Jan 7, 2012

When the Maami Wore a Burkha

Passing time at the doctor’s office can be a big bore. Especially if you don’t have a good book or an interesting conversationalist for company. It’s usually my mom or M who accompany me and they’re no fun. Doctor’s lounges transform them into zombie-like versions of themselves, they simply stare into space, holding on to their chins, a small frown between the brows. No amount of my pestering can snap them out of it.

So over the years, I’ve devised several ways to amuse myself. The best one is observing people. I’ll admit it, I’m one of those loony girls who will stare until you’re wondering if there’s something stuck in your teeth. I know it sounds creepy, but I can’t help it, I just find people fascinating. I take in all the details, right from what they’re wearing to their tiny mannerisms, and then I make up stories about their lives in my head. Silly ones.

Some people look incredibly Indian, while others look like they might be from anywhere in the world. This always gets my attention. I wonder if this is so because of their genes, their dressing or their attitude towards life. So I give them a mental makeover. For instance, if there’s this ultra-hip girl in tight jeans and heels, I imagine what she would look like if she lived 30 years ago, in a sari, hair tied into a tight plait, and a big red pottu on her forehead. I do the same for guys, imagining them in a lungi and well-oiled hair. It’s funny to see in my head that they all fit pretty well into Indian costumes. Very rarely do I see someone who just doesn’t look Indian from any angle.

I do the opposite as well, put traditionally-dressed people in modern attire to see if they could ever ‘adapt’. Most of them would, my conclusions tell me. Cross-religious dressing is fun too. Like a imagining a woman in a burqa dressed like a Tamilian maami  and vice versa. Sounds blasphemous, I know. But I guess it’s just my way of removing the tags people have created for themselves, realizing that essentially everyone is the same. Okay, that was too meaningful. This is a silly post. Moving on…

Yesterday I found myself waiting yet again, while the super-busy doc kept seeing medical reps. It was exasperating, of course, until my eyes fell on this person and then he had my complete attention. I found him so fascinating, I almost had the mind to walk up to him and say, Excuse me sir, I find you fascinating. I now severely regret not doing that.

I immediately started my Sherlock-Holmes-wannabe-type investigations. The man was visibly in his early to mid-forties, owing to gray strands, bags under his eyes, and a large paunch. He was pretty fair by Indian standards. I was guessing Muslim, and he confirmed it by answering his mobile in a pronounced Urdu twang. By then, I was hooked.

What drew me to him was that despite the telltale signs of aging, his face had retained a boyish sort of aura. He wore a perpetual frown, as though he was confused about something. Reasonably well-dressed, and yet I couldn’t help thinking that he was charmingly careless about things. I shamelessly listened in on his conversation, turns out he had forgotten his file and was asking someone to get it for him. Aha! One of my observations turned out right.

His gait and mannerisms suggested a certain amount of affluence, yet the powerful personality that comes from a successful career was missing. He kept glancing nervously at a crying baby in the room, as though he would have liked to do something to cheer her, but wasn’t too confident of speaking up. The man with the baby dropped his pen, and Mr. Boyish-charm immediately stooped down to pick it up. Ah, my object of observation had a good, helpful heart, I concluded.

My fun was interrupted when the doc was finally ready to see me. And then I forgot all about him, until now.

So this is what I do, more often than not. Not just at the doc’s, but at bus stops, railway stations, airports, pretty much anywhere I’m waiting. Please somebody tell me this isn’t too creepy. Oh well, it’s okay if it is I guess. The world needs more creepsters like me, or so I would like to believe.

One day, I’m going to muster up the courage to speak to the people I find interesting. Hopefully, when I do that, I will come back and tell you all about it.  

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  1. You have quite the imagination I must say. Couldn't help but snigger away in laughter picturing the Tamilian Maami dressed in the burkha and the ultra hep college going girl in a oiled and plaited hair with a sari in my head.

    Hilarious one, had a ball reading it.

    Cheers :)

  2. Good one! Your imagination is your best friend. Wouldn't advise striking up conversations though...you know how that goes!

  3. Good one :) :) But the imagination part was very much hilarious :) he he.... Only you extend your imaginations to unknown ppl or to known ones too :) Had a good laugh after reading that oil plaited hair and lungi stuff :) :)

  4. I also do this but now I do this as a discussion with my husband and we try to figure out the person's life..it is so much fun and especially when you run out of topics to talk :)

  5. Funny and a great read - these are the incidents that sitcoms are normally made up of - so keep writing and you never know when some of your writing may get picked up :) good to be here and hopefully you will visit me in my food blog :) - following your situations :) Priya

  6. It is such ramblings and mutterings that blogs are designed for. You should pepper your blog regularly with such kinda articles. I think your idea of building imaginations around minute observations is creative and you should keep doing it.

