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Hey, here's the thing dustyasymptotes asked for.

A Story About India: Chinese Guy

This is a really twisted spin on Lost in Translation

When you go to India, you expect to see Indians, correct? Well, around the beginning of our placement, Alison and I kept having spottings of some mysterious Chinese-like people who wandered about Antara and seemed to be part of the staff. They were so out of place that it was not long before we were obsessing over them in the way SETI would over UFOs. We speculated about their ages, their histories, and hey, we were bored. Maybe they weren't Chinese because why would Chinese people leave China to go to a mental hospital smack in the middle of nowhere in India? Maybe they were French.

The random (and at this point, occasional) wonderings took a turn when we started to notice that one of them, the more Chinese-like one of the two (or three, we weren't sure) kept looking at us. You know, like *looking* at us. At first, we thought maybe he was just looking because we were foreign and because, well, I'm Chinese myself. But we had to know why he was looking, or, more interestingly, at whom he was looking. For a while we played around by putting ourselves in his sight to see if he was really all that interested (oh, he was). Once, we were climbing the stairs and he was entering the rec room at the foot of the stairs and he actually *bent back* to get a better look at us before disappearing into the room. Whoa, like wtf is going on?

We started to call him Chinese Guy, and we wondered if he was married to anyone at Antara. We wondered if he was married to one of Canteen sisters who always had such stern expressions and never wore a complete salwaar kameez set and as a result, looked like they dressed by scattering all their clothes on the floor and swimming in them. But no, that was impossible. I mean, they never ate together. But you know whom he DOES eat with? That other Oriental-looking fellow. In fact, they're always sitting together. Maybe Chinese Guy is gay and his Gay Lover sits with him and guards him jealously because he suspects that his life-partner's eyes are beginning to wander to the other side of the field. Hmm.

It was ludicrous. We constructed hypothetical scenes of their "bedroom acts" where Gay Lover is dressed in a leather sari while Chinese Guy is in handcuffs, and Gay Lover is whipping him.

GL: "Who are you, bitch?"
CG: "I...I..."
GL: *whips* "You're a pretty little girl, that's what you are!"
CG: "I don't know about this..."
GL: *whips* "Say it!"
CG: "I'm a pretty little girl! I'm a pretty little girl!"
GL: "You're not thinking about joining the other team, are you?"
CG: "Y..."
GL: *whips*
CG: "No! NO ! I'm gay! I'm gay!"
GL: "Tell me how gay you are, bitch! You are gay as the day is long!"
CG: "Ok, ok. I'm as gay as the day is long!"

And so on, and so forth.

God, we just couldn't stop talking about them, it was just so amusing. We were in a mental hospital, so you can barely blame us for wanting to keep amused. We were talking about them so much, in fact, that we started to wonder if maybe one or two of the more perceptive staff members (bad at English as they were) were beginning to notice that the words "Chinese Guy" and "Gay Lover" were cropping up at an alarming frequency. But I had a solution. If anyone asked, all we would say is that they were names of western desserts that we miss from back home. But what if they ask what those "desserts" really were? So I invented two new desserts (that you are all welcome to try and make back home).

The edible Chinese Guy is a sort of sweet chop suey. You take uncooked chow mein and dip them into boiling water until they are about half-cooked. Then you mix it with capaccino ice cream and assorted nuts. You can top it with anything you like, but I suggest butterscotch and a little saffron (with a chocolate on top, of course).

The edible Gay Lover is a banana (split in the middle with a centre of melted chocolate) and two very strategically placed truffle balls topped with a mountain of (you guessed it) authentic whipped cream. But there's a catch: to get the full experience, you have to eat it with your hands tied behind your back.

(I know, I'm gross. A gross...GENIUS!)

This next part is probably my fault, but hey, Alison was the one who insisted on being so well-kempt.

The ones in Ottawa have never met Alison, but she is about my height (5'9"), rather good-looking, skinnier than me (I'm about 135 lb) and she has the usual Scottish pale skin and the rather unusual dark black hair. She wore contacts the whole time and often had a bit of eyeliner on. She hated to tie back her long, straight, layered hair. The result? She was the incarnation of Indian beauty, the stuff of myths. People like her are supposed to descend from the Himalayas on star-studded chariots and they have blue-skinned boyfriends who can swallow poison and shoot lasers with their eyes.

