When we thought and talked about yesterday’s diary topic, Ramona, Yashendu and I had to laugh because we automatically compared those situations in the west with similar situations in India. Always, when we have western visitors at the Ashram who are for the first time in India, they experience this curiosity and interest very much. I believe for them this is part of the cultural shock that they describe.
In India it is not really part of good manners to hide your interest or to pretend not to be curious while you are actually nearly dying to know just where the other person is from. So you are a westerner or a group of westerners – easily recognized of course by your skin colour – and you talk a walk around town. You notice that heads turn to look at you. People out of cars smile and wave. Kids start running after you, laugh and try to speak with you: “Hello, hello! What is your name?” Shopkeepers who spot you shout to get your attention for their merchandise and Riksha drivers who would prefer driving for seemingly wealthy foreigners keep on asking if they should take you for a ride. Suddenly there is a crowd, a kind of parade, and you join to watch. But what is that? Slowly a group of people forms around you who have the back towards the colourful festive wagons and the music because they want to look at you. They stand there and look, maybe smile, nothing else.
Well, I agree that it can sometimes be a little bit exhausting being an obvious foreigner in India because nobody will hide his interest. I feel however that it is more honest. After all this friendly interest in other people is one of the reasons why western tourists like to come to India. They feel welcomed there even though sometimes even a little bit too much but in general they enjoy it. And who would not love to answer a lovely question ‘Where are you from’ when the asker has a smile on the face and curiosity in the eyes?