International Writers Magazine: It's the way you say
Acharama? (Are you that traditional?)
cold front had moved in making it a cloudy day in Texas, unusual
for this time of the year with day light savings in effect for
over two weeks now. When it comes to unpredictable weather, people
(non-republicans) were very sure it was President Bush who was
responsible for hampering the weather pattern. Oh well
had just announced measures to get America to make fuel from straw,
similar to what Brazil had from sugarcane. (He did not go the
extra mile to look up some claims form India, where fuel was created
My day was chugging
along as any other typical day in any American IT company. Emails, meetings
with a bit of small talk around the coffee pot about Intels influence
on the small EDA (Electronic Design Automation) companies, some local
CEO (Chief Executive Officer) being sacked, some old forgotten co-worker
suddenly remembered for the millions he just made in an acquisition,
some new electronic gadget that was now available in Frys (an
electronic store) etc. Then I am back in my office with my good old
computer and the Internet.
As the two hands on the clock were coming closer, (most kids can't read
traditional clocks anymore
its the electronic age) I was
about to find company to have lunch. My usual lunch buddy was no longer
around for his contract was abruptly terminated a week ago. I walked
out of my cube to find my Boss at the microwave. Oh well.. I have a
call at one, so am heating up my lunch, were his words. Lunch seemed
to be the last thing on any bodys mind. I saw Nancy munching on
her apple and pick up a cup of dark coffee. While America had the most
number of obese people in the world, it had the most number of calories
conscious ones too.
This thought suddenly highlighted the phrase "Six grams or less
fat per sub" in my mind. What better place to go other than Subway,
when one is all by one self and wants to get "healthy meals".
I drove to a Subway situated inside a convenience store, in a close
by strip mall. The parking lot was mostly filled with 4x4 (pick up trucks).
Some of them had big bumper stickers that read "God Bless America.";
"We are with our troops."; "Proud to be an American."
while some just carried an American flag. The thing about "patriotic"
bumper sticker started soon after the historic 9/11 events. I had known
a lot of Indians in America who had gone out of their way to get these
stickers on their cars; some even wore pins on themselves. I have always
wondered if this was a sign of fear of being isolated by mainstream
America or is it solidarity and gratitude towards a nation that has
given us such a wonderful lifestyle.
What had puzzled me most was why a lot of Indians in America, thought
it appropriate to support the American war on Iraq. Political views
of India as a country are changing too. India now wants to be safely
aligned with America to reap the economic benefits that come with it.
All of a sudden, America has also discovered India to be a strategic
partner and a great democracy, to buddy up with. Let's not even talk
about Indian Spiritual Gurus marketing art of breathing, walking,
meditating, eating and living to Americans, while Americans are marketing
KFC, McDonalds, Coke and Lays to Indians.
Indians ran this convenience store and Subway. I had been there
to pick up lunch a couple of times before. Subway all over America
if not the world looked and felt the same, whoever ran the show. You
stand in line and the first person at the Subway manufacturing line
says "Hi, How can I help you today?". If you are a regular
at Subway, you would reel out "Six Inch Veggie Max (If you
are a vegetarian there is nothing much to choose from) on a wheat bread
At this point you know that there needs a pause because the sandwich
switches from one person to another. It all becomes so familiar, like
the poojari saying ashtaotaram in the temple for the 100th time in one
evening. Its a mechanical affair. So my toasted bread was out
of the oven and the lady with the smiling face and a small bindi (red
dot on the fore head) greeted me with a hi, before she could ask me
anything I said "Hi, all the veggie no onions please
She looked at me with a smile and asked "Yenna Acharama ? (Are
you that traditional?)". (Traditionally south Indian Brahmins were
not consuming onions.) For a moment I did not realize what the question
was and drew a blank. But slowly I answered "Ing varathake munne
acharam vicharam yella vitu, Melting Pot le vilande aname?
(Before coming here, one has to give up ones tradition and thoughts
and jump into the Melting Pot, Isnt it?)
Oru pakkam go mamsam in-oru pakkam onion, naduvale yanaku acharama?
(With cow meat on one side and Onion on the other, Can I be traditional
in the middle?)"
She burst out with a hysterical laughter. The others three Indians
and one Hispanic forming the Subway process pipeline on that
side of the counter were wondering what I had said
while she translated
my Tamil statement to Hindi. Upon which, all the three Indians ended
up in a loud laughter while the line of native (Americans) customers
and the one Hispanic woman behind the counter stood watching
© Kiran Kannappan June 2006
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