Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Pen Please?

I'm by now used to the constant requests for "schoolpen, schoolpen" aimed at me by children. But the kids here are especially brazen. Most places I've been so far, the kids at least engage you in conversation first. The adorable Nagraj in Hampi never even asked directly, just dropped hopeful hints. But here, the most you'll usually get is a perfunctory "hi! Wattisyonnem? One pen?". Some even dispense entirely with the preamble, and greet you bluntly with an expectant "wanben". Er, how about, no. I mean come on, play the game - if they amuse me, like Nagraj did, then ok, maybe. But besides, Kerala's one of the wealthiest states in India, and they don't have a shortage of pens!

Another opener is a photo request. One girl (reknowned for her cheek, according to Thomas) asked for a photo, and even as I pressed the shutter her glance was angled downwards, as she eyed my camera bag, no doubt imagining it full of pens. After the photo she complimented my beautiful umbrella. "Wanben? Chocolate?" Then she started pawing at my jewellery. "Beautiful bangle," I know: you're not having it. Eventually she even tried "Umbrella?". No! F-off, you're not having my umbrella! I mean seriously.


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