An Unexpected Afternoon

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Nikita, left and Vaishnavi, right. (Photo by Josh)

Today, another little adventure showed up on my door.

Around 5pm, two girls knocked on our door and asked to come in. Nikita age 11, and Vaishnavi age 10 happen to be our neighbors. I was actually in the bathroom when they arrived, and I found Josh and these two girls in our porch drinking cokes.

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Apparently they had seen us in our backyard from afar two days ago when Josh was taking pictures of me wearing a sari. They were asking about the sari. They didn’t speak fluent english but enough that we could totally communicate. But I seriously need to learn more Hindi and Marathi, the local language. Then, Vaishnavi, the outgoing one, grabbed my camera and starting directing us while she took some pictures.

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Photo by Vaishnavi
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Photo by Nikita
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Photo by Vaishnavi

Then another boy who knew the girls, arrived and stayed to hang out.

After some chitchat on the porch, they asked if they could come in and use the laptop. I gave in. Vaishnavi took over and she started seeing pictures from our wedding. She loved them. She especially loved my dress and asked if I had it here. “I left it in America”, I said, which is the truth. Then, she said she wanted to write, so I simply opened a compose email window and she started typing everyone’s full name. Letter by letter with just one finger and naming each letter in english. She typed her full name, then Nikita’s full name, then the boy’s full name, then she asked me to spell my full name, and Josh’s.

(Side note) In Mexico, our full names are pretty long because they include our first name, a middle name if any, our first surname which is the father’s last name, and our second surname which is our mother’s last name. We all have two last names so a full name comes to 3 or 4 names. And apparently they do too here in India. The first last name is the father’s last name, and the second one I am not sure what it is; she said the word for it but said she didn’t know the word in English, but it wasn’t the mother’s name. It was something else.

I just googled it. This is what I found in wiki:

“Indian family names are based on a variety of systems and naming conventions, which vary from region to region.

In Gujarat and Maharashtra the most common format for names is: given namefather’s name (Middle name), last name. For example, for cricketer Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, “Sunil” is his given name, “Manohar” is his father’s name, and “Gavaskar” is his family name.

Traditionally, when a woman marries, she takes her husband’s given name as her middle name, in addition to taking his family name.”

We live in Maharashtra, so this is the info I got. So now I know! And you do too.

When Vaishnavi got to asking Josh’s name, whom as an American, only has one last name, Vaishnavi was confused. She kept saying “No no, full name. My name is Vaishnavi [father’s name] [family name], what is yours?” And Josh kept repeating his short name. Until she understood that was it.

Then she typed “My favorite friend is Nikita, Mani, [some other name]. I love friends.” She asked me to spell “favorite”.

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This typing went on for a while, maybe 30 minutes, and then she closed the window. All that work! I would’ve liked to save it. Then she found my sunglasses and put them on.

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indiangirls9 After spending a considerable amount in the laptop (thankfully I didn’t succumb to offering them to play a game), they decided to tour the house. Vaishnavi, as I mentioned the outgoing one, was very curious. She was looking inside my purse, she grabbed and played with my cellphone, she took over the laptop, she put on my shoes, and she took over the camera (she didn’t press the button hard enough, so many of her photos didn’t come out). I guess I am bit glad because she was asking me to pose in all these funny/weird ways. She asked me to pretend I was talking on the phone and she told me where to place my arms, then she asked me to sit down and pretend to yawn, then she asked me to grab the backpack and “walk to school”. On second thought, I guess it would’ve been fun to look at those photos.

They went to see the kitchen where she had to look inside the fridge and find my chocolate. (Have I mentioned I am a chocolate addict?). Luckily they didn’t beg for it. Except I thought too soon. Later, they did ask for it. And they were also asking for more cokes like every 10 minutes. Nikita saw the almonds in a jar and when for some reason the two other kids left the kitchen and left Nikita and I by ourselves, she seemed to gain the courage to ask me for an almond. I happily gave her two. (I would’ve given her more, but I didn’t want to create any fights, which I had seen a glimpse of when they were using the laptop.)

Then they went into the bedroom and asked me to put on a dress or a top. I guess a tank top is not really a top here in India. I told them I didn’t have any pretty Indian clothes, all plain American. I grabbed a black t-shirt, and she said “no black, with design”. I said I didn’t have with design. And then she grabbed a bright green t-shirt she saw and asked me to put it on. Then she found my scarf hanging and asked me to wear it as well. Then she asked me to put my hair down, she grabbed a hair clip and put it on my hair, and then brushed my hair with my brush. I love getting my hair brushed, so that was nice. (I mean who doesn’t?)

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Photo by Vaishnavi

Guess what happened afterwards? Vaishnavi asked me to come to their homes and I agreed. First we stopped at Nikita’s home which is like 2 minute walk from ours, I didn’t go inside but Vaishnavi took some photos with some other kids.

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Photo by Vaishnavi

Then we walked another 2 minutes to Vaishnavi’s home where I was greeted by her very cute sister with a big smile and she grabbed my hand to walk to her house. They had a few flowers growing infront and they each took a flower and gave it to me. I wasn’t taking pictures because Vaishnavi had the camera. Then I went inside her house. Very small and modest, basically it was one big room, half kitchen half bedroom. She asked me to sit down and she went to get her mom.

The mom arrived with a big smile and lots of energy. Now I can see Vaishnavi’s personality source. She didn’t speak English, or much Hindi, mostly just Marathi. But somehow, I understood that she had also seen me in the sari the other day, and she pointed at the day in her calendar. There were like 10 kids here now. I don’t know who they are or where they live but they all know each other. Vaishnavi only has one sister and one brother. I found that the mom’s name is Manisha. (My full name is Manija). It was a cool coincidence.

While Manisha made chai for me, Vaishnavi took some kids outside and took photos of them.

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Photo by Vaishnavi
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Photo by Vaishnavi
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Photo by Vaishnavi
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Photo by Vaishnavi
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Photo by Vaishnavi

I drank my chai, very slowly because it was super hot, but very good. Never fails to have some real homemade Indian chai.

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Photo by Vaishnavi

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I asked Vaishnavi to hand me the camera so I could take a photo and all the kids lined up in front of me. There was very little light in this house and I just hate using flash, so the photo came out super dark. But as I was editing it, I found a little pick a boo on the bottom middle of the pic. A little girl smiling next to the front girl’s shoulder.

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Do you see it? It’s so cute! I added this second picture with more exposure so that you could see it.

Then I thought I should at least try out the flash.

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See why I hate flash? But at least you can see their faces.

Then it was mom’s turn.

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Manisha was super friendly, beautiful, and full of joy and energy. Her photograph doesn’t do her justice AT ALL.

I told Vaishnavi: “your mommy is very beautiful.” and she responded something like: “I know!” (then translated) and then said “daddy also!”. It seems like they are a good looking family. They showed me a small picture of dad who is at another town at the moment.

Vaishnavi, her little sister and I walked back to my house because she wanted me to put my wedding photos in my camera to show her mom. I said I couldn’t do this, and then she told me to put in my mobile. I think I could do this, but nothing was working while I tried. I told her that maybe tomorrow. (It was dark and I was tired anyway.) But she insisted and kept saying “but I said please.” I tried to explain I just couldn’t do it. Eventually she gave up and left. I told her: “see you!” and she said “tomorrow.”

Even though today was fun, I wasn’t sure if I was so happy about having these kids come over everyday and use all my things, and ask me for things. They live so close by. I have a bit of an issue with people invading my personal space, but I guess I’ll just take this as a tolerance lesson.

There is really no place like India. Everyday I have this thought “nothing to write about today in my blog.” But then something unexpected always happens and it is usually worth writing about.

13 thoughts on “An Unexpected Afternoon

  1. Mani.. what is your town?

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  2. Oh wow..that is a long one!.. my friend Nimmi across the street is from Meerut (not sure of the spelling) and she is going back for good next year.. sad…

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  3. Lovely kids, sounds like a fun afternoon. That’s the real joy of travelling, those unexpected events. And I love the kids snapping away with your camera!

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  4. Sounds like a very interesting afternoon. I think you probably learn a lot more about the culture from kids because they aren’t all self-conscious about trying to be something special for a westerner. They simply are themselves. The photos are cool too.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we have long found India fascinating.

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    1. Yeah. Adults are pretty genuine too, the only difference is that they try to get the most money out of you as they can.

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  5. Hi 🙂 Have you moved to India permanently? Maharashtra (Pune) is where I was born and brought up. I moved to Florida for grad school and now I work here too. I loved reading your account of these kids turning up and making themselves at home; but I fully identify with the personal space thing that you said. India is a difficult place to enforce personal boundaries 🙂 It has been so long since I left, that now, when I visit, it takes a little calibration for me to get used to questions like “So, why aren’t you married yet?” minutes after my plane lands in Mumbai! hahah! But it is also why people are generally less lonely and depressed. I wish you a LOT of happiness in my motherland and I hope you find your comfortable, un-invaded space .. you will 🙂

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    1. Hi! Thanks so much for your words and sharing your thoughts. My husband and I did move there permanently last year but due to circumstances and destiny we are actually based in the US now but I still like sharing stories from when we lived in India. 🙂

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  6. Interesting story and cute photos. 🙂

    janet

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  7. Thanks for sharing this story Mani, kids can be so innocent even in all their brashness 🙂 I’m happy to know you find my country so interesting.

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  8. WoW. Such an interesting story and what an amazing time you had with them. I can just imagine it and feel glad about it. Yes, india is a very lovely place, and people have lot of warmth and affection just like Mexicans. I was in Mexico few months back and i can definitely vouch for that. Mani, so nice to read your blog and enjoy these cute gems in your photos. Thanks a lot.

    Do visit my blog as well, you will find similar story of humanity there as well. 🙂

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    1. Hi Suyash, thank you for your comment. I think Indians and Mexicans have similarities in some ways.
      Thanks for your kind words,
      M

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      1. You are most welcome, Mani. Thank you so much….

        Like

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