"What is your favourite Indian sweet?"
"Um. Gulab jamun."
"What shape is the gulab jamun?"
"Yes, very good!"
The group of colleagues sharing my berth on the train to Mumbai have carried out their routine checks and established where I’m from, length of time spent in India and learnt that I speak some Hindi. Delighted but still suspicious and as we've got twenty hours to kill they proceed with their questions in a mixture of rapid Hindi and English. The gulab jamun response has satisfied them to a degree but this is just the start and we run through the whole list of popular themes; what is my favourite Indian dish and how is it prepared, why am I not married and when will I be getting married, will my parents select my husband for me and why do so many couples in the UK get divorced (they consider the answer to the second question to be linked to the first), would I consider an Indian husband?
"Sure, why not?" More high pitched shrieks and laughter follow along with a list of suggestions as to suitable potential matches including, curiously, one Aunty’s already married son.
"This way I can be spending six months with his wife in Mumbai and six months with you in London isn’t it?" I laughed but she looked back at me expectantly.
And then of course came the inevitable test of my willingness to fully submit myself to these situations.
"Do you know any Hindi songs?" I already know where this is going because I’ve been here before and like every time I want to say no but I know that this would be pointless. Before I came to India the only time you would have found me singing solo in public is in a karaoke bar and that too with loud backing music. Since being in India I’ve become fairly accustomed to being asked to sing, say a few words, recite a poem and even dance on demand, solo, in public view. So I give in.
"Which songs?" I list a few and mention a few favourites.
"Sing one for us! Yes, sing!" Eight faces peer at me expectantly, phone cameras and videos at the ready. So I start singing the few lines I know off by heart from one of my favourite Hindi songs to my new friends and others pausing in the train corridor to listen as the whole thing is immortalised on video to be replayed for the entertainment of their friends and family members when they reach home and as evidence of the gori they met on the train that sings Hindi songs and has a weakness for gulab jamuns.