Thursday, November 10, 2011

Our national pasttime

Officially, it might be said that cricket-watching is our national past time. But I think that our true national past-time is people watching.

Of course, everyone does people watching. Being curious is simply human nature. However, desis take people watching to the level of an art. Where people from other nations* may look embarrassed and turn away if caught in the act by the object of their watching, a true desi would hardly acknowledge that s/he has been spotted. Instead, s/he would watch with greater confidence now that there is no need for even the token pretence that they are not watching the object.

Which is how, many a time I have caught starers in the act of watching, turned away and turned back after some time only to realize that I was *still* being watched by the same starer. It is as though once you are in public, you become a part of the landscape and hence can be gawked at.

This could also be the reason that whenever it looks like more than one person is watching something, those persons are immediately joined by more people. No one wants to miss out on any fun. Often times, it turns out that an entire crowd of people are watching *nothing* (I am desi too, so, if circumstances permit, I will go and check out what's happening too - that's how I know) but why miss out in case it is some thing genuinely interesting?

Once we were driving around Ooty with some other relatives. A non-designated tourist spot, consisting of rows of pretty trees, looked interesting. So, we made a turn into the mud pathway leading to that mini-forest. Our relatives' jeep followed us. We had hardly gotten off our Jeeps when we realized that about six other random vehicles had followed us into the mini-forest. Evidently, the people in those vehicles thought that if this spot was of interest to *two* vehicles, there must be something to it and had decided to check it out for themselves!

Recently, I had a surreal conversation with my mom. We both were enjoying a cup of tea at my parents' place. We were sitting in a room which opened out into a balcony which faced a tree. Mom remarked on how much the tree had grown since the time they had moved in.

She added, "The other day, the lady from the flat across the street said that she was feeling kind of bad that she could no longer look into our house. The tree has become too tall and shields our house from her eyes."

My jaw dropped. I looked at mom and gaped, "Really? So not only was she she spying on us, but she also admitted it to you without any embarrassment?"

Mom shrugged and said, "Yes. Apparently she used to watch us all from her flat. In fact, I think she must have been happy when I invited her over for last year's Golu so that she could finally place the rest of the rooms in the house as well instead of having to imagine where we go when we move from this room!" Both of us burst out laughing. To think that her flat was a little too far away from ours to even give a proper view. True blue desi that neighbor lady was!

I love watching other folks at the airport, train-station and bus-station. I notice what they are doing and what they are wearing. And these places usually provide such a high turnover of people that there is never a shortage of entertainment. However, I have never done it blatantly (unless of course, I am wearing sun-glasses and cannot be spotted :-P) - I probably couldn't stand the attention that being caught in the act would bestow! And I also draw the line at deliberately looking into other people's homes - that just seems a tad indecent to me.

But yeah, I love people watching too.

* I do know that people from other countries (Asian, mostly) do unabashed people watching too. Maybe it has something to do with a country's culture.


Altoid said...

I love people watching too, did a lot of that while I was in Italy recently. But I watch more for curiosity about people's mannerisms etc. However, our neighbor across the street in bangalore does what your mom's neighbor does. She watches who visits us, who leaves the house when, what time they come back. And when we run into her at the market, she makes it a point to narrate all the comings and goings in our house. Sometimes it creeps us out.

Archana said...

Altoid - Oh boy - that lady sure sounds like a stalker! On the bright side though, if there is ever crime in your neighborhood, I am sure neighbor lady can be called in to identify suspects :-D.

Sumana said...

When you really run out of things to do may be one resorts to this. Not sure, but this sounds so much like always being a celebrity or kind of spied on.

Chiniiz n Sugarz Mom.. Swati said...

Isn't that so true for almost every indian? I knowa retired person who likes to keep an eye on his 'neighbourhood' from his terrace. It's his 2 hour job each day ;)
And regarding watching thru somebody's windows, whatever happened to those manners lesson we leraned in childhood days.. Sigh

Anita said...

OMG, this is news that the neighbour used to watch us. And exactly how entertaining can it be seeing only the visual without hearing the dialogues. It is not like anything exciting ever happened in the house!

Poorna said...

hahaha! an uncle of mine moved to the US and swore never to come back because he asked my aunt if she had turned on the water heater and his neighbour replied "yes, she turned it on a while ago.."

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classic regular said...

true. ganja adithu kfc-il utkarndhu makkal-ai paarthu mei marappadhenbadhu .. kidding ..

classic regular said...

remember there used to be a teleserial jannal by balachander ... ?

Archana said...

Sumana - I agree vettiness contributes to people watching tendencies!

Chiniiz - Watching through people's windows is just so unbelievably rude - they should probably teach kids at school to not do it!

Sindu - Seriously - or who knows maybe she learnt lip-reading just to have the sound-track. She sounds bored enough to have done that!

Poorna - LOL - one should have a thicker skin than that to survive India :-P!

Classic regular - I haven't seen jannal. Why ganja and kfc? Normal vetti people-watching itself is good fun :-).