“Finally, you are awake!” Meenagchi exclaimed, as she skipped into my view. “Come on, slowpoke, take this neem twig and clean your teeth.” She held out what looked to me like a small, dark-brown stick in her hand. “Mother refused to let the rest of us have our morning meal until you were up.” She stuck her lower lip out.
This is a dialogue from my book. (Are you going: “Who talks like that?” The girl who’s talking is from a long time ago in the past — that’s why her speech pattern is quirky and different from ours, and that’s what makes her interestingly different from us, in my opinion, at least. I don’t want to give too much away, because I’m saving parts of my book for another series of posts for a later time.)
Okay, I have a confession to make: the anxiety of not having any coherent thoughts to write about that I alluded to in my previous post? It’s not an entirely fabricated fear — you know, me being new to this blogging and everything? So, I’m currently hoarding up all the subjects I can think of, sort of like squirrels storing away nuts for the winter. Yeah, that’s what it is: survival instinct! (I just made the connection, too, and my brain has ordered the italics.) There! I feel much lighter, now that I put it all out there…
Now, where was I, before I digressed and went all over the map? I know I had a point… Oh yeah, those lines at the top. One of my friends who is reading my book, read that scene and sent me an email yesterday, asking: “They are brushing their teeth before they eat?”
That question just nonplussed me! “Of course they are” was my automatic answer, before my mind suddenly coughed up a memory from about fifteen years ago, when I first came to the U.S…
I was watching T.V — reruns of “I Love Lucy”. I love that show! Even though I have watched every episode at least twice already, I can still never walk away from an episode, if I come across one while channel-surfing. Oh, wait! Another possible subject for the future – record, check, move on…
So, I was watching T.V and a commercial for a breakfast cereal came on — I don’t remember which one it was after all these years. In that commercial, they show the kids running down the stairs in the morning with alacrity, sitting down at the kitchen table to gobble up their cereal, and then walking back upstairs to brush their teeth. When I first watched it, I smirked and thought: “The editor for that commercial made such a faux pas and nobody caught it. Now they are airing his blunder every day.”
Seriously, it never occurred to me that people would eat their breakfast before brushing their teeth. See, where I come from, the very first thing everyone does after waking up is brushing their teeth. We don’t even have coffee on a stale mouth (as a pre-brushed mouth is referred to, colloquially). I can safely say that this is true of almost every country in the Indian subcontinent. (Please correct me if I’m wrong – would love to hear yeas or nays about it.)
That’s why that commercial flummoxed me, before I came to understand that it was my view – for where I was living by then – that was skewed. And I definitely began to pay better attention to the happenings around me after that.
See, this is why I love reading books based in different cultures. They are my little windows through which to peek at how the rest of the world lives. (Oops, did that actually come out sounding like the confessions of a Peepin’ Tom? Let me assure you, I’m definitely not one – I don’t have the nerves of steel that are required of one, to begin with.)
As a reader, I’m always on the lookout, whether in children’s or adult literature, for multi-cultural books. That is exactly why I am writing one, too – in the hopes of getting someone else to experience the same amazement that I do every time I discover one of these little quirks that make us who we are.