Yesterday was quite stressful at the library. I came home soul-exhausted. There were some incorrigible customers who seemed to relish putting the librarian through her paces. But on second thought, there were some thought-provoking and delightful encounters that made the day well worth living. Here are some highlights.
Two Pakistani-American girls befriended me at the children’s desk. One of them shadowed me all day and even helped with reference transactions. I think it made her feel grown-up and responsible. The best part was when we were talking about how bad my spoken Hindi/Urdu is. I explained to them that Hindi isn’t my mother tongue. Then they asked me where I come from. India, I replied. We silently digested the fact that “our countries” are having some “problems” at the moment. One of them said,You know, I think I heard that India and Pakistan might be going to war. Oh right, I said. Oh my god, what am I doing talking to you! :) We all laughed.
They asked me where I came from in India. Gujarat, I replied. Gujrat??!! one exclaimed. But Gujrat’s in Pakistan! No way, I replied, it’s in India. We wikipedia’ed it and found out we were both right. Gujarat the state is in India. But Pakistan has its very own Gujrat – two in fact! One is Gujrat District, located within Pakistan’s Punjab. The capital of Gujrat District is Gujrat Town. Fascinating. A twelve year old taught me some geography! Oh, but to be expected, of course. I wonder if there are any connections between Pakistani Gujrat and Indian Gujarat, other than name. I wish my Lakshman Dada were alive so that I could ask him.
Then we talked about age. As in, when I inadvertantly let it slip how young they seemed to me, they seemed slightly offended. I countered with, Well, sure okay, fine, want to exchange our ages then? I’d be oh-so-happy to be back in sixth grade and let you worry about things like rent and paying the electricity bill! Both of them retorted in consternation and unison: But doesn’t your husband take care of that!!!???? When I replied that I wasn’t married, they were speechless. I have never laughed so hard as I did later that evening when replaying this conversation to another single female friend of mine. Oh yeah, we ruefully admitted. Forgot to pick up one of those at the grocery store.
And then, still later, one of them came up alone to the ref desk. Her friend had gone for the day, she explained. To the mosque to read the Koran. I was distracted when she first said this, so I asked, sorry, what? Oh, she said. H. went to read the Bible. The Bible, I asked? Don’t you mean the Koran? Oh yeah, she said, well, it’s our Bible. I asked her, Do you sometimes get scared people are going to discriminate against you because you’re Muslim, is that one reason you changed what you said to Bible instead of Koran? Yeah, she said. And also, some people might not know what the Koran is. Reminds me of myself at sixth grade. When asked to create a “family shield” with symbols of things that were important to my family, I wanted to draw an (symbol for Om) but instead i drew a cross because I figured my teacher wouldn’t know what an was. I guess some things take much more than 20 years to change.