Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Indians in Switzerland
What took me by surprise was how many Indians we bumped into in Interlaken, and almost half of them were honeymooning couples (the gigantic choudas are such a giveaway). Amongst them, I also came across one of the most disturbing sights ever: a newly-married Delhi couple on their honeymoon with the bride's mum-in-law and bro-in-law in tow.
Most of them looked slightly bewildered and bored - like now that they finally were in the much-hyped Switzerland, they really didn't know what to do with it.
I think it is because we Indians don't grow-up vacationing. And thanks to Bollywood, vacations to beautiful places are more of an exotic idea to us rather than a reality. So when we finally go on one, we don't exactly know what to do. (It happened to me as well on my first few trips - thankfully Sid was more practiced at it than me.)
For example, the main beauty of Interlaken is in the mountains and lakes around - and the possibility of adventure. It offers parasailing, gliding, and lots of mountaineering, hiking and biking options ranging from very easy to quite tough ones. But we were the only Indians cycling or hiking, albeit on the easy ones. The rest just seemed to congregate in the tiny Interlaken town square (which by standards of European town sqaures is rather boring) and spend their time browsing through its seriously touristy shops.
Another strange thing was how no Indian ever acknowledged another. Instead, they pretended they hadn't seen you. This was something that a friend - see Leo Mirani among the followers of this blog - had pointed out over beer one evening. When a Spanish meets another, he'll go hola. An American is always happy to meet another. But Indians act as if the other Indians in their direct line of vision are not there.
So I tried smiling at a few Indians. Just as Leo had predicted, I got some deadly glowers back.
My theory is that when Indians land in Switzerland, they are expecting the exotic. But seeing so many other Indians around somehow reduces the specialness of the experience. And in response, they school themselves to not see other Indians.
Being in Interlaken also made me notice how ungainly most Indian women look, and the kurti on jeans with huge Nike shoes - their regulation vacation attire - doesn't help their case. I still am not sure whether it is their figures or the clothes they don - either way, they don't make a pretty sight. Which is bothersome, because it makes me wonder what I look like.
I do know one thing though, I certainly don't wear kurtis on jeans with big Nike shoes anymore ;-)