Search This Blog

Monday, 5 December 2016

An Unassuming Chat

Monday mornings are usually very dull. They bring with themselves the displeasure of knowing that the weekend is over and a whole week is up ahead. However this Monday morning was quite different. The AT&T guy came to install the internet connection in my apartment. He was early and knocked at the door several times while I was deep in sleep. By the time I had opened the door, he had realized that I was sleeping. I was partly apologetic for the delay in opening the door and partly apprehensive about the boredom of sitting through the installation process, when I saw the sunny smile on the person's face. It made me feel happy in an inexplicable way. As soon as he entered he started talking. He broke the ice by cracking a joke on spotting a mock connection on the wall of my living room and soon before I knew I was having a nice chat with him.
He was from Philippines and lived here in San Diego with his family, which consisted of his mother, his brother, his wife and two children. He was very fond of his kids and kept on talking about how they watch a lot of cartoons and play a lot of games without any interruption from the internet connection. Though it was a kind of advertisement, I did not feel like I was sitting through a soap commercial. After asking me if I was from India, he told me about one of his friends who was also from India and had a garment business. Soon we landed upon the discussion of joint family versus nuclear family. He told me that Filipinos like to stay together with all relatives under one roof. They have big houses and like to keep household help. This was in particular very similar to Indian society, though now due to the fast life of most people things have changed. People settle wherever they get jobs which are most often than not, far away from their native place. He confessed that the house he lives here is small but still all his family members like to stay together. He almost complained that his American neighbors think that they live together because of poverty and that they are quite insensitive to their way of life. In a moment's flash of ego he also said that back in Philippines, they are quite well to do and have a good living with few domestic servants.
Soon the discussion rolled over to the topic of marriage. He informed me that he was married to a Mexican lady whom he met at a friend's birthday party. His mother did not approve of the match. She had always visualized a Filipino daughter-in-law, but now was trying hard to reconcile with the Mexican replacement. I thought to myself that somethings remain same across geographical locations and cultural as well as linguistic variations, the affinity towards your own kind and the fear of the unknown. In fact, in India there are places where even inter-caste marriage is a big taboo and the topic of marriage between people belonging to two different states lead to blockbuster movies and bestseller novels just because of the surprise element.
I made him some coffee and then started talking about religion. He was born a catholic christian, but was quite areligious. I told him that I was religious but did not believe in rituals. He poured his heart out about how he was reprimanded for asking simple innocent questions about God and verses of the Bible when he was a kid. He confessed that the sour experiences of childhood led him to become areligious and that he doesn't regret his thoughts. I told him that all religions are good but the followers and priests make things ugly by imposing their thoughts on others, mostly to satisfy their ego or ulterior motives including monetary gains.
When the installation was complete and he was about to leave I actually felt sad that the chat was over and I had to get back to work. That day the whole time in my laboratory, my thoughts kept returning back to the diversity of topics we talked about in the morning. It was indeed very unassuming and interesting.