There’s a Chinese proverb that roughly means that with every mile that you travel, you earn enough wisdom tantamount to reading one page of text !!!
Never had I realised the true implication of that statement, until now …..for, the experience here in Egypt has been so enriching and my interactions with the people here has taught me so much practically, that I possibly could never have learned it all from any book !
In fact, the best perspective to back the above claim would be the fact that I had to travel all the way here to Africa to learn the cause of the Tsunami that struck India back in December of 2004 !!!
That day morning, at office, I was chatting with this tester with whom I worked, and we were seriously discussing all sorts of stuff that were as remotely as possible related to our work ……one topic led to another, and finally we were talking about my home-town in Kerala…..I was explaining to him that it was on the coast …..so he asked me if it had been inflicted by the Tsunami back in 2004. I explained that it had not, since it was on the West Coast of India, and basically the damage was on the Eastern Coast.
He thought for a while and asked me, “So ….do you know the reason behind the Tsunami ?”
I replied, “Yeah, it was an earth-quake …..that occured somewhere in the middle of the sea, towards Indonesia”.
“Huh”, he sighed sarcastically !
Surprised by this, I reckoned that probably he didn’t really understand what I meant by an earth-quake [ and maybe mistook it for some variety of an Indian CAKE ! ] .…. so went on to add…. “You see, its basically when these seismic plates under the earth get suddenly displaced due to intense pressure build-up and ………”
Before I could complete my statement, he shook his head in disagreement, and said ” the Tsunami was not caused by any earth-quake !”
[ ??????? ]
I was puzzled, “Then what ?”
He went on to explain, “Somebody put a NUCLEAR BOMB there !!!”
[ My jaw dropped !!!! …….. I couldn’t believe my ears …… I was literally speechless !!! If only I had access to an ISD telephone from somewhere, I’d have immediately called up NDTV to report about this major scoop ! ]
I nodded my head and admired him on his amazing in-sight …. I wanted to seek explanations to a lot of other unanswered questions/mysteries that I had in mind, but then, it was prayer time …… and the guys in the room, all got up, laid their mats on the floor and started their Namaz ! This used to happen about twice during the office hours…..initially I used to feel quite out-of-place…… being the odd one out – sitting and trying to work, while everyone else in the room were praying ! ….. but with time, I got used to it….. and they made me feel quite at home too !
Another interesting aspect I noticed here is the extent of similarities between Arabic and Hindi…..There are so many common words between the two languages (probably due to the Urdu influence on Hindi).
For example, “Thank-you” – is “Shukran” in arabic (as against our “Shukriya”), “chair” is “Khursee”, “market” is “bazaar”, “law” is “Kanoon”, “wrong” is “galat”, “straight” is “seedhe” and many many more !
Apart from these, there are quite a lot of other interesting things – major or trivial, that I learnt here in Egypt. Like for example, the various slangs or colloqial connotations of the English language that the locals used here.
For instance, here in Egypt, they don’t say ‘change’ for smaller denominations of money….It so happened that I wanted to break a 100 pound note, and so I went up to the Money Exchange at the basement of my hotel, and asked the guy at the counter for ‘change’. But to my surprise, however hard I tried explaining him ‘change’, the guys there just did not seem to understand. Finally, after some serious visual demonstrations, the guy said, “Oh !!! …you mean ‘SMALL MONEY’ ??? You could have just said that before !”
So there it was …..In Egypt, when you want ‘Change’, you just say you want ‘small money’ !!!