You want to woo a professor, read a few of their papers beforehand. You want to hit it off with a person who comes from a place/background different from yours, won’t hurt if you are a tad versed on said place/background. Getting on the right foot is crucial. But sometimes, the right foot might turn out to be the wrong one, as evidenced by
Labs on the same side of our building share equipment. People are supposed to sign their names before using the equipment. Many times I have crossed paths with dude in our comings and goings to the equipment room. Ok, this is going to be the last time I am going to use the word “equipment” in this post.
Dude decides to start a conversation. Asks me how I pronounce my name since he had found it difficult when he saw it on the sign in sheet.
“I am from Ethiopia. I see you are from India”
“You know too much, I am scared” Said with a jocular tone.
“And your last name is Singh. You are Sikh. It is the Sikhs who wear turbans like you do and whose names usually end with Singh, right? Does Singh really mean lion?”
“How do you know so much? I am even more scared”
(Pssht, man! Here I am considering throwing in the Indra Gandhi assassination by her Sikh bodyguards)
I have my fair share of disjointed information that has, through the years, managed to stick to my brain the same way lint does to clothes. እኛ ቤት we used to call lint ጭገር:: (ምሳሌ: ብርድ ልብሱ ጭገር ያዘ::) Imagine my shock when in freshman year at college I discovered that ጭገር was so laden with meaning; it is not meant for everyday use.
But that’s neither here nor there.
I tell him that I came to know about his people from my (not targeted) readings.
A short reprieve. We both tend to our equip…
When I return from the other room, he tells me how he had once seen a Discovery documentary on ላሊበላ:: It was a good thing that he mentioned his source since I could have thought that he did a quick Google search in my absence, ላለመበለጥ::
We lament how India and Etyopia’s ancient civilizations kind of lost steam. I brought to his attention the hypothesis on how it may have been Indians who built Lalibela, with help from the angels of course.
Then came the big one
“How did you know my last name?”
I remember from my childhood people saying that Sri Lankans look like Etyopians or vice versa. I stared at this Sri Lankan chick for a full five minutes thinking that she was ያገሬ ልጅ, then she says hi, I say nothing, tongue tied. Then it so happens that, a few weeks later, I get to spend a lot of time in an environment adjacent to hers. We get introduced, I tell her about my first impression of her, I don’t think she understood that it was a compliment. Five sentences down the road, she decides to bring her husband into the conversation, I am not one to do the Sean Paul, so I beat a hasty retreat.
Am I wrong to know, unlike some Chinese people, the new year is going to be the year of the sheep?
It is true, only first names are written on the sign in sheet. For the life of me, I could not remember how I knew his last name, although for all practical purposes, his turban was a dead giveaway. He is looking at me with Kanye in his eyes,
I am standing there turning over the sheet this way and that, hoping to somehow find “Singh” scribble somewhere in there, feeling like the accidental stalker.
Let’s admit it. The modus operandi nowadays for getting to know people is not human interaction. It is Googling the shit out of them. Those of you who are looking at me like you have never done that, I would believe you better if you tell me that you have never touched yourselves. True story: when I started doing it, I had promised myself that I would stop after the tenth time. Ten. It was to be the magic number.
But there are people whom we Google and there are others we don’t give a fuck about. Dude belongs to the latter group. We are of the same species, and we go to the same school is all. That’s how far my interest in him went.
This is how I ended our conversation: “ኦሆ! (I really said that, ኦሆ!) Anyways, nice to meet you. And you don’t have to be scared of me” I have seen him around since, we have exchanged a dry “hi”, but I will never tell him how I knew his last name. Yes, it came back to me. I had learned it from one of his labmates under the most innocuous of circumstances, which if I try to explain to him, I fear would breed more suspicion on his part. ጎመን በጤና! ጎመን ለጤና!
- The Diary of a Madman, Gogol. Very nice. The place where he decides that he was the king of Spain, hilarious.
- እዚህ ውስጥ ምን ታያላችሁ? 🙂 And they expect you to keep a straight face through this
- Happy 70th!