Same Pea, Different Pod
By Kamal Sunavala

It is hard to imagine that there would be any similarities between the people of the Czech Republic and India. From the staggering difference in the size of both countries to the climatic conditions and everything else in between, they are as different as can be. However, there is an amusing commentary which I stumbled upon unintentionally that would fit the 'everything else in between'. Having lived in Bombay for a good many years I suppose I have earned the unbestowed right of commenting upon people and their ways. I could not ignore the striking similarities any longer.

I remember cringing slightly at people frequently letting their children piss in public in Bombay. Lo and behold, as I was strolling down Belgická on my way to my favourite omelette restaurant Zanzibar, I saw this woman pull down the pants of a five year old, I have to assume was her child or else it would just be too sick and let him pee upon a poor unsuspecting tree. The fact that this woman was wearing a tweed suit and not an orange sari and the child was blonde and not dark haired did not matter at all as I laughed my way to a scrumptious mushroom and ham omelette. It reminded me of the What-is-the Government-doing-about-public-toilets debate.

My flat is at Náměstí Míru so there's always all manner of traffic going by at all hours. It doesn't bother me at all because I rarely sleep. However one fortunate night, having found that perfect toasty corner I was almost asleep when I was rudely awakened by whistling. A loud piercing come-down-at-once whistle. Then the clanging of bottles, swearing, laughing raucously and cat calls. The disorientation that I felt somehow made me think I was in Bombay and I rushed to my window and yelled at the guy in Hindi to shut the hell up! He obviously didn't understand what I was on about but he laughed, turned to his friend, slapped him on the back and replied in Czech to which I had nothing to say except slam the window shut in frustration. Rowdy Indian boys and rowdy Czech boys couldn't be more similar. The complete lack of consideration for the sleeping world at night, the mandatory cigarette and beer bottle, the insolent smiles and the universal whistle call reminded me of the boys we used to call 'roadside Romeos' in Bombay. They are always amusing in the morning, never at 2 am.

I was on my way to work on some awful cold Monday morning and decided to take a short cut at ©těpánská to get to Wenceslaus square. As I was hurrying through the street, suddenly my world turned bright red. For a moment I thought my eyes were either bleeding or the previous night's hangover was still hanging and I was about to pass out. Someone had decided to hang their entire duvet with cover (obviously not fastened) out the window. Naturally, the flaming red thing had attacked me because it had mistaken me for a bull. It's not technically a mistake because I was born under the sign of Taurus. Then the owner of the red flag appeared. She was old and shrill. She kept pointing at her cover and in what I understood to be sign language (and the only word I knew then, 'moment') was telling me to hang on to it until she came down and retrieved it. I was reminded of the hundreds of grannies in India who would make me fetch and deliver and return flyaway garments, curtains even, because all Indians hang their clothes out over their balconies and windows, in full proud display so that everyone would know that they do have black underwear and yellow socks; what's a flaming red duvet cover? Of course I was annoyed because I was getting later than ever, the short cut was a moot point now, I was freezing my precious behind off and granny, it would seem, was coming downstairs via Zličín. Finally she poked her little white bunned head out the door of the apartment building and came towards me. She held out one hand for the cover and in the other she had a little apple tart. I was surprised at her universal thank-you gesture. In that moment she could have been my 85 year old sari-clad shawl-wrapped neighbour in Bombay who would reward me with sticky Halwa for sweating buckets in the tropical heat. I used to think that the hanging of clothes out for the world to see was a concept unique to India and maybe some parts of Asia until the red duvet cover came floating my way. Obviously Prague hangs out its passionate reds for people to see just like Bombay does. And the grannies are exactly the same. Complete with the icing.

Old habits die hard; I know that. But I didn't know they travelled as well. I'm glad for the company.