If you are single and living in India, it is but natural that you would be asked, “Shaadi nahi huwi? (You are not married?)” You see, it is not rude among Indians to ask the rudest of questions. So, whether you are meeting someone for the first time, a few times or after ages, that question is bound to crop up in conversations. Worse, you will be also asked ‘Why’.
I don’t know why we love asking questions. I have been bombarded with: “So, where is your family, where are your brothers and sisters, why are you travelling alone, why are you not married (and if yes), why no children?” from complete strangers. Maybe Indians are just too caring and concerned about others, I argue. Or maybe, we just have too much time on our hands to indulge in others’ problems.
Living in Delhi, I was swarmed by neighbours, whose heads peeped out of the window every time a car stopped by or a person stepped out of my house. And if I happened to be standing outside the house, I would find myself in the company of a few wanting to know it all. Soon the questions would follow: “So you had a guest, so you came home late last night, so you did a lot of shopping?” I miss the noise and the people, that’s a different thing; the questions I am not so sure.
When I moved to Melbourne, I found myself leaving a culture behind. I pass by well manicured lawns and beautiful houses and, often, wonder who all live inside, what meals are being cooked? But the moment I am in the company of my compatriots, the nostalgia and familiarity creep in. Of course, we have not changed at all even if we are in a ‘phoren’ land. The questions keep coming and the favourite in Melbourne is, not whether you are single but whether you are a PR (permanent resident).
I recently met two young men who are here to study. We met at a gurudwara and were talking about the renovation when suddenly they asked me out of the blue, “Aap ki PR hogayi (have you got your PR)?” Not that the question took me by surprise. Most Indians I have met have asked me the same question despite me telling them I have just got married and moved here.
We are a PR-obsessed community here. If you have an Australian passport, well, then you a notch higher than the others. The PR mania has seen hundreds and hundreds of students come here to study cookery, hair dressing, hospitality, et al. I am a little sad that the new immigration law is going to crush the PR dreams of many, and along with those the death of that favourite question.