A word of advice (if I may):
Never change countries while changing jobs while your house is still not fully complete. It is a nightmare! More on this in the upcoming posts (maybe some rants will be involved too). But in this one, I wanted to share some of the funnier things that have happened so far.
When we decided to move I did tell Mr M that he would be an odd man out in my city, especially in the place where we were planning to settle down as the influx of people from other countries is very minimal (read zero). You might find a handful in the city centre or in the malls, but out where we are close to the hills and almost 15 km away from the city centre, none. He had his share of incidents where he was asked to be part of a selfie, a group photo, etc. where they find him interesting and looking so different to everyone around. He has also had incidents where in shopping places, he has been given the royal treatment and I am ignored like a nobody 🙂 even in spite of being the person who is footing the bill for his purchases (he doesn’t have a bank account here as of yet). He has also had incidents where he has been ogled at or rather stared at and pointed at and whispered behind hands to the presence of a foreigner (for them) amidst them. This has put him off from time to time but he started coping by waving at people who stare at him. That takes them by surprise and they either smile and wave back or just turn away and don’t look at him anymore.
I am curious as to what the folks around here think when they see him. I grew up in this place and I can, to some extent, understand the curiosity of knowing why someone who isn’t from India wants to be in such a remote part of the country, but would I have stared at them wondering or would I have had the courage to say hi or at least respond to them if they had said hi to me? I think it would be the former. I am an introvert at heart (even though people who know me now might disagree but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like initiating conversations).
The other day we were going for a walk when a car screeched to a halt next to Mr M and the fellow who was driving asked him where he was from and why was he walking (all the while totally ignoring me who was right beside Mr M, he did not even look at me for a second) around the area in the dust. Mr M was trying to convey that he was out for a walk and that he lived close by and that it was totally fine but that gentleman wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted that he would be happy to drive Mr M to wherever he wanted to go 😀 (and nope, he still didn’t bother looking at me while having this conversation with Mr M) Mr M then had to explain to him very patiently that he has a vehicle (which he doesn’t drive by the way :P) but that he chose to walk to know the place etc. etc. and that fellow was so surprised that a foreigner would like to go for a walk whereas the locals wouldn’t even consider something like that at all (I am sure some of my neighbours who are out for a walk every single day would be very offended by that statement if they heard that gentleman). And then he turns to me and asks me where was I from and that is when I unleashed my weapon and spoke to him in Tamil and told him that this was my hometown. Boy was it fun to watch his surprise. He apologized to me (for what I don’t know) and then bid us farewell and went his way.
This wasn’t the first time that kind of incident happened. We have got a scooter and were out to fill petrol (or gas as you might call it on the other side of the world) and this young chap who was filling the petrol spoke to me in English (or what he knew of it) once he saw Mr M. I knew he was trying his best with his limited knowledge and so encouraged him by answering in English (questions ranged from where were we from, what is Mr M’s country etc. etc.) and then when he asked me about my place I didn’t have a choice but to tell him that this city was my hometown and he then started to chat in Tamil and chided me (in good fun) that I could have let him know about it and he would not have tried too hard in English. But I didn’t have the heart to crush his attempt at making an impression with Mr M.
It wasn’t just them. Even the folks in the school I joined (for a brief while at least) all thought that since I moved here from the UK and since my husband was Irish, I wouldn’t know Tamil. On what basis did they come to that conclusion I don’t know. I look like a proper Tamilian in my current surroundings. There is no mistaking me and my Tamil face. But by association (even though they haven’t seen my Irish husband) they all assumed me to speak only English. One day when I uttered a line from Vadivelu’s (a Tamil comedian) movie scenes, they were surprised. I had to tell them that I was in this country until recently.
You know what gets me though. When I moved to the UK, people in the UK thought that I wouldn’t know enough English because I came from a part of India which isn’t popular and there were surprised to hear me speak good English (and comment on that too). I had to explain to them that I studied in an English medium and worked in MNCs (multi-national companies) which had HQs (headquarters) in the Netherlands and San Francisco and have had to deal with clients from other countries for almost two decades. Now that I am back in India, people here think that because I have an Irish husband, I don’t know any other language other than English. The irony of it all heh. 😀 I can never win. I end up explaining to people no matter where I go…Is it because my face is so generic in nature that I can be categorized as Indian in the UK, European in India, and alien on Mars? Who knows, heh! At least Mr M’s presence in the community is getting normalized day by day and fewer people are staring at him unless they are new to the place or passing by. Now, this doesn’t mean that people here can understand him. That is a story for another time.