Monday, February 18, 2008

Silly Ways Minds Work: ramblings about Oliver, Gypsies etc

A few years ago, I had met an interesting guy called Oliver on the internet. We met up one evening and had fantastic conversation. We never met up again, despite my attempts. Last night he told me that it was because that meeting convinced him that this would lead to more than just a simple friendship or simple fun, and he wasn't ready for a relationship.
How utterly stupid!

Oliver is a very intersting guy. He is an anthropologist and his research deals with the societies and history of the Aboriginal people of Australia. It was funny to hear an Austrian guy speaking English with an Australian accent. Although based in Vienna, he was often shuttling between Austria and Australia because of his work.
He is interesting for another reason. Part of his family is Roma/Gypsy. There has been a lot of racial discrimination against the Roma people in Europe since centuries. Of course the Roma people also are notorious for wanting to stay away from the mainstream and for often being not respectful about the law. Hitler wanted to eliminate them as well with his concentration camps. They still have a bad reputation. Tourists to Italy and Spain are warned against Gypsies (Gitanos), because many of these people selling stuff to tourists, or begging, or offering to tell your future, also make you unknowingly part with your wallet or other belongings. Tourists are told to avoid them and some tourists even scream in protest if they are surrounded by a group of Gypsies... that seems to work. There are huge Roma populations in Central and Eastern Europe-- Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. There is still a lot of prejudice and discrimination against them including by educated members of the main society. Some members of the Roma communities have become very rich, and the member of the mainstream societies resent the fact that rich Roma like to display their wealth and apparently have houses of garish colours (at least in Hungary). One even hears educated young people making prejucial racist comments about the Roma. The Roma societies have contributed to the music of Central and Eastern European countries in an enormous way. That is one area where everyone gratefully acknowledges this contribution too. Even in Andalucia in Spain, Flamenco was heavily influenced by the Gitanos.
Since I have already started this side story about the Roma people, let me relate another incident. I thought I was a bit late for my flight to India in Dec, and I took a taxi. The taxi driver started making conversation and asked me where I'm from. When I said India, he said well actually he's also from there. I was increculous and asked him "Kahan se?" (Hindi: where from?), but he didn't seem to understand. Then he told me that his ancestors were from India, and naively I asked when they had moved to Europe... he said many many centuries ago-- now it finally clicked. I said I wanted to hear some Roma music and that pleased him very much. He put on a few pieces. Some of them were very good indeed, and some not so much. It is interesting that even after so many centuries, they are very aware of their roots.
Back to Oliver. Well, so it was quite interesting that his family married into the Romas, because the latter is especially very clannish and frowns upon (sometimes violently) about inter-marriages. I don't remember what the story was, and it is possible that I never got a chance to ask him. He has a huge family of uncles, aunts, cousins et al., and they meet in Graz where most of his family is based and his maternal grandmother also used to live. His grandmother died recently (I don't remember whether she was the Roma relative), and he had been very close to her. The extended family all knew that he is gay, and (if I remember correctly) mainly because of his powerful grandmom's support, they were all ok with it. He love to go to these family gatherings. I don't know whether it was his whole family or just the Roma part of the family that had Romanian/Hungarian connections.
Oliver and I were already having long conversations on the internet about all kinds of things before we met. It was a great evening. I think I was to travel to Spain soon after that. And he went to Australia for a few months. We didn't manage to meet for a while, and then whenever I suggested meeting up, it never happened. We still had long conversations on the internet, and he seemed to be enjoying them, but he was always vague when I suggested meeting up.
Yesterday I saw him online, and said hello. He had visited Kolkata recently for a conference and said that despite the smog etc, he had really liked the city. We were chatting about other things when I mentioned in passing that it was really sad that although I enjoyed meeting him, we never met up again. This is when he surprised me:

...i dont know what was wrong with me then. really. it had'nt anything to do with you. really. i was a bit confused, not ready for something serious. well, its complicated in a word. but you were nice. ... i know when something might result in something serious and when something/somebody is just 4 fun. do u know what i mean? and i was pretty sure i would have ended up in something more than fun or pure friendship. and that was the wrong time. or at least i then thought it was the wrong time. anybody makes mistakes, or makes the wrong decisions. i am the master in that, I suppose...

This is so stupid! I don't think too much when I meet someone-- I either like the person and would like to meet him again, or am not so keen about him... things then develop gradually whatever way they can. I'm flattered and at the same time sad to know that he avoided meeting me ever again was because he felt it would have too much of potential and wouldn't be a simple friendship or fun. Oliver is a nice guy, not gorgeous, but rather ok to look at, and as I have mentioned several times, really intersting to talk to. Meeting him only once, I had never though so far ahead to think of relationships. It would have been nice to know him at least as a friend. But too much thinking on his part spoiled the whole thing. What a shame.
And now I'm moving to India and he to Australia.
We decided to meet up this week or next week and I'm looking forward to another evening of intense and interesting conversation.