Chinese Guy fell in love with her.

It sort of happened like this. I was extremely intent on pushing our little joke to the furthest limits possble, and Alison thought the whole thing was spectacularly funny, but she was too shy to make the next moves. For a while our game was just walking past them all the time on the way to the sweets shop and laughing at his staring, but there was a point where he started to lose interest and Alison made a fantastic show of being heartbroken.

Alison was intent on getting someone to propose to her before she left India, and I was intent on having a great saga to tell when I got back, so I supported her in her efforts. I suggested we take her veil-like mosquito net and our white salwaar kameezes and convince them to have wedding photos done near the bunny farm (yes, there was a bunny farm smack in the middle of the mental hospital). She agreed, but we needed to make friends with them first. Also, she found out from her mental patient friend that they weren't really Chinese, they were Nepali. We still wanted to call him Chinese Guy.

One day I convinced her to come with me to the rec room in the evening when we knew Chinese Guy was going to be there. I, unlike Alison, let myself go to seed in India. I always had my hair slicked back, I always wore my unhideous, but rather unflattering glasses, and I was at the point where I was delighting in experimental Indian clothing (also hideous). The main attractions of the rec room were the Hindi/Bengali programming of the common TV and two tables of this game that vaguely resembled table pool, but with disks instead of balls, no sticks, and a smaller, square board. We planted ouselves at the board closest to the entrance, and began to play clumsily and figure out the rules as we went along. Well, our frequent laughing and english talk attracted the attentions of you-know-who and he came over and decided to join our board (Alison thought that this was quite a deviation from his usual child-like bashfulness). We discovered too, much to our amusement, that he spoke absolutely no English. Well, no, I guess he knew enough English to constantly ask Alison to sing Hindi songs for him, though Alison staunchly refused. It was so much fun talking about him without him having the least clue what we said.

This game meeting thing became a bit of a regular event. I was learning Bengali at the time and I knew enough to have conversations with him, though he refused to tell me his age. Sometimes Gay Lover would join (he didn't look in the least stereotypically gay, but hey, we were bored). And I found out that his real name was Sanjay and that they were both from Darjeeling, and that Sanjay had a wife named Indira and two kids, none of whom lived at Antara. I asked Chinese Guy for his name, but he talked a bit like a smurf, so I couldn't decipher it at all. At this point, I used the formal second person with them both. Eventually I did find out his name, it's Kumar, like from that movie.

Soon we became obsessed with the idea of seeing what their room looked like. I wanted to see what Sanjay's wife looked like because he was my appointed groom-to-be and I wanted to check out my competition. Alison wanted to go too, but she was afraid Chinese Guy would want to make out.

Why would she be afraid of that? Well, I was a bit mischevious with my Bengali, and sometimes I translated things Alison said when she really didn't mean for them to be translated at all. For instance, she once said, "Tell him I'll sing him Hindi songs if he buys me sweets," so I did. I said to him, "Alisonke mishti kinle, Hindi gan korbe." She was a bit mad about that. Eventually our shenanigans must have gotten to his head because he started to say over and over again, "lobh, lobh." And we were like, wtf is that? And then I was like, wait a minuit, "Kumar, apni Alisonke bhalobashen?" He indicated yes. So I couldn't help being all, "He's in loooove with you."

One day he asked her to go to his room with him. We were like, "Cool, we'll go." He started laughing sheepishly, so I was like, "Apni amake ghore jete chaichenna?" He indicated yes. Of course, Alison refused to go alone.

Now, of course, I began to feel bad about our wedding photo plot. I mean, if one guy is already married and the other is genuinely in love, then it'd be a pretty nasty joke, would it not? Thus, we dropped it, but Alison still sort of wanted her proposal, and we both had a bit of fun imagining Alison as a pregnant Indian housewife.

Alison at this point had already decided that to not travel around India at least a little would be a waste, so she planned a trip to Darjeeling, where it would be cold. I, in one of my michevious fits, told Kumar because I thought it was funny that that was where he came from and that that was where Alison was going. "Alison shiggir Darjeeling jabe," I said. Somewhat unexpectedly, he said that he was going around her departure time himself and that he wanted to go with her.

