Subscription Subscription
Home > News > Opinion News > Article > Indians very welcome Not

Indians very welcome. Not.

Updated on: 26 March,2024 06:52 AM IST  |  Mumbai
C Y Gopinath |

Being the greatest country on the planet requires great behaviour and values. As India changes and shines, perhaps smugness and hubris need to be replaced by civility and humility

Indians very welcome. Not.

In my travels, I have met outstanding Indians, respected and even adored, but the disrepute we also seem to enjoy comes from the poor behaviour of an entitled and arrogant few. Illustration by C Y Gopinath using Midjourney

C Y Gopinath This story may or may not be true. I think it probably is.

Late last year, an Indian looking for a long-stay visa in Thailand was directed by his German buddy to a one-stop agency that took care of everything from opening a bank account to getting the visa legally stamped, with a re-entry permit as requested. 

“All the Germans go there,” he was told. “They’re very reliable.”

The Indian, aged about 52, visited the agency and was impressed by the courtesy, clarity and efficiency of the team there. Yes, they could do everything to get him a visa. Yes, he’d just have to show up just once for a photograph and perhaps a couple of signatures. Yes, it would all be completely above board and legal, with proper receipts for everything.

Trusting that an agency that could make exacting Germans happy was probably good at their work, he asked if they could process his visa application and get him a long-stay visa. 

They could, came the reply, and it would cost him 25,000 baht for the whole service. 

As he waited for the paperwork to start, the visa agent asked him, “You’re from Germany, right?”

“No,” he replied. “India.”

There was one of those moments when you sense something has shifted, and not for the better.

Over the next 15 minutes or so, the visa agent called the bank, the police station, and immigration. Shortly, she returned, smiling. “It’s all okay, sir,” she said. We can handle your visa. But the cost will now be 35,000 baht.”

Something had pushed the price up by 10,000 baht (about Rs 23,500).

“Why the price increase?” he asked.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” she said, managing to look genuinely sorry. “It’s the rate for Indians.”

I wish could say this was the first time I’ve heard a story of the subtle disparagement and distancing of Indians in countries not India. In Thailand, where Chinese and Indian tourists are among the top five big spenders, Indian tourists may enter visa-free until May 10, and perhaps the rest of 2024.

Yet, as the tourist department rolls out the red carpet, street civility is restrained, and smiles don’t reach the eyes. 

A young Indian, in his 30s and working with Trip Advisor, told me, in a low voice so that others wouldn’t hear, that in some online dating sites, some profiles include the line “Muslims and Indians swipe right.”

Here are some of the reasons for the distaste that I found in a sub-Reddit discussion:

Lashay_Sombra, responding to the plaintive question of a scorned Indian traveller who asked what he was doing wrong, wrote —

You? You seem okay. Your fellow countrymen? Shit yes.

– Hygiene issues. (More than one Thai has told me that Indians smell, and I don’t mean fragrant).
– Not respecting other people’s personal spaces.
– Not respecting staff (especially women. In point: treating air hostesses like waitresses).
– Queue cutting
– Over-bargaining or bargaining for the fun of it.
– Leering at women. Trying to get ‘group discounts’ at massage parlours.
– Try to get away without tipping.
More recently, I have come across the following —
They don’t know how to talk softly.
They think anything can be done by offering a small tip.
They seem to think India is superior to all other countries, and Indians likewise.

Being the greatest country on the planet requires even great behaviour and deep values. As India changes and shines, perhaps smugness and hubris need to be replaced by civility and humility. In my travels, I have met outstanding Indians, respected and even adored, but the disrepute we also seem to enjoy comes from the poor behaviour of an entitled and arrogant few. Here’s an example.

Standing on the immaculate platform of Bangkok’s BTS, waiting for the next skytrain, I was struggling to explain to a schoolboy what it meant to be an Indian. Born to Indian parents, he had only visited India for short vacations and knew neither any of its languages nor its cultures. 
A sudden increase in the volume from the escalator area signalled the arrival of a crowd of about 30 young Indians, perhaps salesmen attending a sales conference. Now that the sun had set, they were excitedly hitting the land of smiles, bars, temples and massage parlours. Within seconds, all semblance of peace and calm had left the platform.

The train, when it arrived, was packed wall to wall; even trying to get in was futile so neither we nor the Thais there tried. However, the young Indians seemed instantly challenged and energised. Entering Churchgate mode, they darted back and forth between coaches, shouting out to each other, elbowing and shouldering their way in. Every man Jack of them somehow managed to squeeze in.

My adolescent companion, eyes wide with astonishment, asked, “Is this what it means to be Indian?”

I wrote about the incident in a bitter, disappointed article which was widely shared and garnered almost 2,000 responses, evenly divided between abuse and appreciation. The letter that stayed in my head referred to the incident on the platform, which I had deprecated soundly as shameful.

“Mr Gopinath,” wrote the reader. “You completely missed the point. The Indians got in while everyone was hanging around being polite.”

You can reach C Y Gopinath at

Send your feedback to

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK