“Pagala Sapheda Mahila” – according to an Internet search, that means “crazy white lady”. Sigh. I suppose I’m already well on my way for the neighborhood locals to start thinking it.
We’ve been here 3 weeks and the neighborhood folks have figured out we’re staying. And I’m tired of dressing for image and going for practicality. Which means that when I am walking my dog (OMG, walking my OWN dog!!) at o-dark-thirty, I’m going to rock the navy and lime polka-dot rain boots (Wellies for you expats and Brits), the running skirt and a “Desperate Swisswives” T-shirt. Hey, it was clean, and it was right next to the bed when I got up.
Normally at home, no one blinks at what you wear to walk the dog. I mean, you’re just there to follow a four-legged creature and pick up their poop. Which is strange on top of that freaky-deaky outfit you just pulled on, lady.
Our building is 96.0% Indian. I do not blend. So probably what I do, or don’t do, is noticed, and regarded as even stranger than normal.
I like my neighborhood. I like that the guards when I exit my building are smiling and say “Good Morning, Mam”. I like that the pretty female guard by the x-ray smiles shyly and makes eye contact as good sisters do. I like that they make kissy noises at my dog when we head out the service entrance to do a jaunt around the building, sidestepping the puddles, potholes, and monsoon-everywhere-mud.
I like continuing on the road past the swanky office building adjacent to our apartment with the Oz Man in tow as he sniffs out every single post along the way and leaves a message for all the neighborhood feral dogs. I call out to the two feral dogs who are friendly to us now and who know Oz by sight and yelp in greeting before rolling over so Oz can sniff and I can scratch their bellies. I love stopping for 30 seconds to watch the cricket games in the middle of the road. They notice me after that, and then they comment, ushering me on. I guess they figure I am waiting for them to move out of the way, not trying to figure out what the rules actually are.
There is a pair of boys I see often on a bicycle. “Take my photo, lady!” they shout. “How old is your dog, lady?!” they call out. “Is it a girl?” they ask as they move closer, and when I respond in the negative they run shrieking the other direction. They seem to regard me as some kind of playmate, albeit one who is a bit loopy and makes absolutely no sense.
When I go to pick the boys up from the bus stop in the afternoon, Oz in tow, the guy who has the 4 p.m. fill from the water truck comes over and rubs Oz’s belly. The two women in saris who pick their charges up from the same bus the DiploKids ride keep their distance and watch me like a hawk through narrowed eyes, as if my bizarre outfit and dog-loving behavior might be contagious.
A few of the elevator operators now “break the rules” and let Oz into the “fancy” elevator, because a tenant who lives on 23 told me I could do that and the one who caved for her is now embarrassed to make him (and me) wait an additional 10 minutes for the other lift. But they look nervously around to see who else is in the small enclosed space with us.
“You need lady’s maid?” they ask me at the front gate. “You need dog walker?” Yes, I do, as a matter of fact, but not one that works from 11-4 as they all seem to want to for the expat community. Eventually, I am sure that we will find help in the capacity we need and will work out some kind of schedule with dogs, kids, walks, and bus pick-ups.
But in the meantime, I’m happy to wander along the street, being the Pagala Sapheda Mahila.