On foreignness

As I mentioned in my last post, my husband and I have been travelling around northern India for two weeks. It’s my first time being in this country, and I was really surprised by how much attention we’ve been getting just for being foreign-looking.

On our first day in Delhi, we went to the Baha’i Temple where some Indian tourists stood next to us for a photo. I thought I was in their way, so I started to move away, but an elderly woman grabbed my arm and pulled me next to her. Hubby and I posed with four older people and gave them our camera to take a picture with.

We were wondering what they’d tell their friends back home when they showed off their holiday snaps. My first thought was it would be something like, “These are some white people we saw.” Then I saw the photo and my husband, who’s 6’3, was standing next to the elderly woman, who’s certainly less than 5′, and we thought they might say, “These are some giants we saw.” The woman whose home we were staying in said they’d probably say, “Look! We met some marble statues!”

It’s true that we stand out, but I didn’t expect people to make it so obvious. One day we went to a fort in the countryside, north of Udaipur in Rajasthan, and there were about 30 teenaged boys who literally ran up to my husband shouting, “Please, sir! One photo!” as if he were a famous Indian cricketer. The two of us stood there for 20 minutes while each boy took a turn posing shaking our hands and having his photo taken. I don’t think my face hurt from smiling so much even on my wedding day.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about foreignness, whether it’s characters being uprooted from their daily lives and falling in love in an exotic location, or one character being from a different world and tension being because of that.

In my manuscript, the heroine is in a different country when she meets the hero. In fact, she makes a habit of upping sticks every year to find somewhere new. The idea I have for my second manuscript involves a hero who’s in a new land, where the heroine is more comfortable. While I don’t want to be known as the writer whose characters are always from different countries . . .

Who am I kidding? I just want to be published!

But I guess it is the type of relationship I’m most comfortable with. After all, my husband and I were both foreigners in the country where we met, and we now live in England (his country), so I’m the one always stumbling around asking him stupid questions about “famous” people I’ve never heard of.

Can you think of characters from two different countries, outside Harlequin/Mills & Boon?

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