This incident happened two weeks back. I was sitting at my comp when my expat colleague W walked past and playfully pulled my pony tail. He would always say that it reminded him of the tails of the miniature horses in his farm back home. This particular day he stopped and asked me if I wasn’t fed up of the long hair and the maintenance that comes with it. He said girls in the US tried different kind of styles. Without thinking I told him "I would love to, but my Mom will kill me". A typical off the cuff remark from an Indian girl. W suddenly froze and seemed taken aback at what I had said. I felt a sinking feeling like when you realize that you have made an embarrassing slip of the tongue but you quite don’t know what. I desperately tried to remember what I had just said to him.
Flashes of an incident at my Induction came to my mind. Miss Nair joining as a CA in this company with me, standing at the podium answering questions thrown at her. When asked about her extra curricular activities she blurted out “ I am doing an Inter Course” ( the last two words were said together). There was pin drop silence as people froze and politely refrained from laughing till I burst into giggles. There were embarrassed half smiles from the guys in the audience and muffled and uneasy giggling from the gals. Miss Nair never realized what she had said and left the podium a little confused at the reaction of the audience.
Now I was sure I had committed a similar gaffe too. I blushed red. W, recovering from the shock drawled in his Texan drawl. ( I have never heard a Texan drawl but I guess his accent came close to what I thought was a drawl) “ Do you have to take permission from your mother to cut your hair??????” It suddenly dawned on me that for a Westerner like him this sounded ridiculous. I groaned inwardly. Far from presenting my country as a high tech destination I had in a single swoop reduced it to the land of the Maharaja’s, snake charmers and subservient daughters.
I tried my best to explain to him about the Indian family and respect for parents and Indian values etc. but I guess I was blabbering because W suddenly said “You know, there was this time I colored my hair and my mother threw a fit!” He was clearly throwing me a lifeline to pull my country and myself out of the hole I had dug it into. And I grabbed it gratefully. We chatted for a few minutes more.
Just then my colleague R who is expecting a baby walked past. I introduced her to W and told him “ Do you know she hasn’t told her mom she is expecting? Her mom will be very distressed if she comes to know that R is expecting another baby. She doesn’t want R to go through the trouble of raising another baby without any help!” W froze again taken aback at what I had just said.
We were back to square one.