I think at this point (finally) my conscience caught up with me and I realized what we (I) had done. I tried to convince Alison not to take it too much further, and Alison didn't want to at first, but then she decided that he wasn't what she was looking for in an Indian husband anyway (someone rich who basically only serves to grant joint citizenship so she can come over whenever she wants. She obviously doesn't really mean to marry an Indian or have a Nepali child, but anyway), so she agreed to refuse him if it was ever necessay.

Maybe about two weeks afterwards, we met Kumar and he told us to come to the guard house at the front gate at night. He's about a foot shorter than the both of us and just as muscular, so we figured we were safe enough. We met him at 10:00 and he invited us into the little guard hut. We sat down and proceeded to have a conversation that went something like this: (K=Kumar, A=Alison, P=Me)

Maybe you can learn some Bengali too.

K: You fly *makes hand airplane* Canada.
A: Huh? No, I'm not from Canada.
P: Na, ami Canada theke hoy. Alison Scotland theke.
K: You fly Scotland?
A: *nods* Yes.
K *looks dismal* No. No fly. Kobe? W...When?
P: When are you going to Darjeeling?
A: I'm going on the 6th.
P: How long are you staying?
A: Ten days, I'm going home on the 15th.
P: Wait...uh...shit. ak minit. Um...Alison December six-e Darjeeling giye dosh din theke um...Scotland jabe.
K: *looks dismal* No. No fly.
P: Um, I think he wants you to stay.
A: *burries head in hands* No! Tell him I have family in Scotland.
P: Alison thekte parena. Alisonar ma, baba, um...ar duto bon (two sisters) Scotland thake.
K: Darjeelinge bari ache.
P: He says he has a house in Darjeeling.
A: *burries head in hands* No! Tell him I have a boyfriend (this was half-true).
P: Alisonar bondhu chele ache. Alison bondhu chele khub bhalobashe (love, remember you guys).
K: *looks dismal* No. You, me. Life partner.
P: Oh, God.
A: *head still in hands* Oh, no.
(I have stopped using the formal second person, cuz we're buddies, in a way)
A: I can't marry him!
P: Alison shudhu atharo (18) boyos, tomar shonge biye korte parena. Bondhu chele ache, take bhalobase.
(I have to repeat myself several times before he finally understands that she really doesn't want to marry him. Kumar makes some vague statements that seem to me to be accusing Alison of marrying her white boyfriend for money. I try to explain that her boyfriend is about as poor as he is)
K: December...you, me, Darjeeling...
P: I think he says he wants to go to Darjeeling with you.
A: Oh, no. Tell him I want to go alone.
P: Alison nijer shonge Darjeeling jete chaiche.
K: Kano? (Why?)
P: Um...oh, shit. Just...oh, I dunno. Alison...aka-aka bhalo lage. (What I had meant to say was "She likes being alone." What I actually said was something to the effect of, "She likes loneliness.")
K: *chuckles miserably* (He's a really tragic figure sometimes).
(There's not much left after that, but what eventually happened was that Alison was so tired of saying no that she just let him think that he could meet her in Darjeeling).

Nearing the end of Alison's stay we got invited to a country club by the GAP rep. I got my period, so I couldn't go swimming, so I chose to wander about Calcutta instead. I guess it was lucky I didn't go because Alison and two other GAP girls went to Domino's afterwards and the pizza made her quite sick. I met Kumar on the way back from the phone booth and he asked how she was with a very sad smile on his face. I told him she was at a friend's in Calcutta. The next day, she was obviously not in the mood for visitations when he decided to drop in on our room. He told us again how much he wanted to go to Darjeeling. He said his heart was thumping right now. I drew a diagram demonsrating that by the time he got to Darjeeling, Alison, temporally speaking, would have already left. Alison was quite understandably a little unreceptive, so I think he left with his tail between his legs.

A little while later, we're sitting by the windows of the Children's Ward when we see Kumar in the accounts office. We were like, "Whoa, what does he need money for? OMG, he's not borrowing money to go to Darjeeling, is he?"

For a while we didn't see him much, and Alison soon got the impression that maybe he had been wounded by his reception. So we decided to invite him to our room again to see if we could at least salvage some aspect of his ego. "dupure (at noon) amader ghore asbe?" I said. He indicated yes.

