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.
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.
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.
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?