Me Indian, Period
My Indian identity has several avatars. I have to constantly switch between the happy Indian, the proud Indian, the frustrated Indian, the defensive Indian and on some days the ‘apologetic Indian’ – something to do with those crappy headlines. The complexity however, is what makes it unique. I was born and live confidently as an Indian and at the risk of sounding morbid, will one day die an Indian.
Life has given my Indian ideologies some perky add-on’s – thirty years of expatriate life, travel to enthralling corners of the world, cultural encounters with people and places – and there’s never been a moment when I have felt anything BUT Indian.
Some moments stand out. My Indian consciousness has bristled in indignation while witnessing racial profiling at certain airports, but the outrage has been balanced by the pleasure I felt, when some foreigner has admitted to loving everything about India – including our culture, food and music.
I confess I love going to the cheesecake factory, but the tangy taste of pork vindaloo and the sizzling aroma of dhal tadka is everlastingly ingrained into my senses – never to fade away. The mango trees in my hometown have done more for my patriotic spirit than any election speech. So has batik, khadi silk and oxidized silver. My inner consciousness somehow merges perfectly with the essence of fellow Indians in all their colorful diversity and because of this, I am essentially and forever Indian.
Me Indian, You German
We Indians understand all about being in the eye of the travel industry’s marketing storm. The world is bursting at the seams with self-assured ‘frequent’ travelers and it’s no secret that Indians are an intrinsic part of this global influence.
So yes, thank you Lufthansa, for placing your thumb on our culture pulse and effectively introducing the Indian concept of gracious hospitality with your new ad at bit.ly/2oQTj8q. Pretty smart bringing cricket into the tagline, though I must warn you, defeating us at cricket will not gain you any brownie points:)
While I am all for the authentic ‘Indian’ experience in the skies, here’s another angle you can lure us with – ‘baggage allowance.’ By now you must be aware that we are the stuff baggage nightmares are made of. We don’t travel alone – our pickles, chutneys, masalas, idols and books travel with us.
Bottom line, if you’re going to treat your customer as king, Indians are all for you. And why shouldn’t we be? This love after all has stood the test of time.
Me Indian, You Indian
Backtracking a bit, the only time I was forced to bring my nationality to the forefront, was ironically, to a fellow Indian. The (un)lucky gentleman was a government official at an Indian Embassy in the Middle East. He looked at me aghast as I dangled my passport in front of him. It was literally coming off at the spine.
“See? You understand why I need a new passport? I was almost refused boarding at the Mumbai airport because they thought my passport was tampered with.”
“Madam, could it be you have mishandled it and that’s why it’s been reduced to this state?” he said in a ‘Me Tarzan you Jane’ tone.
I glared at him in indignation “Sir, do you know since the age of 18, I have treated my passports with the utmost respect and care and none so far has fallen apart at the seams like this one has. And this was issued just last year by your embassy.”
Annoyed, Tarzan sent me up and down to different officials at various levels of the embassy building, but I held on tenaciously to my rights as an Indian citizen, rather like a dog who refused to give up gnawing on his tasty T-bone.
Well, the embassy finally admitted my passport belonged to a batch that was sent from Delhi with poor quality binding, due to some glitch in the machinery. The constant (mis)handling at airport gates, immigration and airline counters had further led to its deterioration. The official sheepishly admitted he had received other complaints, though none as vociferous as mine, his accusing eyes seemed to say.
Long story short, I wrote a lengthy letter to the counselor attaché explaining why it was the duty of my government to provide me with a good quality passport; Besides it being my right as a tax paying citizen of India, did they know what it meant, when I presented a poor quality passport at various immigration counters around the world? It showed not only the Indian (me) but my country (India) also in a poor light. Was it not enough that my navy blue booklet was struggling to hold its own against other sleek, high quality passports around the globe? Did it have to come apart in the hands of some scornful immigration officer somewhere in the world?
I guess my pride at being Indian couldn’t have been plainer, because within 10 days I was issued a new passport at no extra cost. When I went to thank the attaché, he looked at me wryly and said that no one had ever been issued a new passport this quickly and that too free of cost. Well I’m #MoreIndianThanYouThink is what I should have told him, but at that time all I said was a fervent “Thank you.”
I’d like to think the embassy has kept my letter as visible proof of a patriot gone berserk. As for that little blue booklet, it travels the globe with my Indian soul, telling the world of my incredible Indian identity.
End note: Skipped the early bird date as I’m not fond of worms;)
This is a contest entry to Lufthansa. More here: https://www.indiblogger.in/drive/more-indian-than-you-think-apr-2017