17 September 2006

Talk with a 'refined hillbilly'

Three of us were at lunch when a brightly clad American guy rolled over to us in a wheelchair. "You India?" he asked, and I nodded my head, still a little blinded by his yellow shirt. His words were punctuated by gestures. His hands folded together, "Naamustey." I was excited, "Namaste, I said." His hands came together in a big circle. "People come here from all over the world. They live peacefully, friends with each other, here. The media, they don't report that. They say other people are bad, they are fighting with each other." He took a photo with his hands. "But you guys, you should take photos, put it in the media, tell everyone, we are peaceful. Everyone is happy with each other. The politicians, they are trying to tell us, those people over there are bad, we are good. They are trying to divide people. Not good. Students come here from China, our government tells us China is bad, Red Dragon Rising."

"India... when I was drafted into the navy..." I interrupted, "was that the Korean war?" He said, "no, Vietnayam... I studied here, flying. 12,500 pounds or lower. I got my twin engined license. Wanted to join and fly for the army. But the draft came. I'm a hilbilly, from 30 miles away." I said, "I thought the hilbillies were from Kentucky." He laughed a little and said, "yes, Kentucky, real hilbillies... in Indiana, refined hilbillies. the draft... I pushed planes around on a flight deck. Didn't fly. 1969, Rayvi Shaynkaar..." And then he made a gesture as if he was playing a sitar. "Rayvi Shaynkaar, John Lennon... they play together, I still remember. We want to help India, they are in a dangerous neighbourhood. India, lot of culture. I keep in my heart. Where are you all from?" I pointed to myself and said, "India." One of my friends was from Sri Lanka and other from Iran. He again moved his hands in a wide circle and brought them to his body, "you see, all of you here, friends. you tell them. Everyone is happy together here. When the tsunami came, India in our hearts, Sri Lanka in our hearts." He held his hands up in a praying gesture, " We prayed... to God, Allah, same, up there, good. Pray for me as well."

"Purdue is a good place. I came by there," he said, pointing at the road behind us, "girls, drunk, falling. I could be arrested just for thinking about it, you know? ha ha ha. My friend, inside, he's Lebanese, we are all friends here, we live peacefully. He said he's from Iowa. I asked him if he knows how to say goodbye in Japanese. He said no, so I tell him 'Sayonara.' Now when I leave he says, 'sayonara' to me. He's from Iowa. Now I'm going to the library. I'm going to read the Kama Sutra. I asked my friend if he knows it, he was laughing. India, in my heart," pointing to his heart, "here." I asked him, "will you have a chance to visit India?". Perhaps I should not have asked as he looked sad. "No, not so much money now. But India is in my heart. Good things it has given the world. Pray for me, bye."

I have actually paraphrased the conversation, not reported verbatim what was said. But there you go Gregory, if you ever see this, I have reported it to the world.


Amrita said...


Anali said...

What a mysterious encounter! Reading it was like watching a movie.

freespirit said...

Wow! I can actually believe this conversation. I get this in a lot of places where they only see Indians on CNN :)

lova said...

hehehe, so if you were a betting man, what would be the odds that Greg "the fab" hillbilly actually get to this post ;) ? And would he remember having this conversaton with you ?
love the "everyone is happy with each other" thing ;)...

Mosilager said...

amrita and anali thanks ... :D

freespirit - what places are those that don't have Indians? I thought when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon he was greeted by ,"Chai, chai!"

lova - i liked his main points about divisions between people being created by the powers that be and hyped by the media. I think he has a bone to pick because of the whole Vietnam thing. I'm not sure he would remember us if we met him again, if we do I'm going to quiz him on the Kama sutra ha ha. He seemed to have much more to say, wouldn't even need an audience really. Maybe a 1000 to 1 that he would read this, if I see him again I'll take a picture and tell him about it!

The Inquisitive Akka said...

Kinda touching.

e said...

Hey found this post from all the clicking through BooBoo and Ginga's site.

India, is in my heart too.

6 years ago, I traveled and stayed in India for a few months to study the illustrated manuscripts of the Gita Govinda. It was one of the best times in my life.
I can still close my eyes and smell chai and bidis wafting through the air of a cold kolkatta morning. I can still taste the hot jelebis as they melt in my mouth. I remember the hundreds of conversations and smiles of the people.
Although it has now been so long since I had left India after that short trip, India never truly left me.
Oneday when I return to the rooftops where a million kites fly in the amber setting sunlit sky, I will know that I am home.

E (from Fei & E)

Mosilager said...

i thought so too. i hope he remembers me next time i see him.

e and fei
hey we had a singapore food fest last week but I didn't go... busy in lab. nice to know that you like India too, I think it's a hard place for people to be neutral about, generally either they love it or they hate it. india's odd that way, unimaginable cruelty exists right next to amazing hospitality. Did you pick up any bengali while you were there?

e said...

"unimaginable cruelty exists right next to amazing hospitality"

Yes, you've put it in a good way. Im not religious and as cliche as it sounds, you know God exists in India. God exists because he (or she) gave us India. There is no god if there was no India.

Unfortunately, I was trying to skill up in Hindi while I was there. I can read some of the sanskrit but need ages to translate what the manuscripts say...

Mosilager said...

e wow didn't know you felt that strongly about India. I think the thing that India can teach the world is that there's no reason to fear those who are different as India's been the country for many centuries that anyone could come to for refuge and not be persecuted... jews, zoroastrians, Chinese (during the cultural revolution), East Pakistanis during 1971... wish other countries did not have such a huge pressure for foriegners to assimilate and dilute their traditions to be part of the nation.