Memoir of a young man Was she joking?     Follow


I was fresh from my graduation results when two days later, I got a job as a market research investigator. They say good things happen one after another. This job was like that.
I was sent to a remote corner of Sri Lanka because the idea of a random sample was to get a representative picture of the entire country, not just Colombo only. So I set out clad in my white trousers and a blue shirt, which was the fashion at that time for young men. The price of the shirt was Rs 7.75. (This was in the late sixties). I had to knock at each and every door and was either welcomed heartily or thrown out as an imposter. 

In one such place, I was given a mixed reception. When the woman of the house saw me at a distance, she came running with difficulty, for she was not young, She came mumbling ‘Ah, you have come, you have come.” She was bitterly disappointed. She thought that I was her prodigal son who had left her and come back penitent.
 She did not hide her feelings. She told me flatly, “My son had a quarrel with me about his girlfriend and went away. I thought it was he who had come back. He is also tall and had a fair complexion. But he is much better looking than you.’ 

Was she joking?

My next stop was in another uneducated and illiterate area where the women were impossible to interview. Whenever I went, young women were suspicious that I was trying to get fresh with them. This was because I was young and dashing in my twenties. 
After finishing an interview, I had to ask the name and address of the person. The woman concerned did not understand what an address was. So I explained “When you get a letter, what do they write on the outside of the letter? To this, the woman standing next to her said,” She doesn’t get any letters!”

Was she joking?

While doing the interviews, we had to take down the name and address of the respondents, in case the office had to check whether we interviewed them. In one instance, when I asked for the name of the husband, the woman replied that she did not know her husband’s name! She was adamant.

Was she joking?

No, she wasn’t! I found out that in that particular community if the husband’s name was disclosed, the marriage would become invalid. No wonder the woman was adamant!

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