Can You Recall The Five Faces You Saw Today?



Last Friday, as I was rushing for work and walking into the subway station on East 86th street, I was so lost in my own world and thoughts that I did not see a man coming from the opposite side at the same turnstile where I was about to swipe my card.  I noticed that only after swiping my metro card. Not even after swiping,  I actually saw that when I had moved turnstile in to enter the station and came in less than an arm’s distance from that man. Now I saw that he was blind and that he was now inching back to make room for me to move forward. I could not feel more shamed of myself, of my absentmindedness. This was so not mindful living. That man began doing without having any eyes, what I could not do, with two perfectly functioning eyes. A woman now assisted him in making the exit. She gave me a look of contempt, which I clearly deserved. These few seconds now were the moments of very high awareness and consciousness for me. I can never forget the faces of that man and the woman who assisted him.

Feeling awful about this, I got into thinking about the cloud of our personal thoughts that surrounds us, ALL the time when we walk around in New York City. The things that are allowed to be a part of this cloud are devices – our cell phones, our e-readers, our music players. We don’t really lift our heads up or take our eyes off our devices or books to make an eye contact. Even when neither of the devices are engaging, our thoughts are still elsewhere. We say New York is a melting pot of cultures, but we don’t even know the language of the person sitting next to us in the subway because Spotify is streaming into our ears, screening off any linguistic treat from commuters. From the time we leave our apartment in the morning, till the time we hit the bed in the night, we must be coming across at least 30 new faces ( no Maths done), but can we recall even five of those faces when our head lands on pillow for a good night sleep?

There was another face I will never forget. Few days ago, I was taking a cross town bus from west side to east side ( I don’t take buses otherwise ) and the seat to next to me was empty. A noticed a really old woman approaching towards this seat. I just smiled, which I usually do when I see someone coming towards me. Not a big wide grin, but just a moderate smile of acknowledgement. And I resumed reading the Metro News. The woman took seat and said, “Thank you for your smile”. I can’t even forget the tone and warmth of that voice. There are many people of her age who probably didn’t grow up in a time of wired humans. For them, it’s hard to comprehend this new generation that is wired in an individual virtual cloud. So possibly, it was a pleasant surprise for her to receive smiling acknowledgment of her existence from a random stranger. And it was a surprise for me, for I did nothing extraordinarily out of my way to please here, I did what I usually did.

I know that it might be too much to ask from urban dwellers to always stay in the present and notice every human they see and make eye contact with everyone. That will be a lot of visual information to process each day. But that done in moderation might make each day a more pleasant one as the researchers Nicholas Epley and and Juliana Schroeder found in their research at University of Chicago, which I still believe is nothing earth shattering. Often, the clouds are full of thoughts about past and present. Engaging with strangers help us distract from them and get back in present, at least for time. Looking in other’s eyes and seeing their faces make us more empathetic towards them because we begin to see them as humans and not as objects dotting our way to some destination. Who knows, you might not need to go to or OkCupid, because the person you were looking for was sitting right next to you on the Q train to Times Square, if only you two had allowed each other in your virtual clouds.

So, will you try to recall five faces tonight?


More Indian experience

I met this Indian lady today again in Hofer. She quite warm in talking last time also. I learnt that she does the work of cleaning. She told that she gets up at around 5 in the morn (And so do the people who throw newspaper in the morning, they rather begin their day here at 2). She works for 2hrs in the morning and two hrs in the evening. But it’s nice to know that these people don’t consider any work big or small. In India, such people would have been called by names like ‘chooda’ or ‘bhangi’ or ‘chamar’ and what not. Since I am also brought in an Indian society, so for a moment I was indeed shocked to learn that she does the job of cleaner. As she appeared to be from a well to do family. But that’s ok. And when I told her that I would leave after 1 month, she asked if I will come back. On listening no, she suggested that I can marry a girl from here. Man what was she telling me. I was meeting her only twice. I did not know what to say. And it is to early to even think of marriage. But she is the only lady I have seen here with so long here and with long plait. Her two kids speak german. And after some time , I don’t know what to speak to her. I am any way shy, and talking to old people or should I say people elder to me, really makes me amiss.

Indians will remain Indians.

