7weeks in India – What’s your good name, M’am?


Wherever I have been in India during the last weeks – in huge cities, smaller towns or tribal areas – I found them everywhere: Curiosity and the Indian way of fun.
“What’s your good name, Mam?” – A short smile, a kind eye-contact … and you can be sure that you are asked several times a day – by people who do not know you and whom you will probably never meet again.
The question comes spontaneously, but at the same time with a touch of insistence. Often unexpected to me, not being used to it …. People sometimes join you just because of finding out your name. It can happen wherever you are: walking along the streets, sitting in trains and busses, in restrooms, shops, hotels, hospitals… Voilá the basic question about your name, asked by school children, youth, and adults of all ages, too.
There might be psychological explanations I am not aware of for understanding this phenomena. But I understood very soon: naming a person is important. For me it feels like getting an identity, among the millions of people living here.
Latest after the next question – “Which country, Mam?” – often the conversation stops, be it because of missing language skills, be it because of time issues …

But sometimes you meet very interesting people, like today. The young man in a Café.Gaylord. Explains that he offers tours for tourists in the slums, when he hears about my tribal work. We drink a tea. He talks about the slums, the tourist, expectations and his own life. After half an hour we say good bye. Good talk that never had happened, if he had not asked for my good name 😉

Indian fun, you may ask, what about that? Well, just watch a TV spot and you will understand. Something funny is happening in nearly all of them: some gawk, some clever clogs, a funny situation…

When I stayed with a driver for three days to meet with some NGOs during a lunch break he told me winking:
“Mam, when we stopped the last time and you went to your meeting, the other drivers around wanted to know who you are. I told him you are a famous lady known in the world , daughter of a rich industrial. They asked me if they could talk to me. But I said they would not understand as you are from Chennai and you speaks only English and Tamil, no Hindi. You live abroad. Your father would be the owner of the biggest lorry industry all over the world. And I was engaged to show you all parts of India, half a year trip…” And a bright smile escapes from his lips. He might have enjoyed the surprise of the other drivers and had obviously fun by telling this incredible story. How could I ever be angry with him?

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