To bring in the New Year, we went to Langkawi – an island in Malaysia.
I’m not much of a beach person but I do like the relaxed atmosphere of beach towns. But on this particular trip more than the place, the people we came across made our trip memorable!
I do not know most of their names (some of them I did, but I forgot them by the time I sat down to write this post). Nevertheless I remember the conversations, which is more important for now!
The love for green chilies and raw onions
The holiday was going quite as usual, until we came across a ‘healthy’ Bengali family eating to their heart’s content. Let me tell you, ‘Healthy’ for most Indians is still what is ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’ for others.
Scene: we entered a Turkish restaurant, and saw a family of 6 – man and his wife, two kids, one guy (probably a brother) and one uncle. As we took a table next to them, I heard the uncle saying, “Mr. Dey recommended this restaurant.” And then another one adding, “এই কলকাতার কপার চিমনি চেয়ে ভাল.” (translation: “This is better than Kolkata’s Copper Chimney.”)
“You know he came here in 2001,” added the uncle (the most enthusiastic among them). They spoke mostly in Bengali, oblivious to the fact that we could comprehend their conversations. They went on showering praises till the last bit of food was left on their plates. And there was of course the little tiff over who will settle the bill at the very end. Typically in such a scenario, one of the persons with snatch away the bill from other and try to pay it and not tell the other person the actual amount of the bill – it’s equivalent to showing love/ care/ respect to the other!
Well, that day it reinforced my observation that Indians care so much about their food, that even on a holiday people can go to any length in search of their rotis (Indian bread) and rice! Well, Turkish cuisine has a close resemblance to Indian food. Of course, our presence at the restaurant also indicates we are one of them, at least for that evening!
And then I heard the uncle ordering green chilies and raw onions to go with his meal. Puzzled by the unusual request, the waiter nevertheless fulfilled the wish and I said to myself this is it!
Finding my Brother
Another evening, we chose a seafood restaurant for dinner. The waiters seemed to be either from India or Pakistan. We ordered roasted sting ray along with some other side dishes. After much delay the sting ray arrived and when it was time to pay the bill, the waiters were hesitant to bring it. After a while one of them mustered the courage and asked us, “What did you order?”
Perplexed by the strange question, my husband asked them what do you mean by that. It turned out the sting ray we ordered was calculated per grams and they forgot to take a note of the weight before serving us! Now it’s already down in our stomach!
They then ran to the find the chef and the scene was straight out of Tom & Jerry. All of them, one after the other went in the same direction to find the chef and when they couldn’t find him, all of them came up to us (again in the same pattern)! And all this while they were talking among themselves ‘arrey kya kare aab’ (what to do now?) oblivious to the fact that we understand/ speak Hindi. So, finally my husband called one of them in Hindi and asked them “kya problem hain?” (what’s the problem?) And the minute they heard those words, all of them surrounded us grinning from ear to ear!
“Aarrey hamein toh pata hi nahin tha ji, ki aap Hindustan se ho!” (we didn’t know you are from India).
“Hum toh Lahore se hain! Kitni acchi baat hain aap Hinduatan se ho. Hum toh bhai bhai hain!” (we are from Lahore, so nice, we are all brothers.)
I suddenly became the sister for one them and he asked me, while we were leaving, “behen duwa karna is bhai ke liye!” (Sister! Pray for your brother) and all I could manage was ‘haan haan zaroor.” (yes, of course). I could no longer take in such polished Hindi/ Urdu!
And he added, “Behen ki duwa bahut kaam aati hain,” (Sister’s prayers are always useful). Meanwhile, we settled the bill and said goodbye! They said Khuda hafiz!
We also came across more interesting people, like an European who suddenly gave a solo performance on the dance floor and it looked like a mix of martial arts and nagin dance from Bollywood, whereas in another corner of the dance floor an Indian girl didn’t mind to show off her latkas and jhatkas (moves) to the song ‘it’s the final countdown!’
It’s was definitely a memorable new year for us by just observing people, most of whom we didn’t know!