One aspect of my job that I have difficulty with is approaching perfect strangers in order to ask questions and quote them as credible sources. Yet, I do it…mostly because I have to. I hate this part because some people are rude and I am an introvert by nature (hard to believe, I know, but it’s true) and I experience a surge of fear every time I see someone and have to give them my meek introduction (“Hi…I work at this paper, can I ask you some questions?”) Some people say no, others are like “whaaaaaat”, others literally walk away from me without so much as a polite decline…most are nice about it though, (lucky me).
Today I went around trying to find people to ask questions for an article and ended up finding a cluster of old men hanging out on a bench at a mall. I figure getting an old timer’s perspective would offer my article an insightful angle. What I was NOT expecting was to be considered a potential daughter-in-law by one of these men.
I walked over, gave my intro and immediately the man questioned where I was from. I told him where in Nepal I lived and he was adamant that a girl who lived there wouldn’t look the way I did (brown? short? tummy hanging over jeans?). I assured him that I was indeed from here and lived here and tried to ask the questions I had. For the duration of the interview the man would apply impressive tact and drop lines about his children (a son and daughter in Canada and another son in America). He also, in passing, commented on how his son is in Nepal now….looking for a wife. Subtle? Not so much.
The interruptions and tangents continued and he asked things about my education and was thrilled about my years in the US (“You lived in Boson? For how many years?!”) He was so impressed he felt the need to inform all of his bench buddies about the “smart young woman” who lived in the US for many years! WOW! LOOK AT ME! I’M SUCH A BIG DEAL!
My favorite part (not counting the “my son is here, maybe I’ll introduce you to him”) was him asking about my caste. While I was furiously trying to write down his responses for my article he decided “what caste are you?” was far more important than the reason I approached him. I hate when people ask me this question. I hate it because of what it implies, I hate the discrimination within castes and I hate the importance that people still give to it. I was diplomatic and told him I didn’t think that was relevant, all pretense of socially acceptable behavior aside, he pushed and tried to guess my caste. I ignored the short list he gave me (all guesses pointing to me being high caste) and despite his repeated attempts to get my caste, I waved it aside and told him that castes should not and do not matter and moved onto my next question.
Although this filled me with rage and I wanted to disrespect an older gentleman for ancient ideas that harm our society and our people, I kept my cool. I don’t know if he just decided to consider me high caste or if he actually wasn’t offended by my unwillingness to respond but he seemed even more impressed with me (I’m guessing the former). This let him to “joke” about how I was a clearly a smart education woman…and I should really meet his son.
He then passed me off to one of his friends (who ended up being a great find for my article!) but was rather involved with what should have been one-on-one talk I was having. The man continued to nod and make “I’m listening” and “I agree” noises and every now and then, guess what he would bring up? “Oh, you’d be a great bride!” “Yeah, why keep looking? This one is smart!” “Hah, here I was looking at women and one comes up to me!”.
Dear Sir I met at the mall and talked to because I had to,
I do not want to meet your son and I don’t want to marry him. Please answer the questions I have for you and leave me alone. Also, when you are looking for a bride, please don’t be so close minded and give caste as much importance as education. One last thing, even if your son was likeable, I would hate to marry him because then I’d be stuck with an obnoxious father-in-law.