Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rollercoaster Rides

My bus trips to Mumbai are usually quite eventful: either I end up getting lost, or I get into the wrong bus or I meet interesting people. Somehow, when you are always looking for stories, you usually get them, or may be you are more aware of your surroundings, you are more watchful so that you don’t miss out on any new experience.

Like this time, first I got thrown out of the bus for bargaining for 50 bucks and I am so totally shameful that I quite enjoyed the humiliation. At times you can sacrifice self-respect for the sake of money, and right now, 50 bucks is a lot of money…

Then while returning I had the opportunity to share my seat with a firang from Israel, who looked straight out of the Ten Commandments movie, except that he wore floaters and shorts. He was relieved that I spoke English and the conversation began with basic queries like how long it will take us to reach Pune, where should he get down to go to KP, whether the bus will stop in between and so on and so forth. I learnt that he lived alone in Tel Aviv, that he made a career out of spirituality and stress management, that he had traveled all over the world- USA, Britain, Greece, South-East Asia and this was his third trip to India in the last 10 years and that India fascinated him (but of course). He was in Pune for spiritual reasons- he spoke of Oshe, Sri Sri Ravishankar, different meditation techniques, Art of Living and all that jazz. I was way out of depth: I mean the 5 day Art of Living workshop which was compulsory in the 1st semester was all I knew about spirituality, so obviously, I listened to him with rapturous attention. It amused me that while he didn’t even bother to ask my name, it did not stop him from asking extremely personal questions- how old I was (I don’t know why I deducted one year from my actual age; I think it’s just a woman thing…), which religion I followed, whether I was married, what I did for a living, where I came from. I realized that he was trying to learn about the Indian culture more than about me per se, so I gave him measured answers. I wasn’t exactly the best representative of Indian culture! When he asked me if I had boyfriends, if I was allowed to date outside my religion or caste, if I had the luxury to choose my own life partner, I replied that while for me religion or caste wasn’t an important parameter, it may be quite a significant issue for others, that it was essentially a personal choice. He was pleasantly surprised that in college we studied together with boys, that we hung around all the time, that even though I was a Hindu, I had Muslim friends. He admitted that he had assumed Indians were far more conservative than the West and I was quick to assure him that India was too big a country to fit into any sweeping generalization. We talked about the security concerns, the recent blasts in Delhi, the constant squabble between Israel and Palestine and at the end of the two hours, I realized that while we came from completely different backgrounds, at some level we were all similar: innocent citizens tired of being victims!


Soul said...

Hey Didi, this is Tarun Tejwani. Did u hav the aol course in ur first semester? Which university/ college r u fm?
Hey, i even liked wht u rote 'bout urself in the profile.... Passionate, Dispassionate & Compassionate! Nice one there.

Shimonti said...

@ tarun
thnks a lot... hope u will keep reading