It was 10:30 am and I was returning home after dropping my baby at the childcare. Two meters away from the centre, I met an old man…a westerner by his looks, but not an Australian by the way he spoke English. He smiled at me and said something like, ‘your baby was crying…but now he…(stammers, then hmmms and says) she is ok now.’ Then he asked, ‘daughter or son?’ I am taken aback for a second. I was like, ‘what is he saying?’ So I then asked him, ‘You mean you heard my daughter cry?’ He said, he stays next to the childcare centre where my daughter goes. He must have seen us many times, walking past his house to the childcare centre.
He asked me if it is just me and my daughter or if I have any other family members with us. I told him that I have my husband and three cousins. And his next question threw me away in confusion. The full effect and understanding of his proposal of whether I was in need of a company didn’t register until I walked away from him. I said, ‘no’ and he walked away saying, ‘that is all right. See you.’ I appreciated his outright straightforwardness and how he could immediately understand what a ‘no’ meant. But of course he didn’t grow old not knowing what it all means to linger too long after someone whose answer was a ‘no’.
I walked away, laughing. I honestly couldn’t control myself. I was crossing the roads and I was smiling…so broadly. Now, this didn’t mean I was making fun of him. It was kind of unbelievable to me. I have never known people to speak something like this so openly and in the clearest words, without any umm and ahh and in the longest winding about way. That probably is how Bhutanese make a proposal. And then I wondered what part of the sentence where I mentioned my husband he did not understand. And it prompted me even further to ask how I appeared to people and how they perceived me. I wondered if I looked pathetic and in need-of help. I don’t mean all single mothers are in need of help, but I wondered if I seemed like a single mother, so pathetically going through suffering. I was not even dressed provocatively; it is winter in Melbourne, so bone-chilling cold and I was wearing a thick feather jacket and ‘double’ pants. But of course, when you need something, you must dare to ask, for, you never know wherein a positive answer lies for you.