Videshi Aaye Hain! The Foreigners are Here!

While we were walking around the ancient excavations of Sirpur in Chhatttishgarh, I wandered a little on my own. I heard a bunch of women whispering to each-other, “Videshi aaye hain” (the foreigners are here). I was quite intrigued, because barring one of us, Mariellen Ward, who is from Canada all of us looked as Indian as we could.

Surang Tila, Sirpur, Chhattisgarh
The Women who Declared us Videhi at Surang Tila, Sirpur, Chhattisgarh #Canon550D

As they sat admiring the Surang Tila, I decided to sit with them and see if they would talk to me. Even their dialect was a little similar to my native tongue Bhojpuri. We talked about this and that. They asked me indirectly whether I was married. When I told them I had a daughter too, they asked who was taking care of her while I was away. When I said she was with my husband, they concluded that I must be a working woman.

Chhattisgarh Women
Proving that I am not a Videshi! #Lumia1020

They were from a nearby village and on a sightseeing tour. I told them I was from Gurgaon and I was here to attend the Sirpur Music and Dance Festival. They asked me if I had seen their airport and when I replied in affirmative, one of them said, “My daughter and son-in-law went to Mumbai by plane. They ask me to come as well but I do not want to sit in one!” Her expressions told me that she was probably scared. They told me about all about the top malls Raipur. A little while later I took my leave as I was scared that everyone else from my group would walk off and leave me behind. As I walked for about five steps I realized that I had left my precious, my DSLR behind! They had not even noticed it, though they laughed a lot to see the panic in my face.

With a Group of Young Girls at Sirpur #Canon550D

Then while we were on top of the Surang Tila Temple, climbing the crooked steps that led to it, I heard a group of girls giggling and saying the same, videshi hain! Once again we got chatting in Hindi and I did my convincing act. The young girls told me they were from a place which was two hours away from Sirpur. They were on their own, on a day out! At least that is the impression they gave me. They wanted to take a picture with me, which I did with immense happiness. They have no clue how scared I am to click people.

Then it happened with a group of young boys. Now as I rule I stay clear of local boys as they can be quite rowdy in some places, but by now I was so intrigued that I chatted with them as well. They were NABARD employees! As I can speak Hindi, in fact I speak Hindi all the time at home, they would believe me that we were not foreigners!

Then while we were walking across Buddha Vihar, it happened again! I wonder what we were doing to be labeled videshi or foreigners! I have seen some people being extremely curt with the locals, which truly sets my teeth on edge. But other than that we obviously looked as Indian we could.

Do you have a clue about this videshi business? Is it that the mannerism of a normal city person so different from what is expected in rural India?

38 thoughts on “Videshi Aaye Hain! The Foreigners are Here!”

  1. Lovely post Mridula. Videshi – foreigner – just means from another place. Not another country but certainly not from ‘hereabouts’.

    • I doubt that kalpana because the ladies asked me if I lived in videsh when I was talking to them.

    • As I said to Kalpana they would talk about Mariellen certainly being a foreigner to which I would agree. They would be taken aback when I spoke to them in Hindi. And the ladies asked me if I lived abroad as well.

  2. The concept of Country as synonym of Desh is different in moufssil towns, where Desh means there own nearby places and Videsh is not the political boundaries of the country, hence Videshi… .

    But you seem to be enjoying the limelight 🙂

    • I disagree Prasad as they would understand Delhi and not consider it videsh. They asked me if I lived abroad and that Mariellen at lest was a foreigner if we were not.

  3. I Think its because you was dressed in a western attire , they thought of you staying in Videsh… i have been in the interiors and rural areas of Moradabad, UP where if i am dressed in a coat over trousers in cold winters but with a small maroon bindi in place and plaited hair, i am from ‘kahin bahar se, bade shahar se ‘ that is from somewhere, from some big city (but in India)….
    and you without a trace of bindi /sindoor and a hair bun or plait :0 (he he ) can be ONLY from videsh dear 🙂 😀 and I can surely vouch for your ‘shy’ demeanour too … lol Mridula .. is se zyada i can’t think of reasons 🙂
    jokes apart , eagerly waiting for the sirpur festival post 🙂

  4. Ha ha as I said its the cameras and other things.Usually people in Chattisgarh,Bihar and UP,do not carry such big cameras to capture.They might have thought you as one documentary shooter.Happened with me in Hampi,when people thought I am from a TV crew,I had whole lot of fun trying to convince them,until I gave up.And finally said TV only ji .

  5. Take my word Mridula. It is definitely the attire – no bindi – no bangles and of course the DSLR.. Even my father jokes about me that foreigners have come when I visit them in my native..

  6. Videshi doen not only mean a foreigner only in Hindi Mridula ji . If someone (specially Lady) is in western fits , she is videshi for interior natives. In Bihar and in eastern UP, if male goes for job outside their village, their ladies says ” हमार पति परदेश गया है ” , so I think , the natives of Sripur think like that

  7. nice post Mridula. being considered a foreigner in our own country must be strange feeling.

  8. I guess your olive complexion , and DSLR must have made them think that you are from Latin America .It was a good read BTY .

  9. Nice article. Great description. Beautiful picture. I think vides hi means not from around.

  10. Haha ! I remember you taking the picture with the girls on top and was smirking all the time as listening to their conversation. But happens usually when they see one foreigner in the group they think the whole group is international. When i used to solo travel in Kerala , it was more funny for me ,as I would wear jeans all the time , my paying guestaunty asked me ” in your country you all wear only jeans” I said Im from Mumbai.. She was shocked mostly in rural india if they see white person , they think whole group is Indian 🙂

    • Thank you Rutavi for sharing your insights! 😀 I have been called a Bengali on the treks but all of us being declared videshi was just too much! 😀

  11. Strange experience! Even I guess, looking at your western outfit they thought so. If I am not wrong, most of the areas of Chattisgarh is still not aware of urban Indian culture. Probably they haven’t seen any Indian lady wearing a western outfit?

    • Sindhu thank you for sharing your thoughts. Raipur, the capital is quite developed. The airport is really swanky and there are many malls and a free wifi at the waterfront for the city in the evening hours.

      Sirpur is 80 kilometers from Raipur so not that disconnected, I saw a woman driving a scooty on her own. But then for sure it is much more laid back.

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