My connecting flight in the US was late by three hours. A friend was picking me up at the airport so I called to warn him about the delay.
My friend's roommate, who picked up the phone, said he was in the restroom.
Then -- this was in August 2001 -- I had no idea what a restroom was. So I responded, "Can you please wake him up?"
Jahangheer Shareef Shaik, Memphis
The veggie conundrum
I work for a multinational software company. We recently hosted 14 Chinese for training and some of us were asked to partner them.
My partner's name was Summer. He spoke poor English and did not know much about India.
I apply a tilak on my forehead, as does my close friend. A female friend of ours wears a bindi.
Once, we went on a picnic where non-vegetarian food was served. The three of us didn't eat anything since we were vegetarians.
The next day, as we were lunching at the café, Summer walked up to an Indian wearing a tilak and rebuked him in a shocked voice, "You are not supposed to eat chicken, you are a vegetarian!"
Turning away from the guy, who was too stunned to respond, Summer asked me, "Doesn't the red mark (he was obviously referring to the tilak) on your forehead mean you are vegetarian?"
S Chandra Mohan, Bangalore
The bus I was travelling in stopped at Lonavala for a break. It had been a long ride from Mumbai. I got down and asked the vendor to parcel some dosas and vada pavs.
While I was getting back into the bus, a woman summoned me through the window, "Eh, idhar aa [You, come here]."
I was a bit surprised -- her tone was harsh -- but I went.
She asked me the cost of a vada pav. Rs 4, I replied. Then she asked me the cost of a dosa. Rs 10, I told her. She asked me for three vada pavs and two dosas.
Her behaviour was annoying, but I complied with her request. Then she gave me money. This really got my goat. I told her not to bother.
That was when she realised I was not a vendor but a co-passenger. She was terribly embarrassed. She kept apologising to me until we reached Pune. And, despite my refusals, plied me with sweets.
Balamukund S, Pune
The sound of music
I was visiting Baroda in January 2001, after a year in the US. Towards midnight, my friend and I would end up hanging out at a tea stall near the railway station.
One night, an old man who could have easily passed off as a beggar, approached us. Actually, he earned money by playing the flute. And he had a very amusing act. He would dial a number on his imaginary phone and pretend he was connected to the prime minister. He would talk to him and then play a song that was supposedly requested by the PM.
As I listened to him, I thought about this man who was so old and had played the flute for others all his life. I felt giving him a Rs 10 note was not enough.
Instead, I asked him to lend me his flute. And I played for him. I have been playing the flute for the last several years but I have never played so well as I did that day.
This man has spent his whole life performing for others. I performed for him.
He could not stop smiling.
I paid for his tea before we left.
Aditya Ekbote, Baroda
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh