Getting chatty in Dublin

The photograph shows three people (sitting down) and the backdrop is a brick wall. On the left is a man in his seventies (guesswork), he has a lovely chocolate brown skin, in the middle is a young girl wearing spectacles and a green Indian waistcoat over a short sleeved cotton top, next to her is a girl in a sleeveless polo necked leopard print top and dangly earrings. They are all looking at the camera, though the girl in the right has a faraway look.
This photograph isn’t from Dublin, Ireland. Rather, it’s from Jaipur, India. It is representative of the spirit of chatting with strangers. This lovely man in the left of the photograph was the one we encountered at a tea stall outside the Jaipur Literary festival premises, several years ago. We would chat with him everyday. I remember him as being very content, happy and nice. ( I haven’t clicked any pictures of the people I have chatted with here in Dublin.)

It’s been close to three months in Dublin, Ireland now. Yesterday, we had a man from a pest-control firm at our apartment (we sought help to get rid of the silverfish).

As he did his work, we chatted. Quite a bit. It made me realise that conversations in Ireland are more of a norm than an exception. As in, it is not unusual to find someone to chat to – while out for groceries, while taking a cab or running an errand. Thought it would be interesting to jot down some of interesting ones that I had so far.

I will start with the pest-control guy.

The silverfish slayer

“When I was growing up, we had fireplaces and portable heaters…’

There used to be a lot of condensation, and silverfish weren’t uncommon. But then they sort of disappeared. You didn’t find them crawling all over the place like they do now, but they are from the dinosaur age you know? They have survived all these years.

They have made a comeback. Now some of these apartments were built during the Celtic tiger days. Built in a rush. Too fast. That left behind a lot of crevices and nesting places for the silverfish because while these are modern and posh, they haven’t been finished to a great standard.

But mind you, apartments are relatively a new thing in Ireland. Of course, now you see them everywhere but there weren’t a lot of them before. The government first developed them for social housing but initially, they did it all wrong. They never developed the area around those apartments – no parks for the kids to play, no transport or community centres and those areas became crime hubs, with young people having nothing to do and nowhere to go except getting recruited in gangs and doing drugs.

Today, it’s just so expensive to rent in Dublin. I am glad I am not renting. I am 15 years into my mortgage. I had a flat in London. I used to live there. A one bed. I sold it, but I wish I had kept it. It would have got me a fortune now. Would have payed off the rest of my mortgage.

You say, you are from India? Lots of Indians coming here. The Grange has a lot of Indians.

Look at Ireland today. Who would have known just a decade ago that we would have a prime minister who is half Indian, gay, and gay marriage would be legit? I am glad where we are today. The church had such a hold on our country. Still does, but those old days were awful. Children abused, single mothers abused, women who dedicated themselves to the church and spent all their lives working in the laundry house of the church – and not a penny to their names. My wife – she doesn’t like them the nuns.

Oh, and you have kept your house spotless. Spotless it is.

The taxi driver who spoke to us in Hindi

‘Boliye janaab, kahan jayiee ge aap?’

(Roughly translated – Janaab is a word from Persian, meaning, your excellency. So the cab driver said to us, Janaab, tell me, where would you like to go?’)

Stillorgan, you say? Why have you come so far? There’s a similar shop near the business park in Sandyford where you could have got the ironing board, the dustbin and all the other stuff.

Are you new to the city? Me? I have been here for more than seventeen years now. My kids are born and raised here. There’s no one in Pakistan now – I mean, we have some cousins, but my parents are no more, my brothers and sisters are in different parts of the world. United Kingdom, the US, Canada.

We like it here. People have been good to us. It is a good country to be a Muslim. There’s no discrimination or harassment – at least, we haven’t felt it. It is home now. I don’t want to go anywhere else.

My children speak Irish. I tried, but my wife and I, we couldn’t learn the language. There’s a big mosque very nearby to where we live. It also houses a school. My wife works there.

We are going to the United Kingdom for a holiday. Our children love the shopping and the amusement parks and everything there. Plus, they get to see their uncle and cousins. But if you like natural beauty, nothing like Ireland. Go to the coastline. Go in the summers. You will love it. It is so beautiful.

You like Pakistani food, you say? Well, you won’t find the sort of Nihari you had in Reading here. I mostly have home cooked food. So does my wife. The children love a pizza every now and then.

Now the next time, don’t come so far to buy these things. You understood the directions I gave you, right? Just go there. It would save you coming so far. Have a good day.

Wines, beers and the friendly face behind the counter

‘I have always wanted to go to India’

I want to take my wife and kids.

That’s a good thing you did – calling up your husband and asking what beer he would prefer. You can also do a WhatsApp video call and show him what he would like if you want.

Ah, you have moved into The Grange? We have a lot of Indian families there.

Don’t worry if you don’t drink. I mean, you don’t have to. Nobody is going to think any less of you if you don’t. Well, the Irish love their drink but you don’t have to drink if you don’t really like it.

You know, my mother is in a nursing home and the staff is from all over the world. She always praises the Indians and Philippians. Such a soft touch; a lovely demeanour, so gentle, she says. I agree.

You know, the Irish, this bit about taking our caps and bowing sort of an attitude? We and you – this gentleness, this sort of deference comes from us being colonised, you would think. It’s a good thing in some ways, isn’t it? We like our conversations, we like to chat, we are nice and polite and not just in a superficial way.

Oh yes, that’s a good one. Should go with the biryani. See you again. Maybe I will see your husband here the next time.

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