I Dreamed In Hindi!!!!!!

Every once in a while there comes a moment when something so epic happens that you basically get a Pass for the rest of the year. For me, that was last night.

Buddies, I dreamed in Hindi!! As in, my own brain constructed enough Hindi to speak a FULL sentence in distress while sleeping.

We all know that there are few things less interesting than hearing another person’s dream. But grab your coffee and wake up because I’m going to tell you all about my dream.

I was seated in a room with lots of people, all of whom were chatting casually. It might have been a sporting event. The guy next to me was friendly enough, but after a few minutes, he put his hand on my back. I politely asked him to remove his hand. He didn’t. I repeated more firmly and said if he didn’t, I’d call for my husband. And this is where it gets epic. “Varun!,” I called, continuing in Hindi, “Come over here? This guy has his hand–“. “His hand?!”, Varun asked as walked toward us and saw my predicament. He then beat the guy up. (Which was charming and awesome. But not awesome enough to overshadow the fact that I spoke Hindi while unconscious. BOOYAH.)

When I told Varun this morning, he was minorly impressed with my linguistic genius and highly impressed with his physical prowess. At any rate, I feel pretty pumped because I now have a Pass of Awesomeness for the year.

Perhaps the Indian pillows and blankets inspired me…

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An Audience of 1 Billion

This is Part II of my mini-series about my experiences in visiting India.

I have the opposite of stage fright. I actually really love having an audience. Whether it’s emceeing an event or captivating friends around the dinner table, I enjoy being the center of attention. *Eww–narcissism alert*. Seriously though, lots of people are afraid of public speaking or raising their hand in class, I’m not. I enjoy it. For the most part, this does not make me a fame monger.

What it does make me is a perfect candidate for an intercultural marriage. One trip to India and I got all the attention I could want for the next decade. I learned during that first trip that there are two kinds of attention: the good kind where I am in control and look awesome and funny, and the kind where I am an awkward and ridiculous deer in the headlights. And I’d be lying if I said my visits to India were the first kind.

Being a white bahu (daughter-in-law) means many things. In my family, it means I get to wear gorgeous, colorful Indian clothes and jewelry. It means people have low linguistic expectations. It also means lots of friends and relatives want to meet me.

This is a very interesting phenomenon. One thing I love about Indian culture is how relational it is: family and friends can sit and chat for hours–there isn’t the same compulsive need for productivity and action that I experience in North America. So here’s what happens. We visit someone’s house or entertain guests so they can meet me. I get decked up in a sparkling salwar kameez or saree.  We enter and I politely say “Nameste” and take whatever seat is offered me. After a few questions in English (How do I like India? Would I like chai? Is Varun a nice husband?), the conversation drifts to Hindi. And there I sit, fiddling with my bangles, deciphering head bobs and trying to pick up words in Hindi. Most of the time, Varun or Vasudha is with me and can translate tidbits or rescue me from tricky quesitons (“Which country is better: America or India?” *Hint:* Do not answer!).

That's an intense smile I have there...

Usually, these visits last a few hours and feature a procession of water brought on a silver tray, chai, Fanta or Limca, salty snacks, samosas and sweets. I love being included and welcomed. But I’ll be honest: sometimes it’s a bit odd to be the guest of honour and be out of the conversation, day-dreaming about henna patterns and wondering why the chai I make is never as delicious.

These experiences, however, are just me being the awkward and fawned over deer in the headlights.

But the real fun starts when I open my mouth. Or dress myself. Or go out in public. For example: Varun’s Mom often gets outfits custom made for me while I’m in India. A nice tailor works in their neighborhood and graciously sizes and resizes blouses and pants until they fit my little American self. One day, Varun’s Mom told me to go to the tailor and just ask him to remeasure my bust. Somehow I understood that he had requested that and all had been arranged. I was rather proud of myself for running an errand alone. So I boldly went to his hut. When he looked up, I realized I had no clue how to say “Please measure me for that saree blouse you’re working on. My Mother-in-law sent me. I believe you require my bust measurements?” in Hindi. So I did it the old fashioned way: I opened my arms wide and stuck out my chest. Oh that poor tailor.  The man could not have looked more embarrassed. Thankfully, my dear cousin had been sent to check up on me and clarified everything. Or, at least apologized for my errant and loose behaviour.

Going to India as a white bahu is not just being a naive white tourist in an exotic land. It’s being the only family member who does not understand, who does not see social rules or conventions. It means mis-stepping and speaking out of turn. It means laughing when no one else is, and not laughing when everyone else is. But it also means being treasured, and protected. It means family going the extra mile to interpret, explain and guide. And it means having an audience. When I’m awesome, and when I’m awkward.

Finally being a demure bahu: eyes down and mouth closed.

Oh yup, knew it wouldn't last long.

Sick Days and Bollywood and Daft Bets

One of the perks of being sick is that you can watch endless numbers of TV shows and movies and not feel guilty. Okay that’s a lie. Maybe in someone else’s world this works, but for me the pattern is something like this: wake up with a ridiculously sore throat. do something productive. feel sick. nap. watch a movie. feel guilty. try to be productive. feel sick. watch a show. Do this on repeat for about 4 days and that’s where we find ourselves.

So yesterday, in an attempt to be both productive and to rest, I decided to watch a Bollywood movie with no subtitles. I get to rest, and learn Hindi. Everybody wins.

Dil Chata Hai (The Heart Desires) is a great movie about friendship, love and shiny tight pants. I think. It was in Hindi though, so it’s really anyone’s guess.

Anyway. This music video is a favorite in this house. It means, “Wonder Why?”. In case you can’t tell, *spoiler alert* they’re not dating and she is pretending she doesn’t want to…when in fact she is madly in love with him.

As we were getting ready to sleep, I was looking at the box and realized one of the actresses’ name is Dimple. I found this wildly amusing and asked Varun if that’s a normal Indian name. He remarked that it never seemed funny to him when he lived in India.

Me: Great. So that can be our third child’s name. Dimple. So it’ll be Tortellini, Frankenstein and Dimple.*

Varun: Oh, so you’ve finally decided to agree with me?

Me: Yup. I’m going to be an agreeable wife now.

Varun: Wow. Ha. I wonder how long that will last.

Me: (Demurely) Yes, I wonder too.

Varun: (look of bemusement) (brainstorming how to get me to disagree)

*In case you’re wondering about the projected names of our first two children, prepare for utter confusion.

Once upon a time, when I was young and engaged and foolish, Varun and I were playing Fussball and it was 9-9. Blinded by my desire to win, I made the following bet, “Okay, whoever wins gets to name our first child”. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than Varun slammed the ball into the goal and shouted, “FRANKENSTEIN!” I laughed uneasily as he taunted me with his win.

Fast forward 6 months. Varun and I were waiting in the airport to pick one of Varun’s groomsmen and I made the fateful mistake of betting. Again. “Okay, let’s guess the number of people who will come out before Corey. If I win, I get the first child’s name back. If you win, you get the second child”. Oh Amelia of 2009, if only you knew. Varun won. Much to my amusement he somehow settled on the name Tortellini. (This is our favorite pasta. So go figure.) Every time this comes up he does this goofy/serious thing of “But you promised, Amelia. You can name the next ones”. Needless to say, I’m not really sure if “Dimple” would be an improvement or not…

So, to recap: Watch Dil Chata Hai. Bring me chicken noodle soup. Take some time in the next 2-4 years helping Varun brainstorm *reasonable* baby names. Be careful when making bets with Varun.

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