I was wearing a flowery top as I walked down the hallway. A black one with petite white flowers on it. In a few minutes, I was hailed by a person I recognized. A serious looking man with keen powers of observation, a booming voice, and when he decided to bestow his smile on you, a warm one it was. Obviously, I stopped to say hello. He looked into the cornea of my eyes after a minute or two. I felt like the monster in the deep waiting and waiting for the fog horn to give a call. It did. “So, you look like a Daisy. Are you one?” he bellowed. Teacups a few furlongs away shook with the impact.
I must say I was taken aback a little. I have been called a lot of things, but a Daisy is not one of them. I wracked the brain a bit. It didn’t take long. The truth dawned on me. “Oh! Are these flowers daisies? They are rather nice looking flowers, especially on this top isn’t it?” I said by way of clarification. His large, round face looked puzzled and a little alarmed. Maybe I was off my rocker. He looked concerned and said in what he thought was a low voice. Teacups a furlong away shook, but those two furlongs away stood their ground. “No, no. I am not talking about that. I meant you are a Daisy right? You look like a Daisy.”
I have seen daisies. I have seen myself. I don’t look like them.
“Maybe you have my accent wrong. I always say Shalom to Daisies.” he continued with that look of utmost sincerity.
I swear I had no idea what he was talking about. The conv. went on in this vein for a couple of minutes. It hovered over the Middle East and landed in Iran.
Daisies in a desert area, but in beautiful Iran with Shaloms. That should be enough even for me to figure out. I did. He meant ‘Desis’ (people of Indian origin) and he meant ‘Salaam’. I taught him to say ‘Namaste’ instead and saved a generation of Indian Americans flower-isms and cackled my way back thinking of poor Mr Mishra and his Bison Center.
Mr Mishra was a Hindi teacher in our school nestled in the hills of South India where the dialects of Hindi are scarce. He liked my father and kept telling him that he must visit North India and when he does, he must let him know, for the father’s abysmal Hindi was a thing of local legend. And so, it was that having learned that my father was planning a trip to Allahabad for the Winter, Mr. Mishra walked a mile up a steep hill to congratulate us on the upcoming trip and offer his help when we arrived at Allahabad. “You know Sir? Elahabad is a big city.” (He said waving his arms about – Hindi teachers from North India somehow did this even when they spoke to my father in English. I suppose they had it so deeply ingrained in their blood that this man was not going to understand Hindi, that they made it a habit.)
“Elahabad has good things to see, good food also.” (He was now rubbing his belly and looking content at the thought.) I was a silent spectator in this room till this point, but at this, I started giggling. Mr Mishra bestowed a benign smile on me, pointed at me and then said, “Sir, Elahabad is the Bison Center of India, did you know that?”
“Bisons in Allahabad? You mean buffaloes?” said the father, always quick on the uptake.
“No sir. Bisons. Like your daughter likes Bisons.”
The father cracked. All this was too much for him. He had heard folks referring to me and several animals in the same vein: rabbits, deer, peacocks, kangaroos even, but never a bison. He looked at me closely and said, “Bison eh?”
“Yes. Nobody believes me. But Elahabad is the biggest Bison center in India. “ he said and pointed at me again. There was only so much I could take, I excused myself. I mean, I am sure there are very nice Bisons in the forests and I have nothing against them, but I did not like this repeated reference to myself and bisons. The father was looking at me queerly and thinking, “Well. Well. Well. I would have never thought of a bison for this sprightly child. I must find out the characteristics of bisons and see how they match her character.” Then he said out loud to Mr Mishra, “There is so much to learn isn’t there Mr. Mishra? I never knew that Bisons were to be found in Allahabad. Is there a good wildlife sanctuary nearby?”
I ducked into the next room with a dignified face, or as dignified a face as bisons could muster, only to find my brother doubling over in laughter. Watching him there made me laugh too, but he sobered me up saying Bisons did not laugh, only hyenas did. I could have gored him.
Mr Mishra, in the meanwhile, was carrying on, “No Sir. Elahabad is a city. A big city. No forests there. Only bisons. Girls – pretty girls. Even Bombay learns its bisons from Elahabad. Many shops with beautiful bisons.”
I understood and went to spare my father further trauma. “Oh sir, you mean fashions? Allahabad is the Fashion Center of India?”
“Yes. Yes! That is it. Very good girl your daughter.” said Mr. Mishra beaming at me.
I am a Bison with a Daisy. I’d like to see anyone trump that title.