On the Dutch Dining Table
A spoon, a fork and a knife; and a large chunk of chicken leg piece on the plate. And just besides that, a person utterly confused about what to do with the silverware. Never ever in his wildest of dreams had he imagined that one could use any of those to eat chicken. Why can't I eat with with my bare hands? What's more? A bowl of red chili powder on the table and the person not pouring it all into his food just for the sake of humility. Why? Because the person besides the table is an Indian (that's me) and as per his standards that chili powder isn't hot at all. Really... Believe me, I added 4-5 teaspoons of it in my food and the the taste didn't change at all.
“Enjoy!”, said the Dutch friend sitting opposite to me. “Enjoy!”, I reciprocated. “So, how do you say 'Enjoy' in...”, the Dutch paused and pondered for a couple of seconds and continued “'Enjoy!' in INDIAN?”. I corrected, “You mean Hindi?”. “Oh ya... ya... in Hindi”, he smiled. This seemed to be a trivial question for my friend to ask but it was one of the most difficult questions ever asked. “Do we ever say such a thing in Hindi?”, I thought. But in a desperate search of answers gave it my best try, “Shuru kiya jaaye...”. “Shu-ru khi-yaa jhaa-ye?”. “Yup! That's right”, I smiled. Now my Indian friends may suggest the possible better versions of the response, but you would have to admit; given the fraction of second I had, that was a good try.
I spent about two months in Netherlands and realised one thing for sure. If I ever get an opportunity to teach them something, I would definitely go for cooking. Whenever I added a 'chhaunk' to daal (pulses) in the kitchen out there it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen in life. The shrilling noise of the process and the aromatic fumes which which brings smiles to the faces of us Indians, brought tears in their eyes and concern on their faces. “That thing which you did there... Isn't that hazardous?” “Nope! We do it all the time”. I tried to be convincing and reassuring but still the expressions on the faces could almost be heard out loud, “I am telling you dude! You will kill us someday.”
My visit to Netherlands made me realise one undeniable fact. We live in one of the most 'complicated' countries of the world... A large, weird, diverse, colourful, confused and complicated country. The look on the face of the people around you when come to know of the population of the cities... when they come to know that we have 18 official languages, hundreds of dialects and still no national language... when they come to know that it takes almost 3 days to cross the country... THAT expression on their faces makes us truly realise the great identity of the nation we live in... It gives you the true feeling of being an Indian... A feeling which we generally overlook.
I realised for the first time that we live in a 'diamond' shaped country. A country with the largest populations of followers of (at least) 5 different religions, with almost all possible geographical terrains and probably the most number of festivals. No surprises that we live in a diamond shaped country... No surprise we live in India.
1. The meal which I was talking about earlier... I took 2 hours to eat the meal. And then I realised the true meaning of the saying, “Apnaa haath Jagannath” :P
2. I also realised how complicated our mythology is. An interested friend asked me to explain the gist of the story Bhagwad Gita... And I had a tough time explaining why we worship a man who persuaded his friend to go for war against his own kin. After all the gods are supposed to be peace loving. Isn't it?