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I had my doctor’s appointment today and much against my better judgement, I decided to leave the safety of my house. Srijith had repeatedly assured me that “he would kick anyone’s ass” if they stared at my rather ghastly scarred face. I needn’t have worried at all, no one we met on the way so much as threw at a general glance in my direction. All this made me rather bold and I have been craving some Indian food for a while now, so we made a short detour to an Indian dhaba near my doctors office. We were just gonna pack some stuff and get away and I kept inconspicuously behind Srijith, hiding my face like a shy bride. But yet, to my surprise, the old man at the Indian shop decided to give advice on how to best get rid of the marks on my face! Not that I was looking for advice, but just the fact that the man cared to notice, made me smile. Across all these miles, it took an Indian to show some concern. And I never thought I would ever say this in my life, but I do miss that about India.

When I am home, I complain about how just about everyone loves to give advice, totally unasked for and often unwelcome. If I drive, the policeman at our street corner will wave and say “Ma’am, drive carefully”. If I wear a blue salwar to the temple, the old lady there will tell me, “Kutty, you should wear red saris. Red colour will definitely suit you”. If I am at the bookshop, someone is bound to give me a book recommendation. And how I long for all these to come back, because now everyone in the 1 kilometer radius of my home is stuck with the refrain: “ have been married for a while haven’t you..hmm”. While I had found all these annoying, its even worse when no one cares, not even to annoy you.

And the apathy is definitely something I am very much guilty of. Having lived for quite a while in Singapore, which I call the king of apathic lands, its rubbed off quite a bit on me too. If I see a girl sobbing in my neighbourhood, I probably wouldn’t ask her whats wrong. I will justify she had a fight with her boyfriend and just needs to be left alone. The thing is, if everybody just leaves everybody else alone, we are all gonna be very lonely.

The next time the old lady advises me to wear a red sari, I will just nod and smile and maybe even wear a red sari the next day.

Posted in Culture & Languages, Personal on June 13, 2005

8 Responses

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  1. Anupama says

    I read your blog a few hours after I wrote you a long mail choc-a -bloc with advice. Oops! Well, hope it leaves you feeling happy.
    Living abroad makes me pine for all that unasked advice too. Interestingly I used to hate it when Amma asked me not to scratch any pimples and do it anyway. Now, when I scratch I find her voice echoing from memory and stop myself…..

  2. Anjali says

    Nice one!

    Yeah, i know exactly what you mean when you talk about being apathetic. After living in the US for 5 years, i did feel like I had sort of lost that part of me that used to treat people like people, accept imperfections, and tolerate good-humoured nagging and interference. Seemed so natural in India, but irritated me to no end once I left India.

    I hope you are doing okay and the scarring is just temporary. Your story reminded me of my early days here in Brussels…..i did something very silly and ended up with a big scar above my lips that looked like Hitler’s moustache! I refused to ride the metro for weeks!!! And all this happened right on my first week at work here….imagine going into work, facing my new team and my new, very sophisticated French boss… wonder no one takes me seriously! ;-)

  3. Pramod says

    Interesting post again Surya :-)

    But just a thought – another way of looking at the value system here is apaty = focused emphaty? Ok am not trying to justify the approach here – but I think there is always something interesting to learn.

    YOu might find this speech from 10/2002 by Infosys’s NRN intereting reading.

  4. Venkat says

    Very off-topic, but I was reminded of an old joke:

    Question: Which is worse, ignorance or apathy?

    Answer: I don’t know and I don’t care.

  5. Abi says

    This quick
    by Ammani appeared just a few hours after I read your post. Coincidence?

  6. Priya Menon says

    hi surya,
    hope u r getting dad met uncle who told him u r having this c pox. dont worry about the scars,everything will settle down.i too had a few big scars in 2 weeks of coming to UK which have faded off….honeymoon gift from suraj….get well soon,

  7. Siva says

    Yes, I too feel homesick, after reading this… nice :-)

Continuing the Discussion

  1. POV » Blog Archive » Bharateeya BlogMela - a round up linked to this post on June 18, 2005

    […] ey must be terrorists”) view in American society. Surya writes about how sterile and apathetic society makes her long for the unsolicited advice from complete strangers. Ne […]

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