Goa Inquisition : Lest We Forget — A Talk By Shefali Vaidya

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The adorable foreigner

I had my share of interactions with the foreigners on a couple of occasions, those were not for such a long period or the tone of the interactions was more of a formal kind. The closest interaction for a longer duration of time was with one Israeli diplomat. We had met in some seminar and he was stuck up with his laptop. His presentation was scheduled up and his laptop failed to respond. Someone suggested him to take my help, I don’t know what exactly I did, but the laptop started, the desktop screen opened, with that his face brightened. He breathed a sigh of relief. The desktop wallpaper was of a beach of Goa, so I casually asked him whether he clicked that beautiful picture himself in Goa. The diplomat asked how I recognized the photo, I said, I belonged to that part of the world. The person instantly felt a strong connection with me, he said Goa is my second home, as his wife belonged there. He intently inquired many a thing about me, the place where I belonged etc. He gave his visiting card to me and promised to stay in touch. After that, we exchanged a few emails. Our busy lives ensured that the connect ended there.

Some days ago, I received an email from a P.hd scholar from the Netherlands. He was studying the effect of Self Help Groups and Women Empowerment activities in developing economies. He was one Mr.Robin.  He wanted to meet our team for the interactions. We invited him for the same. We agreed.

So, on that weekend a well built European came calling, what I liked about the western people was that they are not so very conscious about their mannerism. They don’t carry a mask with them, they are very expressive and very informal. We had some formal discussions with him, we gave him a presentation and he began his talks. Slowly we started opening up and began informal chats. He chatted on various topics and we proposed him to join us the very next day for the trip to  Pune, where we had some event.  Instantly, he said, “why not, sure”. We decided to assemble at the same place next day at 7 am.

The next day, the gentleman was there are at sharp 7 am. We assembled as per our sense of Indian Standard Time. Our trip started at around 8 am. And then as the journey began our talks began, we talked and shared quite a few stories and anecdotes. Robin now was an entirely different person, he was very jovial, he was around 28 years old, but, still maintained that impish looks in his mannerism. He was very talkative and had a very expressive face, one moment before he would make the sad face the other moment his face would brighten up. We are much more poker-faced in that respect.

He had a very good understanding of this big mix called India. He had been to this country seven times before and had traveled extensively. His inquisitive nature ensures that he is more well informed about quite a lot of things.  He is open to newer ideas and carries a very idealistic view of everything.

As the day progressed, we had thrown off the boundaries and inhibitions and were like close friends. He asked my colleagues’ many Marathi words. He wanted to know how to say “Are you mad?” in Marathi. My friend told him “veda ahes ka?”. The guy recited it and intermittently asked anybody “veda ahes ka?” It was a funny moment for us.

As the event began, Mr.Robin, the researcher started making mental notes, suddenly, he started clicking pictures. We gave him five minutes to speak.  The assembled crowd enjoyed the interaction. Later, he interacted with many participants and asked him many questions. The man was highly impressed by all this.

The day ended quickly and as we returned late in the evening. We were tired and worn out, but, the inquisitive Robin would not stop asking many a story. My friend suddenly asked him to tell a ghost story from his country. And, didn’t we really enjoy it? Mr.Robin was truly a genuine storyteller.

People do carry very wrong conceptions about foreigners, they look different, they behave differently, but, that is perhaps because they are less hypocrites than we are. They behave as they are, which we don’t do.

We will be in touch with Mr.Robin and will be relishing every bit of his stories in coming days as he will be in India for the next seven months or so.