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At the crossroads

By Nickunj Malik - Mar 12,2014 - Last updated at Mar 12,2014

The thing is, after living for three years in Jordan, I am getting quite used to the idea now. Which one? Well, of getting mistaken for a Jordanian. Initially, when I was a brand new resident of the Hashemite Kingdom, I would correct strangers immediately when they jumped to conclusions. 

They would talk to me in Arabic and when I said I did not understand the language, they would look confused. I used to enlighten them about my home country India, but they would insist that I looked more Middle Eastern. “Is your father or mother Jordanian?” they would ask hopefully.

Seeing their disappointed expression I would reassure them by saying that maybe my ancestors were from here. This bit of exaggerated information was enough to cheer them up. 

Over the years I realised that what they really wanted was to claim me as theirs. And so slowly, I sopped making such an unnecessary fuss. I mean, here I was: an ageing, imperfect and flawed lady. And still, if the residents of my host country wanted to adopt me, who was I to complain? And why? Honestly! It did not make sense. 

With that subconscious decision I started behaving more like the locals here. I loved their food, the music, the obsession with football and fashion, and even the distinctive manner in which the women kohl lined their eyes. With a spattering of Arabic words delivered in a distinctive manner I could easily get by as an eccentric Jordanian. 

Only two things I found very difficult to embrace, which are inherent if one wants to be called a true native of this land. One is the incessant smoking that everyone, just about everyone indulges in. And the second is their careless and rash manner of driving. 

In this country, very few people, a minuscule of the entire population, uses regular walking as a means of transporting themselves from one place to another. The result is that the beautiful city of Amman has no pedestrian walkways. 

The very few that are around, have been blocked with huge trees that are planted within a short distance from each other. They look pretty but are a nuisance for the walkers, who have to get down from the walkway onto the main road, to get around them. And with the cars driving at full speed, it is a potential health hazard to even step on the road. 

The zebra crossings are very few and for the drivers in their fast cars they are invisible anyway. Crossing a road on foot is tantamount to inviting a huge catastrophe. It is a good idea to draft one’s will and testament before one undertakes such a task. In my initial years in Jordan, my most frequently asked question was, how do you cross the road? With the passage of time I acclimatised myself and when there was a drop in traffic, I would just close my eyes and dash across.

On my flight to London the other day a charming lady was sitting next to me. 

“I have been living in the UK for 25 years,” she confided. 

“You are British?” I asked. 

“Same, like you are Jordanian,” she smiled. 

“I am very Jordanian now,” I agreed. 

“Can I ask you a persoquestion?” she inquired.

“Go ahead,” I assured. 

“How do you cross the roads in Amman?” she probed. 

“Ah, let me tell you a long story,” I said, settling back. 

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