Encounters With Locals – Prosperity in India

To assist with translation:
1. Globally: To have become prosperous = to have gained wealth.
In India: To have become prosperous = to have gained weight.

2.  Globally: Subtlety and discretion when dealing with strangers, acknowledged traits.
In India: Subtlety and discretion when meeting strangers = No such luck.

The Encounter:

Picture the scene if you will. A local market in a reasonably affluent area of Delhi. Local fruit and vegetable stalls are set up daily, close by is Pal Superstore for dry goods and nearby is Mother Diary for milk and occasional ice cream purchases. On the occasions when I am in town sufficiently long enough to require provisions, this is where I saunter down to, ruck sack on my back, to purchase my usual items, no plastic bags for me!

I have got to know my local sabzi wala, phal wala and dudh wala and we usually have a chat and a laugh, and invariably complain about the weather and the price of mangoes. At some point the deaf and dumb guy employed by the veg wala appears, always smiling, always ready with a joke or a trick up his sleeve, always cheerful and friendly. Once my bag is filled with all that I need, they help me lift it into my back and with friendly salutes, I bid adieu and trudge home. It has become routine over the last couple of years and one I rather enjoy. Not for me the “sophisticated,” expat shopping. Nope, my friends and I at the market, survived demonetization by helping one another out, and I love my chats and repartee with them, it’s all part of being part of the local community.

A couple of weeks ago, however, there was an anomaly in this scene. I turned up at the market as usual and the usual suspects were there, it had been a few weeks and so greetings were effusive but then something caused them to pause, barely discernibly, yet to the trained eye, it was noticeable. You see, accompanying me and carrying my rucksack, was a gentleman, a tall, some might say handsome, some might say distinguished, some might say, swarthy looking, but a gentleman there was all the same… Eyebrows didn’t just raise, eyebrows started doing moves any yoga teacher would be proud of. Michael Flatley’s Riverdancing toes could not have kept up with the speed at which they were moving up and down, it was enough to stir a local breeze. I looked on innocently, seemingly unaware of the reactions my companion was eliciting. I continued to chat, purchased my goods, they loaded them into my rucksack, handed it silently, almost reverently to the aforementioned gentleman, and we went on home.

One week later, I returned, alone. My deaf and dumb friend, could barely contain himself in his excitement to rush over and question me about my previous week’s companion. He looked at me and then stood as tall and straight as his 5 ft frame would allow, mimed tall, stroked his chin and wobbled his head and then swaggered a couple of paces, then smiled and nodded his head in approval. I allowed him a wry grin.  However, the show wasn’t over yet. He then turned to face me, spun me around until I was facing him directly, pointed at me and then puffed his cheeks out, squatted slightly and held his elbows out from his sides. The meaning of his actions were unmistakeable, I had out on weight, and a considerable amount at that.

I nodded, resignedly in agreement. It is the case. The last 12 months of spending at least 2 weeks a month in hotels, being force-fed, the way only Indian hoteliers know how, have taken their toll. I am 10kgs heavier than I was this time last year.  Even I, as a veteran of this industry, who knows to take small portions, given that it will take at least 3 servings to convince any hotelier that I truly enjoyed their food, have not been able to combat the inevitable weight gain. However, it took the actions of my friend to truly drill this home. But he wasn’t done just yet.

Spotting my resignation to the fact, despite my outburst of laughter, and obviously being rather pleased for me that it appeared I had finally bagged myself a bloke he was obviously worried that my newly acquired prosperity may adversely affect this situation. Realization dawning, he promptly spun me around, pointed to the yoga centre opposite, took some exaggerated breathes and then breathed in as much as he could, whilst moving his hands in a rather sexy shimmer down his body. The message was clear, “Do something about it, lardarse!”

I burst out laughing again, nodded in agreement and, having had his actions corroborated by his employer, looking at me and saying, “Ji hain, ma’am, prosperous,” I upped my saunter to a march on my way home.

However, enough was enough. If even the guys from the local food market were commenting on my newly acquired prosperity, it was time to do something about it, and I don’t mean give it to the poor.

So, it came to pass, that at 0630 this morning, I prised my rather large bottom away from the mattress, of which it was doing a pretty good impersonation, donned shorts and a T-shirt and headed to the park. Sitting just inside the gate, where he practices his daily yoga, was my 90-year-old, stick thin landlord, who hasn’t uttered a word to me in the last 4 months.  I nodded and smiled, he nodded back and then, just as I was about to pass, he spoke, and without so much as a “Good morning” as a preamble he blurted, “So you have only decided to start walking, now that you have put on weight?” I fear my smile may have turned to a grimace, fortunately I was saved by the arrival of my rescued street dog.  I nodded politely, “Well, better late than never,” he continued.  I nodded again and moved off.

As I started on round one of 10 of my newly soon to be established daily routine, I was joined by my 3-legged, rescued street dog.  I struggled to keep up. I fear it’s going to be a long couple to three months…

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