And now I am writing this, as I feel a positive Chinese ‘chi’ of Indian origin (to be specific Bangalore origin) caressing my mind and body.
The tea shop owner, whom I have never seen smiling, responded with a blush, and after a brief halt said, “good morning”. This greeting is not at all common in India, definitely not among the common masses who won’t greet you with a good morning, unless they really mean it. If they say good morning, they really wish you a good morning and good day ahead.
It’s not like the well-dressed stranger in an elevator who would smile looking at you and greet you with a morning note, without even caring whether he really meant a good day ahead for the stranger. Yes, I am proud of the fact that Indians are not into western artificiality. It’s constricting and is overtly a make over.
But, today, I decided to find it out myself how a simple greeting like “good morning’ could change my attitude towards my rather cynical outlook towards these fake western ‘manners’.
So I said good morning to the tea-vendor. He was obviously taken aback. May be, never in his career he had heard a ‘good morning’ from his complaining but regular customers. Indians complain a lot. He knows it by now. If somebody would crib that there is less sugar in the tea, other would frown about the tea becoming syrup. But the fact that they continue coming to the shop is testimonial to the fact that they indeed love the tea. Otherwise they won’t come. But they will never say if they are pleased when a good tea is served. The silence of argumentative Indians should be read as high praise.
Anyway, he took some time to adjust and digest. Suddenly the fifty-year-old pretended as a teenager and blushed. He gaped his mouth in approval (I saw four of his teeth missing, a never before discovery) and politely replied, “good morning good morning…the usual full-tea for you sir?”
“Oh yes, sure. You know my choice.”
And stupid both of us were smiling at each other as if we had a clandestine understanding.
I moved on and purchased a pack of cigarettes, I said “good morning, may I have a pack of gold-flake kings please”. And lo, the shop-keeper ignored the other customers and handed me the packet. “Good morning,” he said.
I was riding in my motorcycle back home when I saw another biker coming with the head-light on. I surprised myself by volunteering to warn him that the bike’s light was on (generally I enjoy seeing these goof-ups). I signaled while still riding and the man got it. He switched off the light and smiled, which only meant he was really really thankful. It’s an Indian way of saying “thanks a lot”. For my western readers, if any day, you bump upon an Indian saying “thank you” without a gleaming smile on his face, you can be assured, he is not thankful at all. Merely, he is becoming formal to you. But if he smiles approvingly and keeps silent, you can well assume he doesn’t want to utter the word “thanks” and belittle his gratefulness towards you. West is west and orient is orient, even in the days of globalization. And I pray it always remain so. But I still like the Urdu style of saying thanks. “Shukriya”! With the right hand at the chest, a little bent, and a serious grateful expression on the face; I just love it! On the contrary, take a typical westerner. He says thanks and ‘thank you’ in everything. He is perennially thankful to everything in life. But he doesn’t forget to shout “fuck you bastard” at the slightest inconvenience. Whew! Extreme edition!
So I was happy that the man smiled back at me.
I was parking my bike when the neighboring uncle, who was recovering from Parkinson, came out of the gate a little wobbly. “Good morning uncle,” I said. He gave me a lop-sided smile. “A very good morning young man,” he uttered the words with some difficulty.
We smiled back at each other. I knew the old man’s day was made. He is very frail and feels happy whenever somebody asks about him. I can understand his psyche. Generally I always halt in my way to ask about how he was recovering, whenever we cross our path. So that was not a major out-of-the-box experimentation from me.
But my greatest reward came when I met my landlord. He just had waked up and was brushing. Generally I am afraid of this man. He maintains an air around him which warns any loafer like me not to mess with him. But I must say, he has a heart of gold. Because of him, I got my internet connection after all.
So I carried my experimentation a little bit further and dared to greet him. “Good morning uncle”. He was very happy! He was very very happy! Against all his inhibitions about boys of my age, he stopped and asked me if I was facing any problem in the house. Whether I was facing any problem in this thirsty Bangalore where water is a perennial problem now. He asked me whether I needed a new lock for my room as it had broken.
Though I had some problems and repairing the lock is a priority now, I decided to return the goodwill. I don’t need anything now. I am happy in whatever you as a house-owner is availing me with. I am satisfied and happy for where I am living.
My house-owner was happy. So was I.
And the dog at the terrace! The staircase being outside the house, this dog comes to the terrace and sleep in the night. Often in the clothes that are kept for drying and fall from the wire.
Earlier, when I used to come from my office at night, this dog used to freak out and run for his dear life, tail tucked under the belly. But of late he has realized I am also a homeless dog like him and he has no danger from me what so ever. In fact, for the last fifteen days I am giving him biscuits (though careful not to make him my pet). So he was least afraid when I came at the terrace to have a morning smoke.
After some initial gymnastics, he came to me wagging his tail. I pat on his head. He yelped. Being a dog myself I perfectly understood his language.
“Oh thank you. A very good morning to you too dear. Wait here, I will fetch your biscuits.”
While coming to my room, I realized these western greetings are not without a cause. These are the cheapest way to let your vanity go and socialize and feel akin to realize your duty in this world. That to live and let live and that humans are waiting to be touched.
It’s no harm if you say you love them, you care. It only makes you wealthier. Now I will try to be a little nicer to people I interact daily. Hmmm…not everything in west is a complete decadence, I must say!
Good morning my dear westerners. A very nice day to you.