Hindi-Cheeni Bhai Bhai!

(Translation: Indian and Chinese are brothers)

It was an interesting sight and since I didn’t want to offend anyone by taking a photograph, here I am trying to draw a picture by words! This sight came up unexpectedly when we wandered into Friendship Shopping Center in Shanghai near LianHua Rd metro station. This is a huge shopping mall with lots of small shops on first floor peddling everything from McDonald’s burger to dried snake for medicinal purposes. We were roaming around when we came across this shop, which is called (very unimaginatively I thought) T.T.K. Fried Chicken in small English fonts and large Chinese characters across the banner. Two (very dark-complexioned) Indians (Tamils, which is a southern state in India) were busy preparing very interesting-looking bread, and a (very fair-complexioned) Chinese girl was standing right besides them taking orders from some customers. There was a small crowd gathered to watch the bread being made. I say ‘interesting bread’, because its method of preparation was interesting. If you have seen ‘rumali roti’ makers of India, you will know what I mean: one of the cooks was making the bread stretch by throwing it in air with a strong centrifugal (or is it centripetal?) force which made it turn around and fly up, and when it came down, he would catch the stretched bread with one hand, massage it some more and then throw it up for another round of stretching. In a few minutes, the bread would become paper thin (yes, literally that thin, it looked like translucent paper!) and extra big (about 50 cm diameter, which is almost 10 times a normal Indian bread). He would then spray some egg on it and hand over to his friend, who would carefully fold it into a more manageable size, cook it some more and cut it into small rectangular chunks of the size of a regular bread (16 of those), ready to be eaten! Most of the crowd dispersed when the bread was done, so we could go near them to place our order. The cooks were happy to see an Indian face and helped translate to the girl while we placed our order in English. Then one of the cooks and the pretty girl were engaged in some talk. After a few seconds, I realized what they were talking about: the cook was trying to teach the girl how to count in Tamil!

Visualize this: a dark Indian and a fair Chinese standing together, Indian having learnt Chinese and Chinese learning Tamil, a 20-inch regular TV playing a true-blooded Tamil song and dance sequence (with heroine in saree and all) with full volume, and a Chinese menu proudly displaying Indian breads offering.

I was amazed, and happy! Here, in the middle of everything Chinese, I see two Indians who stand out so much visually but they have blended in so well that they do not care if they create a crowd around them by their antics. Great job guys!

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