Saturday, August 23, 2008

3 Men on an Elephant.

Life, these past many weeks, has been an insane roller coaster ride.... Tight deadlines, frayed tempers, long hours at work, endless cups of coffee,power games,cold chewy sandwiches, angry bosses.... It has been a situation which called for blood, sweat and buckets of tears!!!
But as the saying goes every dark cloud has a silver lining and in my case, it was the appearance of three visitors from Poland - M, C and R - , so christened to preserve their anonymity.


The trio, whom I also refered to as the Amigos, reminded me of a bunch of noisy jackdaws as they rattled away to each other in Polish and then, struggled to help one another translate the gist of their conversation for me. For you see, the amigos were not very fluent in English. But, after spending close to 3 months in India, both M nor R had thrown their inhibitions to the wind and were quite determined not to allow a mere trifle like language be a stumbling block to their socialising. A task which, unfortunately for them, had not been very easy because " In Indiiiiiiyaaaa, pipple speak English too fast...too fast...too different....!!!", as M plaintively informed me the morning we were introduced.
However, they didn't seem to have much of a problem understanding my speech and so, most days after work, the amigos would eagerly wait for me to put in an appearance and then, quickly pounce on me for conversation over endless mugs of tea, coke and some whiskey. I don't think their Polish-English Dictionary would have been thumbed all through their entire Indian sojourn as much as it had been this past week.
Now, I normally am not the most patient of persons when I am caught up with a project and socialising is the last thing on my mind at the end of a hard day at work. Or when I have homework to do. But the first evening I spent the with the Amigos proved to be so incredibly hilarious and their hospitality so warm, that I actually began to look forward to our noisy conversations.

