For whatever odd reason, in one of my moments of ‘spacing out’ at the office, I started reminiscing on an old incident that happened way way …way…way back in the day. No particular rhyme or reason. But I think I may be part of the reason as to why Indians abroad are stereo typed as being ‘cheap’.
When we were abroad and my parents, in their wisdom, decided that I ought to sell my soul to the devil, decided to put me in a fairly prestigious school to begin what would be a fairly long and traumatic 12 years of schooling. Needless to say, the young genius I was as a 5 year old, I easily passed all the IQ tests, knew all my letters of the alphabet, colours, and I was quite the cute little fellow. Not to mention, I was quite the ladies man with the smooth talking ( WHAT??? cough…cough….cough…puke!) and had the nice firang lady teacher find me absolutely adorable. All said and done, there was one big problem. The school took you in only if you were at least 6 years old. The parental unit was well aware of my honesty at times when it isn’t required. They sat me down the previous evening and made me repeat loudly, “ I am 6 years old”. This went on all evening, until my brain was conveniently brainwashed into thinking I was actually 6 years old.
How mean is that? They just took away an entire year of my life by have me chant “I am 6 years old”. I actually believed it. I now know. It is the childhood trauma of this incident that has scarred me for life. Sniff! Sniff!
Anyway, when asked by the principal, who thought I was really prudent for a child my age, I religiously repeated, “I am 6 years old”. And that’s how my formal education began, with lies and deceit. Oh the trauma! Woe is me! We never had things like ‘birth certificate’ back in the day. The word of an innocent child (ahem…ahem) would be taken for granted. After all, children that age don’t fib.
PS: The principal also thought I was terribly adorable for an Indian child. You really can’t blame Slumdog Millionaire now, can you? They ought to have had me in the picture. Me and Frieda Pinto….( eyes turn into limpid pools of bliss whilst fanaticizing).
Erm….back to the point. Yours truly now truly believes that he is 6 years old and the parental unit forgot to tell me otherwise. The vacations come around the corner and we decide to go on a Euro tour. (Not Euro trip…Tour). We end up in Germany, where we get onto one of the organized-tour buses that takes you around to all the nice places in town. We were the first people to get onto the bus and are waiting for the bus conductor to come and check our tickets. Now, the packaged tour had it that children under the age of 6 come along for free and one need not invest in the half-priced ticket. (You know where this is going?)
Along comes the bus conductor, checks our tickets and asks with a fairly thick German accent, “How old is child?” Dad says, “He’s only 5 years old.” I’m absolutely flabbergasted by this outrageous patronizing remark and yell at the top of my voice, “ NO !!!!!!!!! I’m 6 years old….I’m a big boy now!!! I am not 5…I am 6 !!!!” And I’m very proudly holding up 6 fingers to drive home the point. And I keep yelling this over and over again. Mum is trying to cover my mouth. Dad is pleading my case by offering to show my passport to prove that the wailing imbecile of a Frankenstein kid he helped bring into this world is actually only 5 and not 6. I am still screaming at the top of my voice, “ I’m 6 years old…I’m a big boy now!!!!”
The conductor replies, “ No need to show child’s passport sir! If you say he is 5, he is 5. We have a lot of Indians who do this! It is alright! Enjoy trip” and he turned away with a look that said, “Bah! Indians! You seen one, you’ve seen em all!”
Needless to say, I got a sound beating from both members of the parental unit. Over my tears, I’m screaming, “But you told me I was 6…why are you beating me? Now you say I am 5….I’m so confused.” The beatings continued until the next family arrived and I’m all weepy and sniveling. I refuse to speak to the parental unit and go sit in another seat, with tears rolling down my eyes, whilst pouting. I also remember this cute German girl who asked me why I was crying. I guess that’s what she asked me….I don’t know German, but she definitely did not ask me whether they would stop at a vegan restaurant for lunch.
Mood slightly improves because cute girl (who is at least 4 times my age) talks to me and pinches my cheeks. Eventually when I got hungry and needed the parental unit to buy me food, I came back and started speaking to them again.
PS: They’ve realized that this hunger technique works on my temper even when I’m 24. Dammit. Need to find a new weakness.