- A group of very loud Indians crowd the lobby, climb over one another inside a circular cane chair that looked particularly photo-worthy, take many pictures, selfies and groupfies and whatnot. One of them, a pot-bellied middle-aged guy in shorts, breaks away from the group and walks directly up to the receptionist even though there is clearly a queue – a standee asks guests to queue up – where a few white men and women have lined up.
- It’s early morning and I am looking down at the pool below from my hotel room. An Indian couple – I can’t see their features distinctly – walks in; the woman is in her regular night-dress and the man undresses himself at the pool to only his underwear. There was no one else at the pool at that time. They put their baby down on one of the recliners and splash about in the pool taking selfies after selfies. They finish their orgy of selfies; the man dresses right there at the pool, leaving his vitals to the tender mercies of the pool towel and the woman finally, and mercifully, goes off to the changing room. They dress up, collect the baby and probably leave for their sightseeing after making their coach wait for tens of minutes.
- Behind a glass door that opens up to the pool, I see an Indian woman in her 50s who seems to have “class”. With her, possibly, are her daughters, most in their teens and blue jeans. All look well-educated, and worried. I realize they don’t have an access card to allow them entry into the hotel. I present my card, and hold the door open for them. One after the other, the horde of girls passes by me trailed by their mother, speaking to one another in “fine quality” English. One of them looks up at me with a complex expression, looks away and continue her journey while I stand like a doorman. A “Thank You” or a plain vanilla smile probably would have cost the family a few hundred costly Singapore dollars.
- A small and frail Indian woman, possibly in late 30s, almost shoves her shopping cart into my groin while I desperately get plastered to the lift-wall right across the door. I look around, and after finding a look of sympathy in the faces of my fellow lift mates, gather enough courage to utter a “tch” to show my irritation. That clearly doesn’t register on the lady marauder, proof of which I almost instantaneously got, when she went on to push my mother aside, quite unkindly, to press the button to her destination.
- While marvelling at a beautiful spider crab at an aquarium, I am rudely pushed away by a selfie stick. I look back and see a fat lady in her late 40s- she was on a wheelchair being pushed probably by her husband – gesturing me to “move aside” so that she can take a “crabfie” with her favourite creature. I protested mildly, to which the husband muttered something with vaguely meant ‘it was just a request; don’t move it you don’t want to’. What a wonderful way to “request”.
- I look around after finishing my “complimentary” breakfast. I stand in an enclosure containing about 10 tables, segregated from other areas of the dining hall through a glass partition. It’s in this enclosure that the hotel served Indian fare. Idly, Sambhar, Poha, Puri, Chana and Chai. Around me are tables with deserted plates heaped with food. I see juice glasses filled to the rim and abandoned merrily. Croissants an cakes piled up on one another in an impressive display of architecture. Idlis – these were always in short supply at the counter – both round and devoured in an arc, overlapping each other mathematically.
- My hotel, which probably hosts more Indians than those of other nationalities, owing to its proximity to the “Little India” area of Singapore, displays “Don’t cook inside the room” more prominently than Fire Safety instructions. Such creative instructions are difficult to find in hotels across India, where the need to “cook” inside a room, apparently, is not as strongly felt.
In a span of just five days, I see not one or two, but many such examples that shock me, an Indian, staying in India.
Long time back, I read an article in TOI about how Indians are disliked by foreign tour operators and hotels. It cited the case of an Indian family that brought with itself atta, and attempted to make its favourite, delectable “halka fulka” roti inside a hotel room.
Recently, a friend had warned me before my travel to Singapore.
“They don’t like Indians. You will clearly feel that. Even in the behaviour of the guides, ” she said.
I had mostly dismissed it, for I didn’t understand the extent to which an ethnic group can stereotype itself on foreign shores.
To be fair, I had a great time. The Singaporeans I closely interacted with were cab drivers and the hotel folks. I did strike very good conversation with the drivers of almost all the cabs that we hired. We spoke about the government, the history, the exorbitant licensing fees of cars, the money-minded people, the early poverty of the island country, the run up to financial prosperity, the reclamation of land, the shifting of the port, the art of bargaining in the city among others, and of course, the places to shop and visit. Given that several of them are of Chinese descent, my Chinese language course during MBA – though I remember just two words from the entire course – did help.
However, the coach driver spoke about Indians having no sense of time, the taxi driver complained about Indians jumping in front of his cab with alarming regularity, as if to attain instant firangi “moksha” – probably valued more back home than a nondescript Indian death – by dying in front of a Singaporean taxi.
India, our country, is different from Singapore in every sense of the word. Granted, we Indians are different and our norms of living are different from others. But, the Indians that travel abroad are “supposedly” more aware of the lot. One would expect them to be better behaved, having better taste and blessed with an “above average” common sense so as not be late, loud, undisciplined, discourteous in a foreign country.
But then we are Indians. Part of that enigmatic ancient culture, that can move mountains and, at the same time, not bother to remove a little stone off their way.