This is the story of a corporate dinner that I attended in Essen, Germany. As usual in the morning I went to work at my Netherlands office in 's-Hertogenbosch (I like writing 's-Hertogenbosch instead of Den Bosch :P) but today was not an usual day. I had a train to catch at 14.30 hrs to Essen. I reached just in time and arrived at the venue after everyone else had reached. I was excited to meet people with whom I had interacted only over calls and emails.
The venue was a Spanish Tapas Bar (food was really good). It was a group of about 15 people and I was the only woman in the team. We had a couple of people from our client's side too. Now to give a slight background to the story, there was a team member whose wedding was due in a week and a few others who had just got married. One of the clients (here on referred to as E) was surprised to know that all the marriages were arranged and fixed by the families. E was seated one seat after me and we started to discuss Indians and marriages.
E: "So you are a woman and I would like to know your perspective on arranged marriages. Will you have an arranged marriage too?"
Me: "Probably not. I am dating some one."
E: "Oh! So your parents chose your boy friend?"
Me: <WTF expression> "Obviously not!"
E: "But aren't Indians always supposed to have Arranged marriages?"
Me: "No No. You can't categorize us like that!"
E was quiet for a while as we all sipped our wines and then he said again "So you are a woman and you drink. But you are not married. So you'll quit drinking when you marry?"
Me: "How is marriage and drinking related?"
E: "Half the men in this table stopped drinking after marriage! Indian men don't drink after marriage. Maybe the women can"
Me: "What are trying to do here? Put us in buckets?"
E: "I don't understand India"
Me: "Even half the Indians don't understand the other half."
On my way back to Netherlands, I got a seat beside an Italian (here on referred to as G) who has a shop in Germany where he sells customized wheelchairs. He spoke extremely broken English and we started talking about Indians again.
G: "You are Indian. You drink tea at 5 pm. Indians drink tea at 5 pm"
I wanted to say Indians drink coffee too. But I just smiled. He continued "Indians are very brainy. Indians always work with computers. Indians very brainy."
Well he had that correct! I choose to believe so. I asked him where is he from and what he does.
G: "I come from Ferrari and Lamborghini. I bring technology and design to Germany for the poor and disabled. I make wheel chairs. I too brainy like the Indians, right?"
G: "Indians brainy. Chinese hard working. India - Chinese together -- Rule the world, Rule the world. I think that day is coming, what do you think?"
I couldn't stop giggling. This man believes India could be the next most powerful nation in the world. I wonder how many Indians believe it?
It just made me wonder how differently we are perceived by people outside. It also made me wonder how different each Indian is in his / her outlook of life. Indians can be probably bucketed state wise to some extent. But anyone trying to bucket Indians as a whole will always fail miserably. E was even surprised to know that every state in India has a different language and even different festivals and public holidays.
Cheers to our diversity and Happy Diwali (at least that's a festival celebrated all over India - Diwali bucket :P)