Did you know the Roma people came to Europe from India? I didn’t. Not until a conversation in the vet’s office a few years ago. I was there with my two cats for their annual checkup--Sona yowling pitifully and Rakhan catatonic with terror, as per usual. A petite woman with dark curly hair and … a small dog, I think, started chatting with me. Are you from India, she asked, and on hearing I was, she beamed happily and said her ancestors were too.
Oh? Said I. Where from in India? She didn’t know. Turned out her grandmother was Roma. Her name had been Chandra, and the woman's daughter was named Chandra for her.
My husband’s name is Chandra too, I told her. It’s usually a man’s name in India. The minute I said this I wished I had kept my big mouth shut. Her face fell. Sensing her disappointment I tried to patch up the damage. Some girls are called Chandra too, I said lamely. Or Chandrika, or Chandrakanta, or …
Don’t you have moments you want to rewind and do over in life? This was one of them.
Recently that conversation came back to me and I dug around a bit on the subject. Seems she was right, the gypsies of Europe ARE of South Asian descent. They left in waves from the 7th century onwards. No one knows why. Sounds like they've had a rough time of it in Europe, and still are, even today.
So, this whole subject is kind of steaming on the back-burner of my imagination right now. I have some major revisions to finish, and a synopsis to write, but I’m going to keep collecting material about the Roma and come back to it when I get time.
I think there’s a story there … and if I write one, I’m putting a girl called Chandra in it to make up for my insensitivity that day in the vet’s office.