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(12): NOTHING (I)

Something. Yes, something; for, you have already read some words. The piece is purposely entitled so, for one title may not capture the subject matters it contains. It’s a compendium of discursive thoughts of an amateur Nigerian living beyond the borders of his country, and in a far South Asian country of India, the country that defies any all-encompassing classification and codification. One cannot mention a single religion, culture, race/colour of Indians as there are numerous in place. The country is the second largest in the world by population after China. Therefore, a foreigner will never stop learning here. Everyday or time will present new challenges, new things, new human dynamics, and, sometimes even, new problems to solve. There can and should be many failures along the way—clash of culture, misperception of a particular gesture, language barrier, name it. This is however part of the human endeavours. The foreigner shouldn't hesitate to make as many mistakes as possible—just don't make the same mistake twice. And be more diplomatic and decorous than you have ever thought of becoming. As it’s said, it’s always better safe than saved.

Indian and English
I was, among other things, first of all bemused and even amused at the way Indians use the English language. Hence I wrote a full-length article on that. India is a country where English issue is much dissimilar to any other country, for it has, here, been heavily politicized. People killed themselves to kick the language out of the country; a top government official had famously once dramatically protested against the language in the United Nations General Assembly by speaking in Hindi. Yet others take it as passion and use it fashionably to showcase their perceived higher status in the society. One interesting thing at this juncture is the fact that India is the first largest English speaking nation in the world followed by the U.S.A, and then my country, Nigeria. But, still, it is very common in India to meet a professor even in the Arts whose English proficiency is no better than that of a secondary school student in Nigeria.

What/Where is Nigeria?
Is Nigeria different from Kenya? Is Nigeria part of South Africa? It is a far-fetched experience to many Nigerians who have never had such mystifying encounters, more especially knowing that their country (Nigeria) is the populous Blackman nation in the world. But meeting people who do not have an inkling of a country called Nigeria is the order of the day here in Jalandhar, a remotely urban area in the state of Punjab. Not only that, many more do not know of a continent named Africa. However, some others know, or rather take, every Black person to have originated from South Africa, a country which Mahatma Gandhi, the foremost Indian statesman, lived at, and, again, the country which their most favourite national cricket team has had matches with. Only a pocket of them know other black countries—maybe in Africa—like Kenya, Zimbabwe and probably a few others due to, still, the same game (cricket) alone. The percentage of those who know Nigeria as a country is extremely minimal, I tell you. Thanks to the glamorous Indian Hindi film industry, the Bollywood. It has popularized and promoted the country to the extent that an average Nigerian, especially in the North, knows of its existence. Not only this, he might be so familiar with, and could say, a few words, phrases and sometimes even sentences of/in the language they speak like “Kya huwa?”, “Kuch nahi”, “Margaya”, etc.

Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, etc
No doubt, India belongs to the Hindus—followers of Hinduism. The name of the country alone says so: Hindustani. But no, India, as a united nation, belongs to many other faithful, in fact not only Hinduism has its umbilical cord buried in India, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, and most probably more creeds have theirs’. Again, of a very long time ago, Islam, the world’s second largest religion, after Christianity, has followers in and around India. To be more precise, its presence pre-exists some of the aforesaid religions, for it was brought to India since the Prophet Muhammad's days by his Companions, and 'promoted' by the (in)famous Mughal rulers centuries ago. Hence, it still boasts having as well second largest population (i.e. more than 200 millions) in the Incredible India. On the same vain, the ‘followers’ of Jesus, the son of Mary, are there. This however is mostly attached to the British colonial masters, who along with their imperialism proselytised the people here and elsewhere.

Worth mentioning is the saddening schism that rages mostly between the Hindus and the Muslims. But from my personal (you can call it individuated) view, the feud, which infrequently turns so searing, is more motivated by socio-political reasons than ethno-religious impulse. Though it is sometimes baffling; for instance, just a week ago, a Hindu girl was allegedly gang raped by more than ten people under the command of her village elders in West Bengal as a punishment. Her crime was dating a Muslim boy in a neighbouring village. Horrible! Anyway, may the Almighty God always avert any agitation, and always prevent the defenseless and innocents in both sides, amin.

On sexuality and vulgarity
Do I look hot? Do I look sexy? I cannot count how many times, or how often, I was asked these questions by both my male and female friends. I observed that it sounds very common to their ears, but not to mine. Not still. Another intriguing thing here is: although Indians are so much culture-bound and fervently practice that, this particular ‘vulgarity’ hasn’t any niche there; consequently nobody considers it aberration, let alone something wrong. I discussed this with some fellow Africans, or narrowly, Nigerians, and they still feel quirky at such pronouncements.

This is not all, my sweetheart. Ah, are you really my sweetheart, Reader? This is yet another commonest expression used among the Indians, and used in between both genders. I was struck by astonishment and wariness the moment my lecturer called me so. However, what I later realized about the reason behind this idiosyncrasy is that: Indians may go to a length to express respect while addressing you. They may call you “yaar”, meaning friend, or “bhai”, brother. They use a suffix “ji” in the names of ‘respected’ persons and godly figures. For instance, to call their Prime Minister, they will say Mr. Manmohan Singh ji; Sikh’s celestial figure, Guru Nanak ji; film star, Shahru Khan ji, etc. And I say Governor Kwankwaso ji, Professor Bhadmus ji. Mention yours.

Marriage and relationship
I love him, but I cannot marry him. Why? You cannot imagine, let alone understand the reason. Simple. He belongs to lower caste. Till the time of this write up, I don’t know, nor do I understand, how that is still being practiced in India. We are in the 21st century; human-being should be regarded for who he is, not by what his family origin, history, etc. is. To me, an outsider, everybody looks alike, “Indially” speaking. The hierarchy in the caste is not at all written on the foreheads, or part of anyone’s body.  Yet, it’s boldly visible to them. Magic? Sometimes the name signals the caste, sometime it doesn't. Some castes are considered pariah where they cannot marry from, or to, any other family. More so, they are considered disgusting, devilish and as somebody never to go near to, or let come closer. If they touch another person of higher caste, he/she would have to go back home, wash his/her body and wear new clothes.

To be continued… (In sha Allah).

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