Excerpt: An Alien Among Flesh Eaters

Anurag Sharma

Question from the Indus: Are Brahmins Real?

- Anurag Sharma

I had a good idea about diversity while living in India. After all India was the original melting pot. People came to India from allover the world with various motives. Some came in search of knowledge, while some wanted wealth. The attraction of a strange culture attracted many. I grew up with people of all kind of religions, colors, ethnicity and languages. In fact now when I compare, diversity was more common in India than anywhere else on earth. Still, there was one form of diversity where America beats India.

While living in India, I had a few friends from Nepal and Bhutan. Many groups of the Tibetan refugees used to come down from hills to planes in winter to sell woolen clothes. There were also many asylum seekers from Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh living in some neighborhoods. Some friends of mine had a few foreign classmates in college. Other than that, my exposure to foreigners was only with tourists, who occasionally stopped me to ask for directions or in some cases to sell their stuff for quick cash.

In spite of typical Indian diversity, meeting a Pakistani citizen was almost impossible for me. This is one area where I found America more diverse than India. There is a system of diversity visa lottery to encourage people to migrate to USA from the countries with smaller representation in population. For example, though IT workers from India had a decade long backlog in visa applications despite of huge pressure from hi-tech industries, green card applications from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were encouraged and supported by the immigration departments through special lottery for these countries.

Sadiq was one such immigrant. Born and brought up in Pakistan, he got his green card in visa lottery. He was a qualified advocate but to avoid complications in a foreign land, he preferred to run a convenience store in our apartment complex.

He was very impressed with the progress made by India after independence. The education system in Pakistan is silent about its Indian heritage and any positive information about India. Meeting me was Sadiq's first encounter with someone from India. Coincidentally, this was also his introduction to a Hindu. He considered Indians as 'naturally smart' people. He was curious to know how they were different from their Pakistani brothers. We discussed about common ethnicity, culture and language. He believed that Pakistan's disconnect with its past was the root cause of most of the problems.

That evening when I stepped out of the apartment complex for a short walk, Sadiq was waiting for me with an elderly gentleman Dr. Raees. Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Raees had recently immigrated to USA. An interesting man, Dr. Raees was a fan of Indian history, culture, movies, and music. We became friend soon. When I was about to take leave, Dr. Raees invited me to his home for dinner on next Saturday. While praising his wife's culinary skills, he mentioned that I would love her non-vegetarian cooking.
An Alien Among Flesh Eaters
When he started listing all non-vegetarian dishes, his wife was going to prepare for me, I smiled and explained politely, "I am a vegetarian."

"What? You don't eat meat? Are you possessed by the ghost of a Brahmin?" He was shocked.

Puzzled at his reference to a Brahmin's spirit, I asked him the context. He explained that in 'his' Pakistan, if a child dislikes non-vegetarian food, they jokingly consider him or her as one possessed by the spirit of a Brahmin.

I couldn't stop laughing when I told him that I was indeed a 'living Brahmin'.

Realizing that the mythological Brahmins still exist on earth and the fact that he was talking face to face with a Brahmin was a shockingly pleasant surprise for him.

Of course, I accepted his invitation and enjoyed an excellent vegetarian feast later.

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