The city's rickshaws will remind you of home, Sarita, if nothing else
A couple of weeks ago, I met a fan. Now, being a writer does not exactly qualify me as a celebrity with a fan following.
I wish that were the case, but the lady in question wasn’t a fan of my work as a writer or blogger; on the contrary, she was completely oblivious to it.
She was an admirer of my home country: an Indophile so to speak.
I met her in the most unlikely of places – not at an Indian event, an Indian restaurant or at a discourse on Indian culture and spirituality.
Giti Haroon was my frisør, entrusted with the task of trimming my hair and giving it a modicum of style – the kind that’s meant to look effortlessly put together, but in my case, almost never does.
We got talking: she in her near perfect Danish, me in my faltering Danish, littered liberally with English words. She was from Afghanistan and had been living in Denmark for over 20 years.
I mentioned I was from India and that’s when the magic began – her eyes lit up, her smile got wider and her words acquired an excited, happy tone.
More to India than Goa
Unlike other India enthusiasts, who have visited India once or happen to like one or two aspects of India, Giti is the real deal.
Sure, she likes Indian cuisine, but better still, she makes it often at her home.
She rattled off the names of Indian street food dishes with so much ease and familiarity, it was wonderful – and no, I’m not talking about the ubiquitous chicken tikka or butter chicken.
If you must know, it was dishes like vada pav, sev puri and golgappa (now go Google that).
She has been to my country multiple times and continues to visit it. She religiously watches Hindi soaps and reality shows every day on the two Hindi television channels she subscribes to.
Her teenage daughter is fascinated with Bollywood dance and wants to learn the dance form in Copenhagen so she can someday realise her dream of working in Bollywood.
Giti pragmatically insists that she should complete her education first. On her last visit to India, Giti and her family chanced upon a famous Bollywood actor, which in all my years in Mumbai has never happened!
A proper roots treatment
By the end of our conversation, I was feeling decidedly less in touch with my Indian roots and culture than her. But I was also feeling strangely enthused and optimistic.
Because my chance encounter with this fan suggests that if a person from Afghanistan, living in Denmark for years, can make India a part of her life, surely there is hope for other foreigners like me in Denmark.
We can hope to be integrated into Danish society while our home countries, cultures and traditions still play an intrinsic part in our lives.
It proves to me that the balancing act I’m working on is surely no illusion. It is possible to carry India in me, even if I don’t live there.