Thursday, October 26, 2006


I'm white. Very white. So much so that a former girlfriend used to call me, among other things “Whitey McWhiteWhite”, “Translucent” and “Glow-in-the-dark.” (for my reaction, note my emphasis on the word 'former'). Even after a month in India has given me a faint tan tinge on my forearms and face, I'm still pretty darn white.

My usual strategy for safe and smart travel is to blend in with the locals. Frankly put, here, this is absolutely impossible. There may be all types and colors of Americans in the US, but there are almost no white Indians in India. By virtue of skin tone alone, I am about as inconspicuous here as a circus clown in a monastery.

As such, I tend to attract a certain amount of attention everywhere I go, especially when I'm carrying my camcorder. Open-mouthed stares have become the norm as have the questions “What is your good name?”, “Which is your country?” and “How do you find India?”

Mostly though I just get one word yelled at me, especially from kids: “HELLO!” No matter where I am or what I'm doing, people will yell it from the streets, doorways, scaffolding, moving vehicles, or anywhere you can find people. Multiple times every day I've had to stop in my tracks to play the Where's-Waldo-like game of 'who just greeted me' and found two giggling kids sticking their head out of a doorway across the field waving at me from behind two goats.

I don't know if it's the novelty of interacting with a native English speaker, a general friendliness shared by the whole country or just the curiosity about what happens when you poke a white boy. Whatever it is, it follows me wherever I go. It leads to crowds of schoolboys on bikes coming to talk to me whenever I stop on a corner and more friendly greetings from strangers than I can count.

So much for blending in with the locals.

No comments:

Post a Comment