Globalisation...4 mins 160 4 mins 160
Believe me, I was really tired. And the idea of cooking after a long day in college didn’t exactly excite me. But my stomach threatened me of dire consequences if I stuffed it with bread once more and hence, reluctantly, I had to drag my body into the common kitchen that I share with some thirty-five other students living on the same floor as me.
We have two options to cook food. We may either use the microwave oven or the hot plate to cook. I used both- the oven to cook rice and the hot plate to cook dal. Now, believe me, it takes ages to cook on the hot plate, and so, quite naturally I got bored of staring at the pressure cooker after a while and was looking for someone to strike a conversation with.
‘Bonsoir’ was the word that announced the arrival of the company. It was some oriental guy. From China, Japan or Korea I assumed. I wished him the mandatory ‘Bonsoir’ and recited the one sentence that I have mastered here in France. ‘Je na parle par francais’. 'Do you speak English?' ‘Oui’ was the answer and that in itself told me how much English he spoke. ‘Ja mapelle Mayank. Comment tu tappel?’ ‘Umm…Chuam’. Good, I thought, so far so good. ‘Japanese?’ ‘Non, China!’ ‘Oops’ I thought and resumed the extremely fun practice of staring at the pressure cooker.
Now, these Chinese guys are smart. They don’t stare at pressure cookers after a long day of work. They just cut open a pack of instant noodles and while people like me are still admiring the beauty of the pressure cooker, they have their meal ready. I know what you are thinking. Don’t mistake me for someone totally baked. I too had taken some twenty-five packets of instant noodles with me when I had left India for France, but my monster of a stomach had gobbled them up in a matter of days. I was desperate to know where I could find them in this country at reasonable rates. In fact, as soon as my eyes had sampled the noodles that the Chinese had prepared, it had become my temporary mission in life.
My modest (in fact I’m being immodest here: read that as extremely poor) French vocabulary failed me for the umpteenth time as I tried my level best to complete the newest mission that I had set for myself. I had to think of other ways to find out. And so I decided to use the universal sign language. I pointed at the noodles and asked ‘From China?’ hoping against hope that he would say ‘non’. He did and pointed emphatically towards the kitchen floor to communicate that he had bought it in this French city itself. Well, that was easy. But now came the tough part.
My cooker had whistled at least about 12 times when I made my final attempt at asking him where he had bought the noodles and at what price. But as on the previous attempts, he said something in French that I couldn’t make head or tail of. In fact, I was sure he hadn’t even understood my question. So, as any rational person would do after twenty minutes of such mind-boggling conversation, I decided to call it quits, wished him ‘Bon appetite’ and was about to leave with my rice and some semi-liquidy thing that resembled dal when my savior arrived. He was a Portuguese friend that I had in the hostel.
Now, believe me, this guy isn’t exactly an elocutionist. His English is probably as good as my Tamil. But even then, at least he could communicate and I was as happy to see him as I would be if I were to see a river in the middle of a desert. And hence, there we were, the three of us, standing in a triangle. I am an Indian, who spoke to the Portuguese in English. The Portuguese translated the question for the Chinese; not in Portuguese or Chinese but in French. The Chinese then said something to the Portuguese, not in Chinese but in French (I assume) who then translated it for me in English. I then thanked both of them in French and they welcomed me in French and English respectively.
And there I was, as happy as a bee! I had my plate of dal-chaawal in my hands, I knew where to find five packets of noodles at just 90 cents and more importantly, I had finally understood the term that my professors had always tried to explain to me in vain. ‘Ok, so this is globalization’, I told myself. Phew!