Monday, January 15, 2007

Unsuitable boys

So where are you from? Asked he in the manner of someone trying to improve his general knowledge. A small bell rings in my head. ‘Just-arrived’ it seems to say. Okay, I am not a Bombay snob; I believe in cultural osmosis and economic exchange and GDP enhancement and whatever it is that happens when people of different eccentricities cohabit the same landscape and get terribly productive. What I don’t get is the aforementioned question.

I feel like saying, “ I am a Bombayite; for as long as I remember (and I have an Iyer memory), I have lived in its intestines, its eustachian canals, its olfactory lobes, its womb, its lungs…”

Instead, I say, with strong eye contact, “Bombay.”

Yes, but where are you originally from? He continues, with the persistence of a leech that is impervious to salt. By this time, I have noticed his bad teeth and his tendency to shake his legs at the rate of 13 cycles per minute. He also snaps his fingers to call the waiter and by this time, I am hoping my phone will ring and I can rush out for an emergency as my dear friend has gone into labour and is alone. Or some such.

Okay, I am proud of my Dravidian origins, but the last time I went to Palakkad, I felt nothing. I remember filling a column called ‘native place’ in some form at school, but I don’t remember what I wrote there. And I was always at a loss for what to write on day one post the summer vacation when one is asked to ‘write a letter to your best friend on your trip to your native place.’

So coming back to my interlocutor. I am guessing what he wants to hear is Cochin, or Madras, or Bangalore, or wherever my Dravidian features slot me in his cerebellum, so that he can further demonstrate his general knowledge by holding forth on the spice trade or tea or coffee estates or banana chips or rasam, or any other clichés that may seem appropriate.

Instead, I say, ‘Bombay’ and try to look suitably bored. Surprise! He looks even more impressed.
Now comes the clincher.

So where are you put up?
Well, even at 46 kg, I will need altitude and a fair bit of wind to fly. And when I last looked at myself, which was early this morning, I hadn’t turned into a tent. Also, by this time, my lungs are dying to explode with all the suppressed laughter. So I say, ‘Bandra. And I really have to go now, because I just realised it’s my dog’s birthday.’

I can drop you. I have my vehicle!
Says he with the air of someone who will not give up.
And that’s something I still give points for, even though they might take a while to add up.

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