The humans in my life
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times before, but American vocabulary is quite different from ours. Lift becomes elevator, flat becomes apartment, and a guttural grunt at other humans becomes a cheerful “hey how are ya?”
American friendliness is overwhelming. I wanted to be that nice, but just couldn’t. It’s hard to care about how anyone else is doing when I’m busy letting the world know of my own problems.
Apparently I have something my yoga instructor calls “resting bitch face syndrome” that comes from “an unconscious desire to push people away.” Nobody had pointed this out to me before. I glared at her and thought “stop making up terms and stop looking at me, you weirdo.”
But as it turns out, she’s right – my default expression seems to suggest my pants are too tight. Combine that with my slightly faster-than-normal walk and I constantly look like I’m storming off somewhere. Somehow I could never slow down or rearrange my face when someone looked my way.
In my first few weeks, my gaze automatically shifted to other Indians. While most of them ignored me, some others showed me the ropes and helped me feel a little less lost. And I returned the favour by putting them all in condescending categories – fake, creepy, clingy.
Before you accuse me of being too harsh on my people, I want to clarify that I’ve seen some strange non-Indians too. Before I moved to Boston, the strangest thing I’d ever seen was a Bangalorean turn down a fifth pint of beer on a Monday night. But on the other side of the world, a whole new realm of weirdness greeted me:
- I saw people walk their ferrets on a leash.
- I saw people walk their children on a leash.
- I saw parents jog vigourously while pushing babies on a stroller.
- I met people who said “that is hilarious” with a dead serious expression – the real-life equivalent of typing “lol” on a chat screen.
See? I’m not a prick who unnecessarily talks smack about my own people. I’m a prick who unnecessarily talks smack about everyone.
I spent productive time
creepily staring at carefully observing fellow Indians. The first victims of my analysis were the Indians who suddenly become entirely different people. I’m not talking about fake accents – I can feel myself developing a British accent every time I watch Sherlock so I have no right to judge them for that. Or anything, really, but I digress.
These Indians are now sophisticated. They don’t want their ‘smelly’ food in others’ faces, and swap a perfectly normal dal-chawal for boiled broccoli and cauliflower (which does wonders for the smell, let me tell you). They look down on anyone who eats Indian food in public. These are truly classy people. They put the art in fart.
Next, the creeps. The creep is usually a man who thinks friendliness and pick-up lines are basically the same thing. I was once waiting for a bus when a nice guy struck up a conversation. I was beginning to think I’d made my first friend when he said “if you’re looking for good Indian food, go down this road for a few blocks and turn left. The second house to the right is mine, and I make great Indian food. Think about it, sweetie.”
Somehow I never ended up falling in love with his charming persistence and marrying him a few years later. My life is astonishingly different from movies.
Finally, the crybaby. I’ll be upfront here and tell you it’s me. Everything makes me nostalgic. When I first got my nose pierced, the metal messed with my skin and caused a terrible infection. I could smell the inside of my nose all the time. When I recently caught a bad cold and could smell the inside of my nose again, I shed a little tear. The stuff inside my nose will forever symbolize the first time I got my nose pierced.
Now imagine taking that out of its natural habitat and putting it in a new country.
But that’s a story for a different time. Was that intriguing enough to stay tuned?