Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Your Average Indian
by venitha

Jim loves luxuries, and I am crazy for the latest fashions, we were told by a astro-palmist. He was certainly not basing these observations on our appearance: we were dressed very simply, in t-shirts, shorts, and sandals, and were, by our standards, completely filthy. Since our last showers, we had gotten up close and personal with a camel, had spent a night in the desert, and had tromped through many narrow, winding, far-from-clean city streets.

Two hundred rupees poorer, I laughed about the complete untruth of our readings. Jim, in his usual good nature, pointed out that they were worth the entertainment fee (~US$5) and that relative to your average Indian, he does enjoy luxuries and I may well be a fashionista.

I don't buy it. And anyway, we were both also told that our educations were substandard. Say what you will about Wisconsin's public school system and its notable omission of geography lessons on the half of the world we now inhabit. Relative to your average Indian, we have no room for complaint.

We settled comfortably atop a rock wall at the local vegetable market, gobbling up a huge serving of people-watching while Jim peppered Kailash, our guide, with questions about . The history of the half of the world we now inhabit is another notable omission from our substandard educations.

A local musician, stepping smoothly between the enormous bowls of produce, caught my eye, and before I knew it, he was sitting beside me, welcoming me to his beautiful golden city and happily practicing his already perfect English.

"Ooooh, you are very smart," he cooed when I answered his query about my job.

"No," I corrected, "I am very educated. I'm no smarter than someone who learns English merely by talking to tourists."

He responded with that Indian head wobble that I absolutely love and that surely means No argument here, but you are full of shit, ma'am, but aloud, he disagreed agreeably. "English is easy. Don't need school."

"The lack of education, of opportunities, here in India, is very sad to me," I told him.

He looked straight at me and smiled widely. "But I am happy. Playing music. And talking to you."

Such bold and corny flirtation, when I was sitting next to my obvious and oblivious husband and was filthier than I have been in I-don't-know-how-long, made me smile widely in return. And made me happy, too.