Bandanas and a Coke Story

Bandanas and a Coke Story

Author: ashok malhotra Write To Author

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Bandanas and a Coke Story

 Short Story by

Ashok Malhotra

From his eBook: Wisdom Stories of Grandpa Chopra

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Bandanas and a Coke Story

 

Short Story by

 

 

Ashok Malhotra

From his eBook: Wisdom Stories of Grandpa Chopra

 

 

After a tiresome journey of 19 hours from Chicago, I landed at the New Tokyo Airport in Japan. I hailed a taxi that brought me to Reitaku University in Kashiwa City where the annual conference of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilization was to take place from June 9 to 14, 1998. I was given a small but comfortable room at the University Guest House.  Since it was only 2 p.m. and I was feeling a bit sleepy after this long journey, I told myself to stay awake by exploring the Kashiwa City. I went down to the desk to inquire how far the nearest market was. The hotel’s desk clerk told me that the university was next to the main bazaar of the city; when I got out of the main door, I should take a left, walk close to 250 to 300 yards and would find myself in the main market.

 

Since this was the best way for me to beat my tiredness as well as to get some fresh air, I thanked the clerk for his help. Before leaving the lobby, the gentleman handed me an umbrella, instructing me to put it to a good use because they were expecting a good deal of rain in Kashiwa during the next few days.

 

I took the umbrella and thanked him the second time and was off to exploring Japan. The moment I got out of the building a gentle but pleasant rain started hitting my face. The umbrella came in handy. Outside the gate, the road was clean and beautifully lined with bamboo trees. Black ravens making very strange sounds were flying all around the top of these bamboo trees. Their peculiar noise made me take notice of their pitch black color. I had heard the sound of ravens in India and the USA but never anything like the sound produced by these here. It seemed that their throats were stuck with something or they were suffering from a bad cold.

 

As I walked on the road, it was empty of people and cars. The fresh air hitting my face and entering my lungs was doing its trick of waking me up. It felt good to be out in the street away from the confinement of the airplane.

 

In no time I had walked those 250-300 yards and was on the main street. Before taking a right turn on it, I looked up to read the street names. It did not help because the signs were in Japanese and I could not read that language. In order not to go astray on my return, I tried hard to look at the shapes of the buildings making up that corner.

There were a lot of people in their colorful clothes. Some women were in their native kimono. All names of shops were in Japanese. However, I was struck by a temple in a small park in the middle of this busy street. This became my marker that would guide me on my journey back to the Guest House. I looked at the various shops and busy people going about their business. A few of them were involved in chitchatting with others, while most of them walked by quickly without saying hello to anyone.

 

As I was accustomed to taking long walks in the USA where I greeted people, I tried to do the same to the Japanese on the street. They either ignored me or looked at me with frightened eyes and walked on.

 

I must have walked for an hour, looking at the various shops, greeting strangers in a strange land, and visiting temples in the middle of the street. The jet lag, the soft rain and the moisture going into my lungs got an upper hand. I started feeling the beginning of a big headache. Though I tried to ignore it, it started spreading throughout my head with great vengeance. Since I wanted to keep walking, the headache was merciless in taking over, demanding all my attention. When I could not ignore it anymore, I stopped a person on the street to ask him if he spoke any English. I was lucky when he said yes. I asked him if there was a drugstore or pharmacy nearby. Without speaking a word of English, he graciously pointed with his supple fingers the direction to take to find a drug store. I thanked him in Japanese by saying “arigato.”  

 

As I walked down a few stores, I saw a pharmacy with drugs displayed in the outside window of the store. I walked in and went straight to the counter. In a soft voice, I asked the lady at the desk if anyone spoke English there. She smiled and indicated with her hand gesture that I should wait at the counter. While I waited, she rushed in the direction of the back door of the drugstore to find someone to deal with me.

 

In a few minutes she appeared with a gentleman who had a big smile on his face. When I asked him if he spoke some English, he nodded his head as if to say yes. I told him that I had a terrible headache for which I would need some medicine. Since it seemed that he was finding it hard to understand me, I put my hand on my forehand and pressed it hard to show him where it hurt. Furthermore, I indicated with my hand that I needed a pill to put in my mouth which would get rid of the headache. After giving me a smile as if he understood me, the man rushed to the rear door of the store. While I waited anxiously for the man to return, the female clerk kept on giving an understanding smile. When the man appeared, he was holding a bandana in one hand and a bottle of Coke in the other.  Before I could figure out the mystery, the man wrapped the bandana around my head and requested that I drink the Coke from the bottle.

 

I thanked him for his gracious help and walked out of the store. Once out on the street, I amused myself with a hearty laugh at this innocent cultural misunderstanding!

 

Moral: The fun of being in a new culture!

 

Professor Ashok Kumar Malhotra is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, New York. He is the winner of a dozen prestigious awards such as Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, East West Center Distinguished Alumni Award (USA), University of Hawaii Distinguished Alumni Award (USA), Gullands NRI Excellence Award (UK), Jewel of India Gold Award (India), Spiritual Leadership Award (USA), Bharat Excellence Award (India) and others. He has published 16 books and eBooks on Indian, Chinese and Western Philosophy that include four books on Yoga and Meditation. He is the founder of the Yoga and Meditation Society as well as the Ninash Foundation (www.ninash.org), a charity that builds schools for the female and minority children of India.    

 

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