tams? Are you referring to the pronunciation of the phrase "All the boys got into the lorry?" Hehe.

Physical difference are subtler, and I'm not as good at spotting them as my mother.

Yes this blogospheric contact has been unexpected and interesting.

"Sometime it picks up, sometimes its slow, but it's been something like two years, and I'm glad for it."

I definitely agree. And it's been over two years perhaps.

The Mystic said...

I was in Prep in 92( useless fact not trying to call u old) :P I sometimes miss the simpler childhood times, I do remember these foreigners/NRI kids in our school who pretended like they were in some missionary school in Africa... I kinda punched em a lot in return! :D

Pringle Man said...

I am being quoted and all. Nice! Also nimpipi ambivalent about facebook YES. It's throughly useless and the worst thing that happened to urban Indians I say. Pronounces the social divide and encourages all the douches of the world to show off their douche drunk lives.

Privacy settings make life easier but the best thing is just to log in once in a while.