Music, the Universal Language?

From as long as I can remember, classical music has been a part of my life. My Mom would play Mozart and Beethoven on the way home from Kindergarten. Our family has 5 kids, and most of us played an instrument in band and orchestra at some point. Most schools have two concerts a year, so we averaged 8-10 concerts a year, which is a lot.

As such, one of the first things we did when Varun came to visit was take him to a concert of my younger brother playing Cello. During the intermission, Varun turned to my Dad and asked, totally seriously, “What do you think about while they’re playing? Don’t you get bored?”. My Dad’s facial expression was one of someone trying to hide their shock behind a thin veil of politesse. Varun had never been to a concert in India, especially not one with “movements” and no words. (This, of course, brings up an excellent question, What DO I think about? Varun now brings books to concerts.)

Yesterday, someone was sharing at Church about how we fail to notice God in the everyday and offered, as a metaphor, the story of Joshua Bell playing in the Washington DC Metro*.

(Whispering in pew-appropriate volume)
Varun: Who?
Me: Joshua Bell! He’s like…umm…the Shaquille O’Neal of music.
Varun: Who’s Shaqu..?
Me: Ok. Um. Tiger Woods. (Glare from person in front of us) He’s Tiger Woods.

(The following Video plays)

Me: Wow. Wasn’t that beautiful?
Varun: So I guess the moral is that music isn’t that interesting after all.
Me: !!!!!!!!!!

*This is a cool story, look it up.

How Much?

[While this post could seem like many things, it is little more than hilarious.]

Once, I was in India trying to arrange for a taxi. I approached a driver and asked him, in Hindi, if he could give us a ride. He look flabbergasted. Immediately, he sought to find out why a white girl was speaking to him in any language other than English.

(In Hinglish)
Taxi Driver: You speak Hindi very well.
Me: Thank you.
Taxi Driver: (laughing) How did you learn Hindi?
Me: My husband is from Delhi, so I’m learning Hindi.
Taxi Driver: (Eyes wide) Your husband? You’re married? Was it a love marriage or an arranged marriage?
Me: (Visibly blushing and wishing we could get on with things) A love marriage.
Taxi Driver: (laughing incredulously) No! Really? How much? How much?!
Me: Nothing. Free. It was a love marriage.
Taxi Driver: (Who now has a circle of friends joining in) No! How much?!

I’d say it’s lucky for the taxi driver that Varun wasn’t there. I think he might have had some strong words for the taxi driver.

This entertaining encounter reminds me of another experience…

I was once in North Africa in a market shopping with a friend, S, for jewelry for his wife. Admittedly, we looked like a couple–we were both white, we were male and female alone in a Muslim market. Why would it not be assumed we were together? In one small shop, the shopkeeper asked S if he could try on S’s sunglasses. He then turned to me, with the sunglasses on and asked, “Who looks better, me or your husband?”.

Frantically, I looked to my friend S to help correct the mistake. He just laughed. The shopkeeper turned back to S and asked casually, “How much for your wife? I will give you 4,000 camels”.

Two thoughts crossed my mind: Thought #1: 4000 camels? That seems like a lot. But maybe it’s nothing, maybe he thinks I’m the ugly step-sister. Is this a good deal? And Thought #2: Let’s get outta here!

Well. You should have seen the expression on my face when S, instead of graciously leaving the store stood his ground and said, “How about 5000 camels?”.

As if.

Thankfully, not all cross-cultural love affairs begin with “How much…?”, as Varun has never asked. I think he knew the diamond ring was a given, but for the amount I eat, he might have gotten a better deal paying my dad 4000 camels.

A Bona-fide Certified Driver’s License (Well, almost)

The story of Varun’s driver’s license is a bit complicated.

One summer, he returned home to India to visit and decided to get his license. After a week of lessons, his instructor took him to take his test. In typical Indian fashion, four candidates including Varun stood under a mango tree while the instructor drove the car in a circle.

They all “passed”.

As Varun’s license was printed, he was instructed to go next door to make copies of his license. Yes, multiple copies of government issued ID. Why, you ask? Often times when a police officer pulls over a car, he asks the driver for a bribe or he’ll take the driver’s license. This way, if you have lots of copies, you don’t have to give bribes.


Fast-forward 5 years. Varun didn’t actually need to be able to driver while living in Vancouver because student-life and great transit made the non-car life the best option. Yet as time wore on, he quickly realized the use of a BC license. And thus began the long and sometimes harrowing process of obtaining a BC license.

(To be continued)

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