Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Proud to be an Indian!

Last evening I had a very heavy work out in the gym. Since I was going after a long time, I went for 5.5 mph and then switched to an incline of 4 on the treadmill. That was awful. It was gymming with a vengeance. No surprise then that my legs just felt like lead.

So when I was in the sauna, I folded my legs below me to relieve some stress. Just then an American came in and exclaimed, “ Hey you are an Indian aren’t you? I could make out from that brilliant yoga posture.” I tried in vain to explain that it wasn’t a yoga posture and that I was just bone tired. But that set me thinking on the numerous times when I have been identified as an Indian in a proud start of a way.

I remember once at the Euston station in London. There was the usual evening crowd returning back to their cities. I was sitting on a chair waiting for my train to Manchester. I had then developed a severe backache which didn’t allow me to stand for a long time. Just then an elderly English couple came. The chivalry within me wouldn’t allow me to sit and I offered my chair to her. The couple presumed that I may be leaving because my train may be due. When they saw me standing there, the old man approached hesitatingly and enquired, “Sir are you from India?.” I was taken aback. But then saw the triumphant twinkle in the old lady’s eyes. “ I knew.” She said. “ I can always expect such pleasant manners from an Indian.” Needless to say, I felt two inches taller.

The immigration officers in USA are trained to elicit information in a very benign sort of a way. They banter and exchange jokes with you even as they gather information. Last time the officer asked me where I was coming from. India I replied. Smart people he responded. Are you one of the hot shot IT brains? “ Well” I said “ we try to balance our smart people with some real dumb guys like me”. The officer leaned forward and conspiratorially whispered, “ We too get a few real dumb ones .we send them to the White House!”

I am proud to say that every Indian has contributed positively in raising the image of India abroad. On BBC I heard one old British lady defended Indian immigrants on a show on curbing the foreign invasion (as they called) citing the Indian corner shops ( over 90,000) owned by Patels. And all the guests on the show agreed. They remarked about the great jobs the Doctors, the nurses, and the software professionals from India were doing.

President Obama has many Indians on board too.

But my favorite anecdote is in Caracas, Venezuela. The hosts took us to a very charming quaint theme restaurant in a small village. The entire restaurant was decorated with the old 1900s things like newspapers, momentos etc. To my pleasant surprise I saw the picture of Mahatma Gandhi prominently displayed.

The owner came to personally supervise when he saw us foreigners. I enquired through our bilingual host if he knew who was the man. The old man crinkled his face into a smile and said he is the greatest man I know. He is not just an Indian saint. He is a treasure for all of us who believe in humanity.

Needless to say, the wine never tasted so good and the food never so delicious!

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