Wednesday, November 16, 2005

P(ee) is for Professionalism

Here in India, two things get the job done – connections and presentation. You can’t get anywhere without connections…knowing the right person is the only way to get through the door. Once inside, it’s all about how you present yourself. Being from America carries more weight than it ought to, but is no substitute for walking into a room with a commanding professional presence. Whether you’re selling something or trying to conduct research, do it in style and people will listen.

This morning I had the connections. A friend of a friend who knew a friend that could do a favor. So walking into that nursery school, I was confident that the principal would at least hear me out, and not just humor me until I left (as others have done). When I met her, she was all ears, and even told me that in a couple of minutes when her quarterly parent-teacher meeting began, I could give a short talk on autism and then hand out my forms for everyone to fill out. This was a golden opportunity to have research subjects cornered, and get some good work done.

But nature was calling, so I asked first if I could use the bathroom. The school was situated in the basement of the principal’s house, so she pointed the way upstairs and told me to hang a left at the dining room. After answering nature, I leaned over to flush. It’s important here to note that toilets in India don’t have Western flushing mechanisms. Commonly, there are two knobs on the wall to one side of the toilet, and you simply pick one and hope it does the trick. I’m sure there’s a method to it, but I have never bothered to take the moment of mental exertion it would require to figure that out.

So I picked one, and cautiously rotated it…but caution could not help me. The toilet was a bidet, and straight from the mouth of the bowl spewed forth a concentrated stream of water aimed directly at the right leg of my pants. When it collided with khaki cotton, it left a damp oval running from the middle of my thigh down to below the knee. A dark brown lake in the middle of light tan pants. Ripe for assumptions.

There wasn’t a hand towel in the bathroom. I opened the door and stepped into the dining room on a desperate quest to find one. As soon as I came out, I was greeted by a grandmotherly figure, who shot me an extremely un-motherly look. Centuries of parental disapproval focused in her narrowed eyes; glaring at me, she barked, “WHO IS THIS??” As if expecting me to answer in the third person. I almost obliged and said, “This is Rishi,” but curiously opted to say nothing and simply bolted down the staircase instead.

Back in the basement, a gathering had formed. Parents of all shapes and sizes, looking at the young man who’d burst in on the meeting. An introduction by the principal – “Everyone, this is Rishi, he has come from America to speak with you” – announced the beginning of my talk, and the principal beckoned me to the front of the room.

If you’ve ever attempted to walk while keeping your legs together, you know it’s awkward, to say the least. Downright difficult, in fact. It made the slow-stepping stroll from back door to center stage a tad…tedious. And though I tried to Charlie Chaplin my way through, there was nothing I could do to hide the inevitable object of everyone’s attention. And you know what followed. Barely veiled grins danced on mothers’ faces. An eyebrow reached new heights on the principal’s forehead.

An ABC chart hung on the wall…“A” is for Apple, “B” is for Ball. “P” is for Professionalism, I thought. Presentation. It’s all about how you walk into a room.


Anonymous Tina said...

"E" is for Embarrassing but "O" is for Opportunity and Oh well

2:32 AM  
Blogger Neel said...

Rishi is a young man that somehow has gotten lucky in every phase of his life. He has a good head on his shoulders, great sports abilities, good friends and a fantastic brother. However, God decided to punish him by torturing him with a propensity for physical humor. Once when we were kids a cat jumped 4 feet in the air and bit his nose. Another time in india he went flying off a scooter and landed inside a paan dukhaan. Somehow he even managed to get hit by a low-flying bird. It takes talent to have all these things "happen" to you :)

6:27 AM  
Anonymous pooj said...

Now in addition to wearing a bib to dinner (which is something many MANY people have highly recommended), Rishi is going to have to start wearing an apron to the bathroom!

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Priya Ahuja said...

i showed my big sister a blooper from The Sound of Music and she peed in her pants. lucky we were sitting in our living room at home.

8:38 AM  

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