This particular long-overdue item that I didn’t even realize I needed until now is inspired by (ie can be blamed on) the ever-witty Amrita over at Indiequill. She told me that if I mispronounced Faryal’s name on an upcoming episode of Masala Zindabad, I could play my gori mem card to get out of it.
So naturally I had to make one!
I have been watching films but have not had much energy or inclination to write about them because of family and work issues. Hopefully I will get back to it soon! In the meantime if you are a firangi female and you want a Gori Mem Card of your very own, it’s here! As every western woman traveling in India knows, it is a decidedly mixed blessing at every turn best dealt with using every ounce of humor you possess. In tourist spots I am mobbed by schoolgirls and families wanting me to pose with them in vacation photos. Why, I don’t know; I am not particularly lovely or exotic-looking, but my picture is in dozens of homes across India.
At an airport once, a worker insisted on unpacking my suitcase (which had already been scanned about five times and stamped appropriately) as I was boarding the plane and then made me pack it all up again after she dumped the contents onto the tarmac. My feeling (and that of my delayed fellow travelers) was that she was envious of me (without knowing a thing about me, really! except, you know, the color of my underwear after that).
I was also once dogged by a little boy not more than seven or eight years of age who wanted to sell me a tacky brass peacock I really didn’t want. Two hours later I caved when I realized that he was never going to give up. He had reduced the price to 1 rupee by the time I gave in, but I gave him 20 (more than his original asking price!) and that peacock is now one of my most prized (and ugly) possessions. My life as a single childfree woman has been scrutinized and discussed by every person I’ve spent more than two minutes with, as has my weight and my annual income. My friend Bina’s ancient grandmother Ba once remarked that she would find a wealthy husband for me since I “clearly needed servants.” Other family members argued vociferously over whether Bina had lost weight or if she only looked it because she was with her giant American friend.
And yet, appearances aside, many Indians just want to be friends with no strings attached. One Kashmiri shopwala still calls me every New Year’s Eve without fail, and out of the blue on occasion: “Helllooooooo Greta Memsaab! Is Sajjjiiiid from Indiaaaa!!!!” and he sent me beautiful photographs of his sister’s wedding in Srinagar recently (hi Sajid! *waves*). An Indian woman at the Fabindia store in Fort looked at the plain white, cream and black cotton-silk dupattas I was buying and said: “You people have such good taste” (she had an armful of gaudy spangled tops at the time). It never ends, this mind-blowing realization that what I look like makes me someone for whose benefit boundaries do not apply, for better or for worse.
So based on my own personal experiences in the lovely but contrary land of India, this is what you are entitled to (or not) if you qualify as a Gori Mem (see card back for details below—click to enlarge if your eyes are as bad as mine.) Use it at your own risk: there are no guarantees in apna India!
PS: if anyone can explain to me how to pronounce Faryal’s name before tomorrow, I would greatly appreciate it. Namaste! And Merry Christmas!