3 years later, we decided to not acknowledge the guilt one feels when traveling to India and not visiting parents. This guilt kept us away from traveling to India these last three years if we were not doing the KL-Bombay-Ranchi-Calcutta-KL route. Both of us had been craving the road tripping surprises, Indian hills, puri bhaji breakfasts, kathi rolls, and other kinds of mad awesomeness that traveling in India always brings.
But this year, we decided enough was enough. Kolkata Air Asia is far too cheap to think too much. Tickets done, warm clothes sorted, and here we are. The trip till Siliguri has been.. I don’t know, I don’t have a word for it. But you know the things they say about Indian eccentricities and awesomeness across all the videos you find online? Yes, it has been all of that and more. I am going to be honest here. Brickbats? Fine.
People, hotels, and everyone else in India are still quite possessive about their wifi. 3G works fine, but hotel wifi can be pretty darn tough. And old school, if I may add. One device at a time only, wifi login details printed on two different pages for two devices, with a lot of information on quota and other things.
When you are away, you begin to romanticise the free state of mind that is India. Wifi doesn’t count, internet’s at a premium – fine, I get that. Or at least I can try. Then news channels happen. AIB is famous for a roast that could have been funnier. And Aamir Khan, who doesn’t even need his pound of flesh off those dear AIB boys, goes and says something unbearably patronising. And there’s cricket. The stuff on TV is so damn repetitive that you feel like you are tripping.
I tweeted yesterday that in the true spirit of India, the husband live streamed the all-encompassing India vs Pak on his phone. Some folks around him asked him to tilt his phone a little. He did, and soon found audience and friends with a common cause. I said I loved India for all of this. For about 2 minutes before the two boys got annoyingly chatty, forgot all about the idea of space, and started pissing all over Indian airlines not having free wifi. It’s not just internet. Space comes tough here too.
Also, where is the swachha Bharat that had me beaming just a few weeks ago? Sir, if swachha Bharat is just swachha Delhi and in and around Antilla, we aren’t exactly changing anything, are we?
Then that ingrained violent, not-letting-go streak. Push, shove, cut queues and then unlike a few other countries, don’t look the other way out of any embarrassment. We stay. We argue. We fight. The response to Rega Jha’s joke about good-looking Pakistanis. The unnecessary communal attacks and racism in the wake of a win in an unimportant match in the World Cup. Because we played, and beat, Pakistan. Too much.
See, I don’t want to generalise. I am not a tourist here. I know those happy smiles, warm hugs, colourful family weddings, the sheer passion with which we love (film stars and cricketers), I can even justify why the ones behave like that in queues. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t find a lot of this necessary or justified in any way. Of course we have people who fought the competition to get in a school/ train/ college/ decent job. But on the other hand, we also have those who floundered every opportunity and happily live off dad’s retirement fund. We are a mixed bunch. It is difficult to find reasons and generally justify everything. I have done it these past 3 years (you’ve no idea!) but it’s time for some objective, tough love for the motherland.
In the next leg of the trip, I will get away from city/ town life. Deep down, I know that’s the India I really crave. The dhaba, hills, greens, that earthy earthy India. I am looking at you to sort out this mild disillusionment and the related shame-faced guilt that comes with it.