THERE IS ABSOLUTELY nothing more charming or invigorating than travelling with us Indians. We colonise everything we step on, or step into. Be it a place, a train, a bus or even the Tube. There is a kind of air that we exude which scares most other nationalities off. Look at any Indian airport or train station: the air of confidence that you breathe, you can only do so in those environs. Rules are for the faint-hearted but not for us. We are ready to disembark mid-air; we hate putting on seatbelts and here if we are forced to, we invoke destiny and say that what has to happen, will happen.
If we are on an international flight, happy hours are 24×7: even the bloke travelling in First Class will drink at 3AM and justify it by saying that he’s paying for it. If we enter a train compartment and then into our coupé, we mark territory: if you have the lower berth, you won’t even wait for the bloke on the upper berth but just mark ownership by placing some ugly thepla-laden plastic bag so that the bloke is too scared to ask. Enter any international airport and every time you see a wheelchair, you can be sure an Indian is sitting on it. We hate queues. We believe being specially abled will get us a special dispensation from immigration: not knowing that being a country of a billion-plus, there will be so many wheelchairs that your queue will be longer than the rest.
See the way we inhabit hotels, no matter where in the world we are. There is a certain superciliousness: and this is uniquely Indian. We expect every hotel and every cruise liner in the world to have Indian food. We want our green chillies; we want our spice tray, and what’s more, we want fresh Indian food, no matter if it’s being made in some Bangladeshi restaurant in London or New York. If we had a desi Martin Luther King, then these are the civil rights he would want for the travelling Indian. Right of way; right to Indian food and right to Bollywood music.
We now have a lot to be proud of. We now matter as far as global travel is concerned. The day isn’t far when American Airlines and European carriers will play the best of Bollywood, and where Cohen will be replaced by Sunidhi Chauhan
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Then there is, of course, the destination Indian wedding. The day isn’t far when Gordon Ramsay will be making baingan ka bharta topped with green chillies for an army of Blue Label-ers who are attending a wedding of a couple whose names they don’t even know. We are slowly taking over Italy qua the Indian wedding, and I won’t be surprised if Cannes or Monaco slowly begin to resemble Churchgate or Meerut. Such is the comprehensive reach of the new India and the new Indian.
There was a time when the travelling Indian was shy and graceful: at times, too uncomfortable with local languages. But no longer. Today, we walk with certitude and talk the way we want. More people in fine-dining restaurants have become India-spotters. You just have to walk to your table and your server will bring you a large Black Label; the most expensive wine, risotto; a bottle of Tabasco; a Diet Coke and roundly cut onions with lemon to squeeze and whole green chillies. The accompaniments remain the same, whether it is a pizza or paneer. Such is our global sway.
All flights taking off from and landing in India have their own aroma: of stale aloo parathas with mango pickles. We even carry our own savouries: if you see an aircraft carpet or a train compartment floor littered with Haldiram’s bhujia, you can be sure a good time was had by all.
We now have a lot to be proud of. We now matter as far as global travel is concerned. The day isn’t far when American airlines and European carriers will play the best of Bollywood, and where Cohen will be replaced by Sunidhi Chauhan.
We are in full flow and may God bless us and those we come upon. We are unstoppable and the tragedy is we believe that.