Thursday, 25 March 2010

Maybe I'm just misunderstood

Question: Why was Santa studying on top of the mountain?

Answer: He wanted to complete his higher education.

When you've recovered from laughing so hard at this hilarious joke I want to explain why I am sharing Santa jokes in late March.

There's a guy in our office called Raju who sends out SMS jokes at lunchtime to let us know that it's time to go and eat. For months I've been wondering why all the jokes have been about Santa, who I assumed to be Santa Claus. For one the timing is odd - it's almost three months since Christmas, and the other was that Santa seemed to be doing things that were in no way related to anything festive.

It turns out that Santa is a common term for a Sikh and that they are the focus of many jokes in India, a bit like the Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman theme back home. After this revelation everyone laughed at me and I sat slightly disappointed as the jokes have gone from being mysteriously unfunny to just unfunny.

Cultural misunderstanding the first.

I was in Mysore at the weekend doing a little bit of sightseeing between work in Bangalore and Chennai. Outside the place we were staying in a guy was enthusiastically giving me what I assumed to be the 'okay' symbol (as in the picture). I thought he was asking me if I liked Mysore ("Mysore is okay, yes?"), so I responded with equal fervour. "Yes! Mysore's great!" And gave him the okay symbol back with a huge smile and nod.

We were getting in a car at the time and as we were driving off everyone asked me what I was doing. "He was trying to sell you drugs, you just agreed to buy them from him tonight!" Quite. So yes, he was not asking me what I thought of Mysore with a friendly okay sign, but he was asking me if I wanted to smoke some weed and was informing me to visit him later that evening to purchase said drugs. How entertaining.

Cultural misunderstanding the second.

I have however managed to convince most people that I know how a train works. Only the other day I got on a fast from Borivali to Andheri and no-one gave me a word of advice. All around I received admiring glances and you could see on the faces of my fellow travellers that they were all thinking the same thing: "Here is a man who knows how to get on a train. He's probably done it before. I have complete confidence in his ability to alight and embark, you can just see it in the way that he conducts himself." I smiled, got off at Andheri and probably made a fool of myself in some other way.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Is that Wedding Bells I hear?

Shortly after my previous post on marriage I read an article on the BBC about the rising role of the internet in relationship forming (link). Unlike the UK's dating websites however these ones are all about marriage!

There is a bit of an obsession with marriage over here. Every single conversation that I have includes marriage. Even with complete strangers. It is one of the first questions that you get asked. I can sort of get away with not being married, aged 22, but I am at the prime age for wedlock it seems.

The newspapers are full of matrimonial columns and often it's the parents who are trying to get their children hitched. Quite often the impression I get is that the parents haven't even told their children. I could imagine that being a somewhat awkward conversation to have with regards to an interested potential mate.

There is however a fairly sensible approach to the whole process here. One guy told me that he was going to wait until he was earning a stable income before considering taking on a wife so that he could provide for her. The idea of 'love marriages' are quite often talked of disparagingly as they don't last apparently and parents are much more clued up on who would be a good match. Like I mentioned before at churches the pastor can have the responsibility of searching out a suitable partner. The hopeful simply has to inform that he or she is ready to get hitched. Sometimes not even this is required. I have heard of a few relationships that were deemed to be taking a little too long to become permanent. Now I'm not saying they were coerced into getting wed but with all the eagerness surrounding it I wouldn't be too surprised.

So if I return with an Indian bride it might not be my fault. In fact I may have had very little say in the whole affair.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Good news!

There is no longer any need for me to worry! All concern has left me! My prayers have been answered! There is a church that understands my predicament and meets my needs. All is revealed on an Indian church-network's website that I was reading, and particularly in this statement:

While the universal and general purpose for all people would be to pursue a married life, in certain cases and under special conditions, God's purposes and values are also fulfilled in those who by the Spirit's gifting, live and serve God as single people.
God especially covers and supplies the widow and the orphan and places single people under the protection of house-holds within the local church.


This specific passage is titled the 'Value of Being Single'. Reading it I can't help but feel valued.

Of course should I not be feeling so valued as a single individual, that's also okay! They have handy forms that you can fill out for your pastor to circulate in the search for a suitable companion. After the first chaperoned date a marriage decision must be made within six months. No problem, after all the 'universal and general purpose for all people' is to pursue marriage so anything that helps the process along is a welcome relief.

Unfortunately the church I go to at the moment is not as accommodating. I've heard rumours of 'bio-forms' that can be filled out to find that perfect match but the initiative seems to rest more with the single seeker. Until I begin the pursuit then I must be content with staying in the youth group. It's only fitting, anyone who isn't married is not a complete human being and is therefore still a youth. Sure you may be fifty but you're not married and that's just a bit odd isn't it? Stay in the youth for now, child, and when you finally come to your sense you can join in with the adults. And don't have the audacity to complain, it's not our fault you're not normal.

So there's no pressure to get married at all. You'll just get asked in every single conversation, every day, by everyone you meet about whether you are married, and if not, why not? If it ever gets too much at least I've got my manager, Divya, on the case. She's quite the matchmaker.