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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Expat interview series - My turn!

I had the privilege of being a part of the Expat interview series held by - A Letter from the Netherlands. It was fun and self-revealing, answering her questions.

Thanks Amanda!! :)

My black beauty retired

Me and my big black bag are inseparable. We have crossed several lands and seas together. In fact my bag is like my royal steed. I use it as my everyday office bag, for heavy shopping, trips; my all purpose XXL sized 'throw the whole world in' remedy for all ocassions. In pain and joy, rain and shine we have seen so much together. But everything changed last weekend. This is what happened.

I make this weekly visit to Aldi every Saturday for my grocery needs, of course with my black beauty. This week as I was shopping, I wedged my way through two sections and hit a pile of boxes with my bag making a big mess (this is normal, the big brute is of good use in a crowd as well..:D). But a Dutch guy spotted me at it ( darn! ) and struck conversation with me while I was clearing it up. He spoke to me for a while in Dutch. I tried my best to pass off the conversation without acknowledging that I din't quite understand all that he said, but it failed miserably. Turns out the guy was the reverend of a church in Eindhoven. He even invited me to the BBQ the church committee held that evening. I politely refused and as he moved on, he grinned and suggested that I should perhaps get a smaller bag. Ah! the nerves of that man to insult royalty! :P

I packed in as much as I could and moved on to the billing queue and there again without fail, I nudged a man approaching the queue from the other side with my bag (Miss Klutz in full form!). He dropped some of his stuff and he was nice enough to let me go ahead in the line without complaint. I forgot about the whole incident soon. Monday came and I was zipping my way to office on my bike, when suddenly I heard some one yell a big "Hi" from behind and ask me how I was doing? I was confused! I did not recognize the person at all and apologized to him asking who he was. He laughed aloud and said he was the guy whom I had bumped into at Aldi and he had recognized me from behind by my bag!!!! I gave him my big sheepish grin and waved good bye.

I bought myself a new bag that evening. Smaller! Much smaller! Well, with the divine intervention and all that, what else could I do.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Circle complete!

Yesterday I finally completed the circle which began in Arizona, USA passed through Vancouver, Canada; Chennai, India and finally ended in Nijmegen, Netherlands. I mentioned before about the rather interesting turn of events that led me to the Netherlands. In short I finally met the woman with the same weird complicated name that I have, with whom a Dutch professor fell in love and married and who after many many years came to Arizona for a conference where out of curiosity over the similar name that I have as his wife started talking to me and after many many months convinced me to study further in the Netherlands. There, thats a one sentence summary! :)

So yesterday I was invited by this professor to his home for dinner and I finally met the lady whose name without her slightest knowledge had such a change in my life! :). Now, before I continue, I have to mention that Indians are a rather complicated sub form amidst the homo sapiens. Our culture even within different parts of India is so distinctly unique and framed that to this day we struggle to cut across boundaries within home land. So when I first heard about a south Indian woman marrying a Dutch man, it sounded unbelievable. I was immensely curious to know what guts the woman had to make such a decision in life (India, couple of decades back was even more orthodox) and what she thought of it today.

Well, somehow I really din't get a chance to ask her any of that with the other people around. But two beautiful kids, a wonderful Indian dinner which lasted for over 3 hours with all of us talking at the same time, with the professor knowing more about India than any of us, his Indian wife talking in perfect Dutch and above all their constant laughter said it all.

I still can't believe the kind of sacrifices that both of them would have made for such a life, especially the woman! I can never possibly even imagine that. To all you women who had the courage to move out of our countries for love, I take a bow. :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Oops I dropped my spoon!

The traditional south Indian cuisine consists of food placed on a cut banana leaf and people generally have their meals sitting on the ground and eating the food with their Hands.

To this day, most people even at offices and homes eat with their hands, though the banana leaves are gone. Only really formal and city bred folk use spoons and even then, forks and knives are just not needed for our diet which mainly consists of rice.

As I moved to Canada, the difference in dining table etiquette did hit me but not to a great extent. I was constantly in a student community and the university free food was generally pizza which we conveniently gobbled up with our hands. I mostly visited Indian/Thai restaurants and my student budget barely allowed me to visit the posh places. Basically I never cared much about table manners of the western world and conveniently cruised through life without paying great attention to it.

Then I came to the Netherlands. Enter - Formal dinners, office colleagues, people eating pizza with fork and knife situations. God, was I in a mess. The first formal dinner at TU/e will perhaps haunt me for few years. I was as it is nervous, as I always am in such formal places and I was new to the place and barely knew anybody. I was dreading how I was to get through the night, when they served me with spaghetti. I nervously announced that I am not particularly handy with the knife and fork. That perhaps was not the smartest thing to do. I could instantly feel all the eyes on me. My Italian colleague kindly explained to me how one is supposed to tame the wild noodly things. Well, all I can say is that I somehow survived.

The European way I believe is to have the fork in the left hand, the knife in the right and use the left hand to actually eat.I am not so strong with my left hand so I generally do a zig-zag of cutting with the knife on my right and fork on the left and then place the knife down and switch the fork back to the right to eat. Phew! Why does it have to be so complicated? I lose my appetite in the tension of switching it the right way without looking too awkward. With time, I am getting better. But I still have a long way to go to eat a formal dinner without actually thinking about it.

But for heaven sake, at least eat the pizza with your hands. Trust me, it tastes much better that way! :)

P.S - Obviously I am no big artist. But my feeble attempt at cartooning..:)

Picture Courtesy -
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