The Great Indian Traveller
Indians are good at a lot of things. Travelling is not one of them.
Indians are going places. The problem with this is that it means that Indians are going places. And as someone who travels often, I’ve noticed that we’re not very good goers. Watching an Indian travel is like watching Ashish Nehra bowl; you can’t help but feel like you’re watching an art being practised at its lowest, least inspired form. This passage marks the first time in seven years that the words “Ashish Nehra” and “form” have been used in the same paragraph.
Travel is the Indian person’s Waterloo. Travel brings out the worst in us. It also brings out every suitcase we, and everyone we know, own. The only difference between an Indian luggage trolley and a truck carrying food on the highway, is that the truck probably has less food in it. And also the guy with the trolley gets drunk only after he begins his journey. If, as an Indian traveller, you have not made the girl behind the check-in counter cry at the sight of your luggage, you’re doing it wrong. My favourite part is the Indian traveller’s indignation at being told they aren’t allowed that much luggage on. “What?! How can you say that?! What do you mean I can’t check my sofa in?”
That Indians don’t understand the concept of “travelling light”, is bad enough on its own, but there’s an even more dangerous corollary to that. They also don’t understand the term “something small”. If an Indian relative ever says to you “Hey, I hear you’re travelling, can you take something small for my cousin?”, cancel your trip. Because “something small” is usually the size (and weight) of a well-furnished kitchen, and may in fact be an actual well-furnished kitchen.
Things only get more entertaining when it’s finally time to board. Considering we pretty much invented math, our skills desert us the second boarding is announced. If the airline is boarding rows 16 to 34, the first person in line will be the guy from row 51. And when he is told it’s not his turn, he’ll put on his best wounded “But you said row 16, and my row has a “1” in it, so surely that’s close enough” face. I think Indians are secretly afraid that the entire airline industry is a giant practical joke, and if they don’t run to the head of the line, the plane will leave without them.
Fighting your way into the plane can be a nerve-shattering experience, so it’s a good thing international flights serve alcohol. The average Indian man needs a drink or seven to enjoy his flight. He also needs for all seven drinks to be “strong-waala”, and served before take-off. This is because he cannot afford to waste any time after take-off, as he has a busy schedule of walking around the plane TALKING REALLY LOUDLY TO EVERYONE to adhere to. You haven’t lived unless you’ve been on a flight with a drunk Indian man imploring the flight attendant for a fourteenth refill. He will insist he is not drunk, which is not true of course, because sober people don’t talk to carpets.
The only thing more entertaining than travelling out of India is the journey back to India. After we’ve gone abroad (usually, I’ve noticed, for the sole purpose of meeting other Indian people), it is upon our return that us Indians prove that we have nerves of steel and more cool than 007.
If you don’t believe me, then you have clearly never seen an Indian man with six DVD players, a 54 inch TV and nine laptops walk through the Green Channel like he’s carrying just one handbag. It’s okay though, because if he’s asked what all of those things are, he can always say they’re just “something small” for a cousin.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi