I’ve had a lovely gentleman from India staying with me the past week. A friend of a friend asked if I could provide a room while he visited some old friends and colleagues on the Eastern Shore. Since I was in Nepal a year ago this week, I thought it was a serendipitous sign and agreed. I'd forgotten how funny Indians can be in their halfway-across-the-world way of thinking.
Sometimes in conversation, Narpat will do what I call the “Indian head wobble.” It looks like a cross between a nod and a shake. The confusion is made worse because the wobble is silent. When asked, Narpat told me it is to mean that one has not finished thinking. Here are some snippets of conversations between Narpat and me:
On American Education (In 2009, Narpat taught chemistry at a private school in Maryland).
Me: Narpat, how is teaching in the U.S. different from teaching in India?
Narpat: I don’t think the American student takes education seriously especially with the high tuitions the parents are paying. They are not very disciplined with the time they spend in the classroom.
Me: Do Indians spend the same amount of time in the classroom?
Narpat: Oh no. It is very informal. I teach chemistry whenever I feel like it. I call the students and tell them we will have a class tomorrow at 2:00 or show up Friday morning at 11:00 and they will come.
My spin: Indians must have a different sense of time and discipline than Americans. Thank God we are not on Bombay time. Our kids would never learn chemistry.
Me: So, Narpat, do you cook?
Narpat: Oh yes. I love to cook and am very good.
Me: So tell me. What do you like to cook?
Narpat: Macaroni and cheese.
My spin: I’ll still be cooking this week.
Me: Mumbai is very close to Pakistan. Does that bother the people of India?
Narpat: No, we are not bothered. We understand if the Pakistanis are not fighting, they cannot digest their food.
My spin: These people must be very lenient. Americans would make sure they were choking on their food.
On Washing Machines: (while I am teaching him to use mine)
Narpat: Our neighbors have washing machines but my family does not go for them.
Me: Why is that?
Narpat: Indians get dirty unevenly and washing machines wash clothes evenly.
My spin: Makes perfect sense.
Me: How long have you been married?
Narpat: 20 years.
Me: How did you meet your wife?
Narpat: It was an arranged marriage. Six months before the wedding we met. Of course, we had to be astrologically matched as well.
My spin: Maybe the divorce rate would not be so high in the U.S. if we were forced to apply for an astrology chart along with the marriage license.
On Stay at Home Moms
Me: Does your wife work?
Narpat: Oh no. She stays in the home and has much to do.
Me: So she is a “stay at home” mom. That’s great she can do that.
Narpat: Yes and also a woman cooks for us, another woman cleans and a man helps out with chores like washing our car.
My Spin: A teacher’s salary in India, a stay at home mom and they have three people helping with all the work? What am I doing wrong?
Narpat's been a wonderful guest and I think he feels I have been a good hostess. We may have different spins on the small things but we have both agreed on one big thing:
Narpat: When I travel, I just accept things as they are and try not to judge others.