[While this post could seem like many things, it is little more than hilarious.]
Once, I was in India trying to arrange for a taxi. I approached a driver and asked him, in Hindi, if he could give us a ride. He look flabbergasted. Immediately, he sought to find out why a white girl was speaking to him in any language other than English.
Taxi Driver: You speak Hindi very well.
Me: Thank you.
Taxi Driver: (laughing) How did you learn Hindi?
Me: My husband is from Delhi, so I’m learning Hindi.
Taxi Driver: (Eyes wide) Your husband? You’re married? Was it a love marriage or an arranged marriage?
Me: (Visibly blushing and wishing we could get on with things) A love marriage.
Taxi Driver: (laughing incredulously) No! Really? How much? How much?!
Me: Nothing. Free. It was a love marriage.
Taxi Driver: (Who now has a circle of friends joining in) No! How much?!
I’d say it’s lucky for the taxi driver that Varun wasn’t there. I think he might have had some strong words for the taxi driver.
This entertaining encounter reminds me of another experience…
I was once in North Africa in a market shopping with a friend, S, for jewelry for his wife. Admittedly, we looked like a couple–we were both white, we were male and female alone in a Muslim market. Why would it not be assumed we were together? In one small shop, the shopkeeper asked S if he could try on S’s sunglasses. He then turned to me, with the sunglasses on and asked, “Who looks better, me or your husband?”.
Frantically, I looked to my friend S to help correct the mistake. He just laughed. The shopkeeper turned back to S and asked casually, “How much for your wife? I will give you 4,000 camels”.
Two thoughts crossed my mind: Thought #1: 4000 camels? That seems like a lot. But maybe it’s nothing, maybe he thinks I’m the ugly step-sister. Is this a good deal? And Thought #2: Let’s get outta here!
Well. You should have seen the expression on my face when S, instead of graciously leaving the store stood his ground and said, “How about 5000 camels?”.
Thankfully, not all cross-cultural love affairs begin with “How much…?”, as Varun has never asked. I think he knew the diamond ring was a given, but for the amount I eat, he might have gotten a better deal paying my dad 4000 camels.