At a parent’s evening this week we were asked to get into groups of six and write down our own experiences of school life from ages 11 -16. In my group there were four Indian mums and an Indian dad. As we went round the group each member said they had enjoyed school and that it was ‘very nice.’ When it came to my turn I said that we had moved to South Africa when I was 11 and I was bloody terrified. The R.E teacher threw his crutch at my head. Blank expressions all round.
When asked for our group’s overall experiences, the dad stood up and said we had all had a ‘very nice’ time at school. Did that just happen? If I had said that I was mercilessly beaten every day and had my head flushed down the toilet would he have interpreted that as ‘very nice’? It seems to me that stuff quite often gets swept under the carpet if it’s not what people want to hear.
Picture me in ‘Landmark’ yesterday.
“Hello, do you have Jay-Z’s new album?”
Assistant shakes head in the affirmative.
“Can I buy it please?”
There follows a painfully long check on the computer and 20 minutes of looking under ‘J’ (where I obviously looked before approaching the assistant) before he says: “it’s not there” as if it had been there a minute ago but just jumped up and legged it out of the shop. We had both wasted 40 minutes of our lives. If only that young man had had the courage to give me the bad news early. It seems yes means yes and yes means no. I honestly think he just didn’t want to upset me and was putting off the inevitable. That is rather lovely in itself but when you are a child of the west and have a time-is-money- mentality, it’s just annoying.
Having my nails done this week (one of the bonuses of Mumbai life) the girl cut off a chunk of skin with the cuticle cutters. While I was yelping in pain, she quickly wiped the blood away and painted over the wound with clear nail polish. There, it never happened. This airbrushing is a cultural difference I can’t get my head around. It confuses, frustrates and amuses me no end.
I do not huff and puff with exasperation as I did when I first came here. Obviously stuff is happening that is way over my head, it’s a question of learning to understand by experience.
The judge in the Babri Masjid case did not want to offend and so has deliberated for 18 years until looming retirement forced him to deliver a verdict. Schools and offices were closed for the afternoon on 30 September in anticipation of political unrest. Nothing happened. I still don’t know what the outcome of that was, but maybe it’s not a bad way to carry on if it keeps the peace. Have a nice day now.