'I wanted to see the culture of India'

'I wanted to see the culture of India'
A grammar Nazi would probably raise his eyebrows if they heard someone say ‘How you did?’ instead of ‘How are you?’, but in Nigerian pidgin English, the sentence makes perfect sense. Pidgin English, according to Jones Amechi, is a widely-used language in Nigeria.

“Along with Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba, which are three of the largest tribes in Nigeria. There are many other languages and dialects but these are the popular ones,” he adds. 

When Jones first landed in Bengaluru, two years back, his ache for home for terrible but as time passed, he grew fond of the City and India. “There are two things that made me come to India — first, I wanted to expand my knowledge of branding and advertising. In terms of print and design, I had learnt a lot back home but I wanted to move into motion graphics and visual effects, which is why I came here. A friend recommended India. Second, I wanted to see the culture of India.”

He explains that growing up, they had the opportunity to watch Bollywood movies, which left an imprint on him. “I can’t remember most of their names but ‘Ghazab’ was one. Indian culture is very interesting,” says the branding and advertising consultant.

Born in the eastern part of Nigeria, he grew up in Lagos and Abuja. “I spent 10 years in Lagos and I’m based in Abuja now.”

Ask him how it was growing up and he says (after a laugh and a pause), “It was good. The thing is, you have to adapt to the situation you are in. I’d probably love to grow up in Heaven, if given a choice, but Nigeria was good too. I have a lot of friends growing up, and I’m still in touch with them.”

Press him for a few more details, and he adds, “We played a lot of games growing up. Of the many, I remember ‘canta ball’ — there are two sets of 11 Coke or Fanta bottle caps, and a large shirt button which is used as the ball. It’s a bit like football and we use a table or floor to play.”

He also played snooker and video games. “Basketball and football were other games I loved (and still love) playing. And I used to watch cartoons like ‘Lion King’ and ‘Tom and Jerry’. I spent six years in a boarding school so that’s where major parts of my growing up happened,” he says. Nigerian culture, although not well-known to most, shares similarities to some regions of India, mentions Jones.

“Take for example Kerala - the population there is divided between Christians and Muslims, like in Nigeria. I am from the Christian side. Also, we both eat rice a lot, although there aren't many vegetarians back home.”

Aside from rice, he says that soups are their speciality. “Egusi soup and edikaikong soup are my favourites. Edikaikong soup is made out of pumpkin and water leaves and it is special because you don’t need to add water to it, the leaves secrete enough on their own. And beef and dry fish is added to it.” Ask him if he has faced any racial ‘discrimination in the City and he responds with a quick ‘yes, a lot’.

Describing the worst attack, he says, “Me and some friends of mine were coming home from another friend's house at 1 am. We were a group of three men (one from Germany, one from India and me) and four women (all Indian). Two drunk men on a bike started harassing the girls and soon, they got violent with the them and the police were called. When the police van arrived, they came after me first and asked me to come to the station - I had done nothing and I was being blamed! My friends asked me to go home and the issue was resolved. But I couldn't help thinking (I still do), why did they pick me?”

Despite facing such attacks, he doesn't let them bog him down. With a minimal knowledge of Kannada and Hindi ('swallow swalpa' and 'thoda thoda'), Jones loves to travel the country — he has been to Varkala, Hampi and Chennai and hopes to visit Delhi, Gokarna and Pune. “I also love to hang out with friends, dance and shop.”

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