Of the three, M was clearly the leader and the patriarch - a total riot..rambunctious...gregarious and very often the spokesperson for R & C. While at the other end of the spectrum towered R, who was the baby of the group -enthusiastic, incredibly puppy like and with a yen for Kung Fu, vampires, zombies and all such manner of horror and violence!!! R hates Hollywood movies because " They all haf happi endings...hero kill villans....marry heroine...lif hapili evr afta" but he actually downloads Bollywood movies which he finds amusing. And stuck somewhere in between was C, who must be the closer to my age and rather reticent although he did possess a wry sense of humour, which is often lit up our conversations like a sudden sun burst on a dark rainy day. C is a self proclaimed pessimist although he had no qualms about visiting India without medication for the famous "Delhi belly" and even worse, eating Pani Puri off the street carts. Now if I devote more space to C than the other two, it is simply because C inevitably comes up with the most outrageous ideas....Like wanting to carry away a giant Indian cockroach, a 4 inch bug, back to Poland. All my arguments of him being locked up for eternity in a dank polish prison as a suspected proponent of biological warfare fell on deaf ears and C blithely made me promise that if I were to stumble on a giant bug, I would faithfully bottle it as a gift for him. * violent shudder*
M, R & C had an opinion about everything they had encountered and experienced so far, from the mad Indian drivers & rogue Tuk-Tuk drivers to the soggy bread croutons in the spicy Tomato soup and other Indian food and of course, the trademark Indian 'Yes-No' head wobble. While they were more than willing to satiate my curiosity about Poland, they themselves had a gazillion questions about India, the people, customs and the pantheon of Gods and Goddesses we worship...which resulted in what I am sure will be some of the funniest conversations of my life.
" aaaah, excuse me...Reeeekha...I haf a qustion for u...sori, it is ..eh...personal...I ask?
The eager expressions on C's & R's faces made it abundantly clear that this question had been debated beforehand by the amigos.
" Ok...I will try to answer it"
" eerr, yesterda you wear deeffrent dresss...aaah...that is saree?"
" errr, yes...I went for a friend's engagement and so was wearing a sari"
But the amigos were not listening....for some reason, the discovery had excited them greatly because the three were jabbering away to each other in Polish.
" You have been in India for 3 months and you don't know what a sari is??"
" I am heere few days...I come Sunday....R & M here far 3 mondhss"
" Ahh, we see saree...but we no know it saree..my wife ask me " You Take peekture of butifuul womann in saaree"..But I know no if I haf"
" I buy saree to...eh...tak bak to Poland...I have gilfriend, sistar, 3 coosins, madher to gift...I show u....U see?"
R's enthusiasm takes me by surprise. While all the foreigners I have met in India so far, have most definitely been both, enchanted and intrigued by our national costume but I had, to date, not met anyone who purchased 6-7 at one shot!!! Visions of the women in R's family wrestling with their saris as they attempted to drape it around them in accordance to R's hand written instructions flit before me, bringing a smile to my lips!!! Needless to say, it is quickly suppressed as R walks back into the room with an armful of packages, which he dumps on the couch for me to inspect.
" But these are salwars....not sareee"
" This no sareee?.....wat u call?" *round eyes and mouth a wee bit ajar*
" No these are not saris...they are salwars...There is a long shirt top with a drawstring pant under and maybe a shawl"
" aaaaaahhh" R hastily scribbles down the name for future reference. I debate educating him on the finer nuances of the kurtas and pyjamas of our world - salwars, churis, punjabi pyjamas, short kurtis, long kurtas, anarkalis, kaleez, so on and so forth -but then decide to spare his grey cells!!!
" I buy saaree to tak bak wiz me to Poland.."
" Oh....for your wife or your friend, I guess"
* startled look* " nein, nein.....Faaar meeee....I wear Saaree in Poland" * delivered in a very emphatic tone*
Good Lord, C was a cross dresser????...For once, words failed me!!!....The amigos, esp C, must have noticed the look of absolute shock on my face because he hastened to explain
" I wantt saaareeee......mmmm....weeth trrouser undar....menn warr in Indyaa?" * expectant look* " I seeee...in Dalhi....Heesar....I seee" * note of defiance slowly creeps into voice*
I try to think of the politest way I can let him know that the only men I have seen in a sari were the hijras at the traffic signal!!! And they most definitely did not wear pants under ....But there was no way out because by then, R and M also are looking at me enquiringly awaiting enlightenment!!!
So this is how the now legendary preachers of yore must have felt when faced with their first prospective converts!!!
" err, in India, women wear saris...men wear dhotis which is tied waist down..the only men who wear saris are the transvestites and cross dressers....and well, maybe a traditional gay.... I really don't know"
And with that fell swoop, the chattering amigos were silenced!!! The silence which ensued was awkward and deafening!!!..To break it and the fact that there were three pairs of eyes in different shades of blue boring like gimlets through me, I hastily opened a magazine on the table to desperately search out the picture of a sari....But instead, I came across an advertisement for men's ethnic wear which C pounced on with unholy glee.
" thar thar...saaree far men..." * broad beaming smile*
I am so relieved that I cannot help laughing...
" That is not a sari...it is a sherwani...."
R dutifully jots that down as well, as C grins with self satisfaction...
" I war tat in Poland........Arabian shoes with curl" *gesticulates an extravagant curl for my benefit* " I buuy shoes also"
I just cannot help but smile at the picture C paints for me.
" ahh, we go to de zoo park tomorraw...you come? "
" Oh I am sorry M but I am meeting some friends for breakfast....I would have liked to but...."
" ohhhh, no problem....we go...I ride elefant...and take peekture....many in my phamily be envy" * broad toothy grin and smug satisfaction writ all over his face*
I just cannot help but beam back at M....How could I not at someone who so enjoys the small, simple things in life with childlike enthusiasm?....
M, R & C will remain etched in my memory for a very long time to come...for their warmth, their sense of adventure and the open minds with which they embraced India....
In fact, every time I hear the word Amigos, I know I am going to be assailed by visions of my three noisy kurta clad Polish friends merrily perched atop an elephant, clutching on to a bottled bug for dear life!!!

4 comments:

Ganga Dhanesh said...

side splitting! that was hilarious!

Moggie Mom said...

Thank you Ganga...You just have to meet the Amigos to believe that they exist!!! I wish I could transcribe all the conversations I have had so far with the Amigos!!!...You would die laughing.... :) :) :)

Roopa said...

You know what? I quite liked the extra effort I had to put deciphering who said what. And somehow the amigos reminded me of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat.

Moggie Mom said...

LOLz...Roopa, I did consider putting in colour legend but then decided against it as it was rather long even by my standards...:)
The Amigos are indeed a lot like the 3 Men in a Boat.... :) :) :)