Well, he stood us up, oddly enough. That afternoon, however, we met up with Sanjay and he gave us a very illegible note from Kumar saying that he was having money problems and could not go to Darjeeling, or at least that's all we could make out.

A little while after that, with Alison's trip looming very much in the horizon, we met Kumar by some shops outside Antara and he slipped Alison another note. This had a picture of Alison and a picture of Kumar holding a rose. Above was some scrawlings in Hindi which were absolutely illegible. Plus, I couldn't read Hindi. Alison was studying Hindi at the time, but she didn't know enough to decipher it. We still don't know what it says, and we rather doubt there is anyone but Kumar who can read it.

Kumar saw her off to Darjeeling, but he didn't go past the gate. Alison came back and spent one last day at Antara. That night, we ran about saying goodbye to everybody and we even did see the room that we've always been wondering about (it's really not that interesting), only Sanjay and his wife and child (I only saw one) are staying there now.

Alison left and I stayed. At New Year's Eve I sat across Sanjay at the dinner feast and I asked him, "Kumar kothay?"
"Calcutta. Duty."
"Antara phere jabena (not returning)?"
Sanjay shook his head.

Well, I guess that's that. Did you like that one, boys and girls?

So what else is new?

I've decided to be friends with Adam again because the ring of adolescent foolishness that is/was Adam, me, and Erin could not go on spinning forever. And that's all I'm going to say.

I've reestablished contact with Simon again, which is really fucking cool because we have a lot more in common than I thought. Even though Adam also likes movies like Syriana, what he DOESN'T have is the complete symphonic works of Gustav Mahler. Hah.

Even though I've pretty much decided to go to Ottawa U, I want to check out Guelph before any irreparable decisions are made, so Erin and I are going on a road trip during her March Break. Adam, for some reason, wants to tag along, and I guess I don't mind because it means I pay less for gas.

I got a job at Tim Hortons and then quit it three days later because Orange Julius offerred me a job and it's not as much work. And I don't have to wear uniforms that make me look naked from a distance. I felt bad about wasting the time of my trainer, so I got her a thank you card with a kitty on it.

You know, sometimes I wonder if I should maybe act less smart so that people with intellectual anxieties don't gripe because of me. It's not so much with my main body of friends (though apparently it has bred a lot of misplaced "respect" for me in the past), but my friends are a little "hors de la norme" or "eccentric," as my Dad commented (yes, my Dad called my friends eccentric and then told me half-jokingly that Sharmin is the incarnation of the perfect daughter, "but as long as you're happy..."). With some people it sometimes seems to me that being good at a bunch of things and my taste for intellectual one-upmanship sort of offends Christian modesty or something.

Truthfully, I think there's quite a chasm between how smart I am and how smart I would like to be, and actively exercising intelligence is the only way to get there. I mean, I'm not three anymore, I can't accumulate neurons just by twiddling my thumbs, you know.

I don't think Simon has ever had too much "respect" for me, but I wonder if I still make Adam feel deflated if I best him in an argument or do something cool with a recently discovered talent. I still don't know why he had such an inflated high opinion of me. He said something about my "attitude," but "attitude" was apparently my PROBLEM, according to, oh, let's see, Ms. Roberts, Mrs. Palis, Ms. Anas, my mother...

*Sigh* Seven years ago I thought I didn't have anything, and now I think I have too much.


In other news, I've discovered that a very effective way to learn French is to watch tons of french movies with the subtitles off and to play french songs over and over again until I've memorized the words. It's pretty much how I learned English, especially considering my extreme reluctance for social contact in my early years.


I've ONCE AGAIN accidentally stumbled upon the Dick Shannary sequel I had been wanting to write since grade 10. Goddamn, the ending is so great. I HAVE to write it, but it needs to be pushed back....


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2006 04:37 am (UTC)
that was a plus. better than a plus even. like the story of legends and novels with Epiphanies and Moments and Instances. And we'll be wondering what became of Kumar until he shows up as a character in the next Rohinton Mistry novel.

Mar. 21st, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
by Erin
dammit pams.. POST !! i'm a sad pathetic azn girl who has nothing to live for cept read ur lj!! so gimme SOMETHING!! T_T
Mar. 22nd, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC)
Re: by Erin
Oh, I'm sorry. (How am I supposed to know people actually read this thing?). Fine. I'll indulge you...soon. Soon. I promise.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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