Thursday, November 4, 2010

I've been conned!

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Disclaimer, this is me reiterating a personal account on current India. I have no intention of making racist remarks nor have any Indians been harm in the process..even though I really wanted to slap a few individuals,& I wouldn’t care if their skin was the colour of a paddle-pop.

We're back from New Delhi, This was my third trip to India . The New New Delhi unfortunately will not be getting a “thumbs up” from me. Unlike the national marsala cola of choice, she left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth as we bid good riddance at the Indirah Gandhi airport. Almost like discovering big horrible turn-offs on a 3rd date eg: discreet scratching near the crotch area then giving it a casual sniff.

There is a huge difference between travelling on a chauffeured air-conditioned vehicle with a somewhat successful local to taking the metro with a Nepali look alike husband in New Delhi. The 2 very different path that could only be joint by awkward glares. Even having experienced India twice, I was not quite ready to stomach this. I was sucker for all that spiritual Indian Jazz akin to Eat,Pray,Love. I use to love India for the beautiful mess that she is. From child beggars drinking Pepsi , anonymous characters with missing limbs on the streets, Yogi man meditating outside the huge United Colours of Benneton flagship store to systematically disorganized traffic or any other Qs for that matter. I loved the “random order” & sassy attitude. India would feed my ADHD google eyes that no other could.

However, the arrival of the recent Commonwealth games unintentionally revealed her darker side. Corruption & sub-standards aside, the attempts to re-face New Delhi, have ironically deface the original charm that I was looking forward to. Delhi was covered with dust of unfinished infrastructure works. Ask any locals they will tell you “oh its just the weather changing for winter” But worst of all the earnest attitude I once knew seems to have changed. And it all started during the planning stages of this trip. Bed & breakfast rates shot up by the double, I mean I understand it’s the peak season but RM350 & above for a B&B in India? There was 1 who even changed the rates upon confirmation.I’m quite sure I felt a lot more welcomed few years ago. It literally felt like Prince Siddhartha as he stray off the rose petal pavements into the real backwaters of India.

We were attending a handicraft trade fair, I was deeply saddened by the way Asian buyers were treated. It was as if the years of British colonization have shackled their dignity. Many a times we were dropped abruptly so that they can greet a Caucasian buyer. Watching from a far it was like “ wow! how did we miss all that enthusiasm a few seconds ago!” After 3strikes, I was sure it’s not my little Asian low self esteem feeling the sour pangs. Anton got to a point when he finally decided to tell 1 exhibitor off & all she could say was "oh sorry about the misunderstanding, we were busy just now" & we looked around, wait for it.. wait for it... yes..the creek of a cricket.Even her little indian head shook to dissapprove as the blatant lie rolled out of her tongue. Then again when we tried to hop on our shuttle service back to the hotel,the driver who claimed it was full allowed 2 Europeans on the bus after we left..weird huh~

Buying a train ticket to Agra was the worst eveeeerr! squeezed through the Qs twice to ticketing officers who just don’t care to give proper instructions then when we finally walk up to the tourist ticketing lounge we had to pick the champion of jerks! I could tell he was a senior staff, who’s paid to figure out his mobile phone rather than serving customers. As we sat down in front of his counter, he showed no intention to stop. Most malaysians like ourselves have our fair share of crap from civil servant offices so you could imagine how our crap threshold of inefficiency starts at a different bench mark all together. So we waited patiently till he was done with his mobile phone say a good 3mins of awkwardness, Upon making payment, he didn’t have enough change ..& so we waited in awkward silence expecting him to find change, but all he did was whip out his mobile phone AGAIN! holding the same note we gave him for a good 5mins. Then when he finally got the change I had to snap & snatch the tickets off his hands, It was as though he was toying us. Again, I noticed other white tourist don’t seem to have a trouble getting their tickets. Even toilets on the train had signs that said Indian style / Western style..which was a squat & a seat respectively. So do Indians pee like a dog? & westerners don’t? Different toilets, different buying ticketing lounge, different treatment ..I see that’s why tourist pay a different rate!

I’m not sure if all this arrangements are for the Commonwealth visitors, but I don’t see the need to bend over backwards for the tourist, black,yellow or white period. Just stick to the best you can offer & offer equal service to everyone. On 3 different occasions people spoke hindi to Anton, of which 1 was a security guard who didn’t let us take the metro in a opposite direction since we missed our stop..he started blabbering aggressively. Again I’m not sure if this was because Anton look like a Nepali.

"Inflation" have also hit Delhi with the huge influx of tourist, 5 years ago, begging kids would ask for 1 rupee for chapati, At the Taj,this boy was going "Eh,Hallo! eh Hallo..10 rupee! 10 rupee!" tugging Anton's shirt endlessly. What happen to the humility of begging? I’m not saying anyone should crawl & beg on their knees before parting with my 10rupees. In fact nobody should be begging. It’s just not right. However if we continue to give without thinking we would be contributing to a generation of people who think tourist bring good source of “extra income”. We should also be more responsible with tipping or at least understand the real value of the local currency before throwing your bills "generously" A good thumb rule obviously is to tip if you receive good service.

On our last day, we went to a high-end mall. This was when we realize how the rich is really living in their own bollywoodised delhi. This fat ass guy stepped off his chauffeured porche, with door man ready to meet, greet & open the doors to his little playground. Obviously Anton & Linn made their grand entrance in a dusty Auto Tuk Tuk. At the door you of some restaurants you will even see a sign that says they have the right to refuse entry. At this point I missed home, rich or poor all of us enjoy a good roti at the Mamak together, The rich in India have closed themselves off in a world of no suffering, where they can have a taste of the hi-life of a maharaja.

Basically the point that Im trying to drive home is I cant believe what I experienced on the first 2 trip, all the hospitality & "love" is subjective, T&C applies..There is a system in India and it is according to the cast you are born into. Everyone worked around a hierarchy. When I finally draw the dots together, I realize the cast system, the intense social segregation & the current state of poverty are closely related. If you are born a laborer, there's no way of getting out. You will be exploited, & you will learn to exploit others to protect your interest. That's the key to survival. Even though im quite sure universally social segregation ,double standards & unfair treatment exist. But in India it’s smacked hard in your face just incase you didn’t get the memo.

Most people will describe India as daunting, but more accurately I think the discomfort reminds us of how little separates all of us. If the exact same life force was planted elsewhere,you get a completely different outcome. & we are blessed to have what we have. When the juice dispenser swallowed our last 50rupees & gave us no juice, it really felt like India had her last laugh. So yup, I guess you are incredible.. India!