    Me and a cousin had this hilarious pastime - we would sit in a corner and observe any two people in an animated conversation (or atleast somebody on the phone) and then start guessing what they are speaking about. We make our own funny conversation based on their actions and expressions and it becomes funnier as time passes. The incredible thing is, almost 8 out of 10 times, their subsequent actions fit so well into the topic that we build. Its like their conversation gets influenced by what we imagine for them.

  7. I don't find it creepy at all! I like observing people, and sometimes, when I travel I like to imagine what they have been doing, who they are, blah blah.
    And the maami with a burkha! LOL, that does sound rather hilarious. The minute I saw this on my reading list, I began to imagine someone in a red pottu, wearing a burkha, at the same time :D

  8. @AS: Hey, thanks! :-) Glad you found it funny, it always feels good to hear that.

    @Rifz: Thank you :) It is a best friend indeed. Ahh, the talking, as much as I want to, I'll most probably not do it anytime soon :D But I can always dream up a conversation too I suppose!

    @Ravi: Thanks! Feels good to hear that you laughed. Na, mostly I imagine things about unknown people. With known ones I'm usually dreaming about something, nodding and pretending to listen ;)

    @Purvi: Ahh, nice to you have your husband's company on this one :D

    @NS: Welcome to The Daily Moo. That's a huge compliment there! Thank you, I feel really great. I like reading food blogs, will take a look at yours soon! :)

    @Vikas: Ramblings and mutterings - you couldn't have put it better. I'm usually muttering the posts to myself during the day, and typing them out at night so, hehe. That's a fun pastime you've got there with your cousin. It's like that one on FRIENDS where they're interpreting the Spanish soap they're watching. Lol!

    @Sruthi: Thanks for saying I'm not creepy :D A burkha and a pottu together?? Oooh, haven't got there yet, sounds way too blasphemous. Lemme see how it goes next time :D

  9. I observe people a lot too. Even when am going somewhere in the car, if someone else is driving and am sitting in the passenger seat, my entire attention is always out of the window. I look at people passing by, people on bikes.. wondering where they are going, the old man on the scooter - wondering what kind of job he has. People at bus stops.. road side chai waalas. Its my number one pass-time. Needless to say nobody wants me in the front seat of their car 'coz all they want to do is talk and all I want to do is be in my own world!

  10. @Chandana: Ah, put us both in a car together then and it'll probably be the most silent ever :D The driver would probably die of boredom hehe!

  11. Nice pass-time you got yourself. People-watching is fun. I do it at my office cafeteria a lot. Sometimes the people I watch stare back thinking that I am a creep.

    Funny post! Nice one!

  12. It's not creepy at all - happens all the time. Also, have you ever noticed how people tend to stare back from buses, autos etc? I mean, just one look at them, and they're like craning their necks out of the buses, trying to place you - like they know you or something. Come on! :P

  13. @phatichar: Ahh, no unfortunately I've never caught people staring my way :D I like to believe that I've sort of 'mastered' the art of blending in. Gives me all the more leeway to stare at others hehe :D

  14. Hi Sumitra, this is exactly what i do in buses, clinics, in trains and all other public places, I love people watching just like you do. I am sure we are not the only ones hooked on to this hobby, I often wonder while we are watching people and building our own theories about them, maybe we too are watched by others, sounds crazy no?
    You should read a blog written by me many years ago, if you scroll down the archives you would come across a blog titled: "Juju Patti" which I had written after travellling in a bus in Bangalore.
    You really are my kind of a person.

    1. Yeah it sound crazy, but I'm sure a lot of people do this. Glad to you you're like me :) I'll surely check the post you wrote soon, especially since you think I'm your kind of person. I'm sure you are my kind too, then :)

  15. I do this too, at bus stops, hotels, hospitals, markets. I love observing people too, and imagining what their lives would be like. I find people fascinating too, as you say. I don't think it is creepy. :)

    The husband and I enjoy making up imaginary lives for the people we see around us, wherever we go. It is good fun!

    1. Nice that you enjoy doing this with your husband, sure sounds like a great way to pass time. Glad you think it's not creepy :D