No matter where they go .. Indians don’t give up something. Some bad habits. As they say, bad habits die hard. I have now seen quite a lot of Indians by now. And my favourite past time being observing people, knowing more about them, I have taken note of some peculiar things about Indians here. Kids of some of them, though are NRI enouigh to speak German and not a word of Hindi or Indian language, but are often dirty , with their hair not neatly tied, or some food stains around lips. Ok fine, kids are like that. But I haven’t seen Austrian kids like that. May be different fooding habits. Then , I found Baldev and one more guy, puttng on the belt only when they were on roads, or some traffic person was nearby!!. I also saw Mr. Gill yesterday leaving his glass of tea on the car when he went to a shopping mall nearby !!!! . It is worth mentioning that Indians here refer to germans or any non Indians as ‘gore’, as it used to be in pre independence era.

I felt that there are 2 kinds of NRI’s. One who really feel glad to see another Indian in their city. And they are really helpful and still retain lot of Indianess. I feel like loads of encomiums for them. Then there is another category of NRI’s. These are the ones who are desperate to get dissolved in the society they are now staying in and around. There’s nothing wrong in that, it’s indeed good to learn new things. But they don’t feel anything special on seeing a compatriot. They would rather avoid him. Rather some Germans here are better than those Non Reliabe Indians. Some fine examples of such discombobulated souls were found in Salzburg. Their kids were least innocent of all the kids I have seen in 21 years of my life. Their son (who was probably 6-7) was one pedantic piece of shit, who was trying to show of that he was not from India, when I asked him where in India he came from.

I am kinda astonished to learn that that there are people from India come abroad without visa. They take travel by sea route. Probably some cargo ship takes some 5 lakhs rupees to take them to foreign land in 6 months, or so . This is rough estimation for time for European destinations. For US they may charge some 15 lakhs and can take as long as 1 year. Time is never fixed. But it is guaranteed that the person will surely reach the destinaton, if only he survives. Because they just get a loaf of bread for the day. But the people coming here can easily earn the money they put for reaching the place, as the work opportunities here are plenty and renumeration is excellent. A person throwing newspapers in the morning can buy car and many electric gadgets for his home, within one year. Infact in vienna , I saw that almost all newspaper throwing ppl on the station were Indians! Dignity of labor.

Gurudwara in Austria

I am a cultural boy. Plus good singer. (At least I believe so, but
many people don’t .. Ramjane is one of them, and Mangla feels he
can give tough competition to me in this!) And on the top of
everything, I am a stage boy , more of a performer than an
spectator. hehehe. Lots of self boasting. Now the actual point.
The other day when we went to the sole Indian shop here in
Klagenfurt (atleast till now I haven’t found any other), I asked the
guy there if there was any Indian cultural organization there
because I wanted to spread Indian culture here. He told that there
was a Gurudwara.

This Sunday we set out to that place. We asked the driver of a bus for the number of the bus which could take us there. And I was literally touched by his reply. He said, “Bus no. 45 will take you to India” . That was not just humorous but nice of him as well. Though these Germans don’t know even english much , but he knew a thing like temple means something Indian. He knew the word
temple but not gurudwara.

We finally reached there. That did not look like a gurudwara.
I mean it resembled like any other Austrianhouse in Klagenfurt.
But we could identify the place by the presence
of many sardars. Infact, there were very few sardars, most of them
had normal hair , but covered theier heads with some holy cloth.
They offered us coke when we just reached there. It was all modern
(or Austrian !!) version of Gurudwara. In place of some sweet water
that in offered in India, they gave us this! But the hospitalities
of those people was as warm as those of any other sikh, whether
Indian or in any part of the world. I was going there only second
time. I didn’t know the rituals. So were my other friends, quite
unaware of the things . In fact one of them was from AP. Pavan Kumar.
He could not anyway understand any thing there. But people explained
us the things. We did not at all fell that we were meeting them for
the first time. Then was the time for langar, which we mainly went
there for!!!. We didn’t cook good food. And Indian food here is not
just costly but rare also. Rare, because there is only one indian
restaurant here. That explains the expensive nature also. One samosa
costs some 5 euros!! So we were dying to have indian homemade food.
We really ate the food voraciously. After the food they even dropped
us at our place. Everything was unbelievable. They even offered
food for the dinner, and gave us a jug for that. We could not have
that experience even in India I guess. One funny thing was also
noticed. An old Austrian man and his wife also came there. Man
didn’t know how to sit in Indian style for such occasion!! he was
sitting as if sitting for loo. The old woman was no less funny. She
put some ‘chunni’ around her, some sikh custom, and sat with sikh
ladies with her tiny purse. Finally we left with very warm feelings.