I was experiencing the tried and tested plot of many Hindi movies: bus travel, window seat, mild drizzle, passing green landscapes and a sad girl. Perfect setup for emotional flashbacks. And flashback it was, every little incident replayed in the form of a movie, directed by my heart and showcased on the window pane of the bus which acted as the screen, am I the solo viewer. The sad ones made me smile, and the happy ones made me cry. Irony indeed!
Deeply engrossed, I had reached the intense scene when I was caught by my parents bunking college, , my father after a moment of staring at me with those big red eyes, starts to condemn me for my actions, but when he starts speaking, he speaks in a woman’s voice! I peer my eyes and strain my ears, he asks me again in the same female voice “How do you know Marathi?”
I relaxed back on my seat, drew the curtains on my screen erstwhile the window, when I hear it again “How do you know Marathi?”
The voice belonged to the woman sitting behind us. I was about to play my memories movie back, when I heard another woman replying back in pure Marathi. Now hearing people converse in pure Marathi was obvious since we were in the heart of Maharashtra, but what caught my interest was the American accent with Marathi.
I strongly felt I had heard this voice before, but was not able to place it. Then I remembered, while boarding the bus, a foreigner woman in her late forties clad in salwar kameez approached us to inquire about the baggage carrier in the Volvo.
Certainly, the curious part of me got hooked to the conversation. (Milder way of: I was eavesdropping. Though am glad, I did.)
Below is the conversation as I heard:
AW*: stands for amazing American woman. She is the heroine of this blog.
IW*: stands for intrigued woman, who portrays the role of interviewer.
IW: “How do you know Marathi?”
AW: “I have spent most of my life in Maharashtra and my husband is a Maharashtrian as well.”
IW: “When did you come to India?”
AW: “I have completed my medical studies from Delhi university, after which I started working for NGO’s and social causes. For one such project I had come to Maharashtra where I met my husband.”
IW: “Oh! (Hesitates a bit but nevertheless asks) am sorry to be so inquisitive but from time known Indian students have been travelling to America for higher studies, this is the first time I have ever heard an American studying in India. May I know why you chose India?”
AW: (smiles a bit, as if she was expecting this question) “Yes, there are many Indians in America. I personally know many people who went there for studies and then settled in America itself. When I was in high school, America was at war with Vietnam. Every day I saw reports of thousands of innocent Vietnamese being killed. It disturbed me a lot, and I no longer wanted to be a part of a country performing such brutal activities on innocent people. Hence I Left America.”
IW didn’t ask any more questions; maybe she didn’t want to bother or was simply stunned as I was.
I felt so small and ashamed of myself. All I have ever thought was about me and people I loved.
I don’t know whether her decision to leave America was right or not, but awareness in your country’s affairs and standing by what is right is what I learnt from this amazing yet simple woman.
When I alighted at Pune, I looked back at her and smiled, silently thanking her for enlightening me and showing me the true meaning of being a citizen. She smiled back as if acknowledging my gratitude.