Since our time here in the US, people back home often ask us about our experience here. How we’ve adapted to a new city, a new country and a new culture. We are no strangers to the States, but calling it as “home” has been somewhat unfamiliar for us. Initially, at the least. These days it’s easier to answer when people ask us where we are from. I just explain, in not too many words mind you, on how we migrated across two continents. And why we chose to do it. And how exhausting it has been. Yadayadayada. My husband would rather I just let him take the lead on answering the question. Have you met Mamta? The master story-teller. She often doesn’t know when to stop. *sheepish smiley*
Considering that I can talk non-stop until the cows come home, you would think social conversation is a piece of cake for me. Urm, no. And if there is one such custom that I have observed in this new city of mine, it’s this – small talk. It is everywhere. In the beginning, I too engaged in friendly banter with anyone who initiated it. The fish monger at our local Whole Foods, the barista at the corner Starbucks and the server at the pizza place. I assumed it was the way of the western world, you know. The polite thing to do. People commented on the weather & I told them what I really thought of the Texas summer! This lasted for probably a month before it got old. I am a reasonably social person. Some may even go to the extent of saying that I am a friendly gal. I am not saying I cannot engage in small talk, I just don’t see the need for it. We don’t need to talk about the weather, we can look it up online…for days ahead ! We don’t need to swap recipes, there’s Pinterest for that. No I did not watch the game last night, I clearly know nothing about american football (Which I personally believe is the most frustrating game to watch. Next to Test Cricket.) Silence is sometimes golden. Especially when getting a pedicure.
Back home, the only small talk I indulged in was with my maid. This was perfectly fine by me. I had vested interests. As is common amongst other Indian women, I respected my relation with my maid. I daresay it was something….sacred. I was ready to do anything to ensure the continuity of her employment in my home. In India these days it’s not the gais (cows) that are worshipped but the bais (maid). The three little words that hold importance in your life isn’t “I Love You”. It’s “Memsaab kal chutti” (Madam tomorrow holiday). Women develop a sixth sense when it comes to these situations – one can anticipate it coming their way. The maid who would zip her way through the house and finish chores that would usually take her a mere half-hour, now takes a full hour. An extra effort is invested while mopping the floors to make it look shiny. Dishes are unusually sparkly. There are some unexpected smiles thrown your way. You look back and wonder if it is meant for someone else. Then it hits you. This was just a scheme to get you. You’re it. You mentally prepare yourself to manage the house all on your own and reach out for the take-out menus for the corner Chinese restaurant. It’s going to be all right. She will be back. Soon.
Here in the States, we have no maids. Neither do we have the convenience of an istriwala (one who irons your clothes). I have missed them all dearly. DIY (Do-It-Yourself) takes a whole new meaning here. I am pretty sure the term was coined here. Why else would this place be crawling with so many Home Depots, Office Depots, Hobby Lobby & Lowes. The king of them all is IKEA. It cannot be a Swedish company. Unless Sweden also does not have maids.
You may ask me how I am handling small talk these days? Exceptionally well I might say. I avoid all possible eye contact. No lookie, no talkie. 😀