Some times idioms can be so misleading. “ When In Rome , do as Romans do.” So Wrong. Wherever we go, we shall always be Indians.
If you introduce yourself in the West as an Indian, be warned. You will expected be to take the role of a Geek and a Yoga expert. If you confess that you are not good at any of those, they will look at you suspiciously. Hmm. This guy doesn’t want to share his gift. Or worse still he may be pretending to be an Indian.
So what does one do? Well Pretend. I have learnt it the hard way.
Once I was in Miami in the local government office to apply for a licence. The office was just a floor below my office and I knew some of the ladies working there. As soon as one of them saw me, she shrieked with happiness. I was naturally embarrassed and pretended to deeply study my file. She rapidly told the other girls in Spanish and there was another shriek of a collective higher decibel.
Then this girl came with a big smile and told me that they had a problem. Their server had crashed and could I help. I just gaped at her foolishly. The only thing I knew about computers was how to switch it on and off. But she didn’t even wait for me and took my hand and led me inside. The whole office cheered. I did some quick thinking. I needed the license. I was late for applying. If i didn’t help them, they would get offended. So I went inside. Removed my coat like a seasoned professional and kept it on the chair and then looked at the huge computer network. It was like solving a giant puzzle, only I didn’t know which was easier- to go Across or Down. Luckily I knew a friend who had a hardware business and called him. He was just a few blocks away. He told me to just remove the plugs and again re-plug it and restart and just fool around till he was there. Glad to say that I came out with my License and dignity intact. The icing on the sugar was that this friend treated me with a dinner as he not only got paid for it but was also offered an annual contract.
Another time I was in the sauna after a hard day at the gym. My instructor was a fierce man who prided in his work and wouldn’t tolerate any slack. He charged a hefty $30 for thirty minutes and wanted to give all the money’s worth, not worrying if I could handle that worth.
My legs were like jelly and so I was squatting on the wooden bench unable to sit with them hanging out like others. Just then , one guy grinned, “ Indian?”. I smiled back yes. He was now bragging others that he recognised me because of my yoga posture. Yoga Posture? ME! I quickly uncoiled my legs but the damage was done.
There were a hundred questions tossed at me. Then one American dropped his voice. Was I a sex Guru. Did I know any good techniques. He was not alone. The Americans lived on sex it seemed to me. One guy even promised to show me a ‘sex and yoga’ CD after the gym and ask my expert advise on it.
That CD was one clever marketing. The model was a pretty Brazilian girl and the instructor was a large American. She was just doing plain aerobics showing of her sensuous body. Where was India? I complained? “ Exactly.” My friend agreed. That is why he wanted me to teach him the right way. He was willing to pay for my services.
I had a hard time convincing him that I didn’t even know the elementary Yoga.
He finally gave up. “ You are modest.” Now how could I disagree on that!
Each time I came to India, I promised myself to brush up on my computer skills and Yoga. Sad to say none improved and so I had to keep pretending.