Nothing to Say? Sing!

Today in Church Varun and I met a very friendly family from Pakistan. They mentioned how difficult it is to get their children to speak Urdu, their mother tongue. Once in the car, Varun lamented his gradual loss of Hindi, while I lamented the loss of my Hindi teacher.

We made a deal: speak Hindi unless the situation is urgent, complicated or important. (Which basically means the only thing spoken in Hindi will be the random anecdotes. And you can guess who does most of the talking which involves, “Guess what I saw on facebook!” Yup. Guess I’ll need to learn how to say, “You might not find this interesting” in Hindi).

Anyway. By about lunchtime my brain was fried. So, I resorted to singing bollywood songs, a simple solution as they are in Hindi, and are generally about love stories and other people’s lives (a major topic of conversation for me).

But, not wanting to horde these gems, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you.

This is from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the song I sang over lunch today. It means, “Something happened” (as in, something magical…when i met you…) It’s about a boy and girl who fall in love. A must see! And a classic bollywood music video.

This fantastic video is from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or, the Big-Hearted will take the Bride, which ran for 15 years. Typo? No. Actually. It’s a must see. It’s about a boy who met a girl. They fell in love but weren’t supposed to.

This video is from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi gham, which means, “Sometimes happy, sometimes sad”. It’s about a boy and a girl who fall in love. Who shouldn’t have. And I love it not because the song is super catchy, but because it’s my dream to be at a party where people dance like this.

This video is from Dil Se. Which I haven’t seen, but it means “From the heart”. I’m going to guess it’s about a boy and a girl who fell in love. And shouldn’t have. This music video is catchy, and is also the single song I’ve had the most fun dancing to ever (See: Thanksgiving 2007).

While this video doesn’t deserve to even be on the same page, the music and dancing are great. This is Bride and Prejudice. A not-quite-bollywood-not-quite-hollywood version of, you guess it: Pride and Prejudice. Try watching it without at least bobbing your head. I usually listen to it while brushing my teeth before facing the world.


Hindi Lesson # 2

While I thought I was merely writing into the abyss which is cyberspace, I have apparently accumulated a readership which includes more than My Mom. (Actually, My Mom isn’t in on the blog scene and doesn’t, in fact, read this.) As such, my readers have, like the masses throughout history, begun making demands. Apparently, I don’t post frequently enough. Now, this brings me to an interesting dilemma: sometimes, my life has no funny or awkward moments.

Okay, that’s a lie. By now you’ve read enough to know I magnetically attract awkward and Varun oozes funny. Nevertheless, not everything is blog-worthy. So, in between blog-worthy occurrences, I’ll have to dig up stories and relive awkward moments.

This story takes us back to last spring, when I was taking Hindi Lessons. As you might remember from Hindi Lesson Numero Uno, my teacher and I had hit it off and, if still unable to nasalize “n”, I was at least providing my teacher with comic relief.

During my second lesson, we were discussing phrases. I learned a phrase which is translated, “Please mind your business”. Aware that I tend to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, especially in India, I asked my teacher about this phrase.

Me: So, is this phrase something you would say when you’re angry or annoyed?
Madame Hindi Tutor (MHT): No, not at all.
Me: Oh, okay. Because we have something similar in English and it means “I don’t wanna talk to you, go away”.
MHT: Yes, well. Hindi is a very polite language. In English you slap across the face with language. In the east, we slap more subtly, and politely.

As much as my reflex was to defend English, a quick mental review of some key crude phrases and the ease with which I insult people rendered me only able to smile vaguely and nod. (I mean really, we’re the language speakers that invented “talk to the hand” and other such phrases.)

My Turn to Blush

I don’t usually hide in bathroom stalls and text friends to avoid social situations. But sometimes, no other course of action seems viable.

It was last February, and Varun was months into his job hunt. It had been suggested to him to join professional engineering organizations and shmooze with people in his field. So, he joined an Indian engineering association. Actually, it was Punjabi, but pretend you’re me, and you don’t know that yet or didn’t bother to differentiate.

Varun announces one day that the association is having it’s yearly dinner which means people to whom he can give his business card, bhangra dancing, and of course, unlimited Indian food. I immediately began contemplating which sari to wear and convinced Varun that No, I wouldn’t find it boring and would love to come and support him. And binge on butter chicken. Everyone’s happy.

I vaguely remember asking Varun if he cared what I wore and he replied rather absentmindedly, that I look lovely in anything. Later, I would come to wish I had pursued this conversation further.

So, the big day rolls around and I went to my friend Pooja’s house to have her mom help me with my sari. I picked Varun up at the train station and we headed to the banquet.

Two things happened when we stepped inside: I realized I was the only white person in the room, and I realized I was the only woman in a sari. This is the moment when the Indian/Punjabi distinction came bouncing into my brain. Although Punjab is a region in India, unlike many other Indians the formal dress for women is a suit. In fact, thanks to my generous Mother in law, I have a trousseau of suits. Waiting to be worn. And so there I was, the only woman in the room exposing my belly. My white belly. Taking a deep breath, I smiled and decided to go with it. Just because I’m wearing the wrong outfit doesn’t mean I’m socially doomed. Right?

This is a suit.

This is a sari

Apparently, someone had forgotten to assign us a table, so we were seated at the extra table. Alone. After awkwardly looking around and realizing that everyone was socializing with people at their table, we headed to the appetizers buffet. Varun got to talking with some business men and I sat at the table and tried to look lost in eating my kabob.

Tired of staring at my plate, I got up and headed toward Varun. He was talking to a group of 4 middle aged men so I figured I could quietly stand next to him and listen, or at least look social. As I reached Varun, the group stopped talking and looked at me. They waited. I waited. Varun smiled and walked with me back to the table. Embarrassed, I was eager to know what had gone wrong. Varun explained that men and women don’t really approach each other or mingle in these situations; a fact he had known implicitly but never mentioned. Humbled, I encouraged him to go back to mingling as I’d “entertain myself”.

To spare the gory details, the highlights of my night included wandering around pretending I was looking for someone, eating copious amounts of food and realizing that, having not been assigned to a table, I had no means of meeting people. I watched the men on the dance floor. I took small plates of food to keep me busy, and yes, I hid in the bathroom and texted so no one could see I was alone.

Ever the concerned husband, Varun kept checking in with me and asking if I wanted to go home. I knew, however that it was a good opportunity for him so I encouraged him to stay. I learned a few things that evening, not the least of which was humility. I learned that India is a very diverse country, and I still have a lot to learn. I also learned that, in conservative Indian circles, women shouldn’t approach groups of men. And I think I got a glimpse into what Varun must feel all the times he makes cultural faux-pas. And, as a bonus, he got to laugh at/with me the whole ride home.

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