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January 31, 2016

Discover the Quirks of the Well-Travelled Indian Woman

Text by Nisha Jhangiani. Illustration by Deepen Sharma

The one who hums Geeta Dutt tunes and rattles off Taylor Swift lyrics with equal operatic skill…

It was many years ago, on a spectacularly sunny morning one July in Paris. Couture week was on in full swing and in between gliding leisurely from show to show (couture weeks demand a certain nonchalance towards time and money), I stopped in my tracks to gawk shamelessly at a vision in gold. A sculpted gold sari, to be specific. Coupled with a fringed gold skullcap that covered the wearer’s head like a dangling crown, shimmering brilliantly. The woman standing tall in this get-up was Nasreen Qureshi. Fashion curator Pernia’s mother; she’s a woman whose wardrobe is a true statement of style dichotomy — heritage and the traditional along with the trendy and international luxury. The quintessential global Indian.

Our East-meets-West attitude affects our behavioural patterns in so many other areas, food vying often for top position with fashion. While I cannot condone thepla-toting travellers, I am unabashedly pro our penchant for extra heat. Firm requests for pepperoncino in Italy, bird’s-eye chilli in Thailand, wasabi in Japan, freshly ground black pepper in France or good, old Tabasco when nothing else is available is par for the course for us. I’ve learnt how to say ‘spicy’ in French, Italian and Japanese and I highly recommend learning how to say this most useful word in all languages.

But my favourite aspect of our unique quirks is the sudden shift we initiate from constantly grumbling about the challenges of our home country to gushing and cooing about it whenever a taxi driver in Spain, a sales manager at a British high-end boutique or a restaurant server in Israel starts their customary oohs and aahs on discovering we are from “Indeeaah”! In a matter of minutes, we switch to our habit of encouraging an intimate conversation with almost strangers, speedily creating week-long itineraries for “Rajistan”, making shopping lists for incense, pashminas, silver jewellery et al, selling the natural beauty of Kerala and passing on our email addresses in case any visitor needs any suggestions or any assistance, during any visit to India in their lifetime. We truly are a delicious melting pot of thought, spirit, speech and taste — liberally sprinkled with a generous dose of boldness. Making our statement in a way that only we can.

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