Sujatha Ratnala
Feb 4, 2018 · 3 min read

A cross cultural friendship between and an Indian and a Chinese

“Do you know to make Dumplings?” Thinking about it, it sounds silly now.. This was the first thing I asked my chinese neighbour who had moved in from China just a few weeks after us.

Surprisingly, she invited me to her place in the next few days and taught me the intricate folds in making different kinds of dumplings.. From then onwards, we had a mini food and culture exchange program.. She would send in warm dumplings and I would introduce her to idlis, dosas, sambhar, aloo paratha, poori, Indian savories and sweets.. She used to be overwhelmed looking into our kitchen — the multitude of vessels, grains and spices compared to hers..

With her broken English and with my Indian accent and online translation, we would strike a conversation — our diversity did not seem to be a barrier but a ground for curiosity and discussion..

Her first grade daughter Irina one day told her- “Indian Mother looking Beautiful”.. That line from the little girl sounded so Antique.. I replied “Really?”

“We judge beauty by the face, by the eyes and the kindness, not the appearance” her mother explained .. Wow.. I never heard someone tell me like that before..

In the initial days of relocation, I felt very very resented.. So much of work and cooking at home.. Missing friends.. No body to talk to.. Cold weather.. No driving.. But then seeing her cope up alone in US was a big strength to me.. Her husband was virtually in China, she did not know English very well, she had to teach English to her daughter, she managed driving, always running errands and even a job after a few months and I felt I was complaining for nothing..

She was from a family of Acupuncture specialists and showed me a few things. I would in turn teach her yoga and little English.. We would find something interesting to speak about and learn from other cultures.

On Haloween’s day, my kids were getting overwhelmed and busy maximising their candy collection.. Guess what… Out of the Box Thinking — Her chinese friends went to Palo Alto to collect candies and have sneak peak of the Apple Facebook Google households..

She would ask me about Modi and Jiddu Krishna Murthy and I felt Wow.. She knew all this.... She was a big fan of Amir Khan and had watched 3 Idiots and talking about Dhangal. She was a big disciple of Buddha and s had watched the entire Indian episodes on Buddha.. She was so polite, kind and sweet with her daughter that she seemed like a mini Buddha to me.. It was interesting to note her knowledge and curiosity about India and Indians.

I would try an indian classical tune and she would play piano magically closing her eyes.. I secretly wished I too had an instrument that I could play this well.. Her daughter my first honorary Piano teacher gave me a few lessons too..

One day she innocently asked.. “It seems Indians are in top ranks in companies like Google, Facebook and they are not so aggressive like Chinese.. Is it because they do not eat meat as much?” Well that kept me thinking.. Back in India, people are not so refined.. They do shout at each other.. Probably the best come over here and they learn how to behave in the corporate ranks.. Probably the genes and vegetarianism also matter..

As all good things end soon, she moved to another town and like they say out of sight out of mind and we got used to not being neighbors any more..

Sujatha Ratnala

Written by

Random musings on Science, Technology, Teaching, Linguistics & Yoga