Please, Please Be on Time! (Indian Invaders and Other Random Travel Thoughts)

It’s interesting how when you are vacationing outside India, current issues like the petrol price hike, the Bharat Bandh and Mr. Aamir Khan’s one-sided tirade on doctors and healthcare seem so distant…and from the perspective of this column, irrelevant. And when for 48 hours (the longest in recent memory), we were without Internet access and cellphone reception in Kruger National Park…it was heaven…just the bush, the animals, the lodge and the family.

One reason for traveling outside the country once in a while is just this! To get away from it all! And though I may seem like a snob, this includes getting away from all things Indian, especially our behavior…something that is becoming increasingly impossible to avoid these days in most parts of the world, especially during vacation time.

In a unique reversal, we Indians are now “invading” other countries. And yet, when the places we visit, start sounding, looking and behaving like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Delhi and Jaipur, you wonder whether it would have been better to have just stayed back in India! My niece who was in Interlaken last week had a Facebook status update saying, “Switzerland is full of Indians”, to which one of her friends, truthfully commented, “Interlaken station is like Ghatkopar station”.

In Kruger for example, our first safari was with an all-knowing, complaining, Hindi-speaking Indian family that believed that a safari was a complete waste if you didn’t get to see at least one of the Big Five. The next morning they were gone and we heaved a sigh of relief. However, an hour into the morning safari, when all the jeeps converged to a tree where a female leopard had been sighted, we again heard “aa to kevo saras leopard che”.

Throughout the previous week, whether it was Cape Town or Knysna or Sun City, the only other tourists were fellow Indians, mostly traveling in large tour groups. If you happened to be in close proximity, the conversations you heard were predominantly food-centric…about the breakfast that had already happened and the dinner that was about to happen or the quality of the previous day’s dal and the over-spicy batata bhaji! I still remember an evening at home when two of my relatives (and they are dear to me despite this episode) realized that both of them had been on guided Europe tours around the same time. The main topic of conversation and comparison thereafter was the quality of the Indian food served by the “Maharaj” accompanying their tours. Honestly, why travel to South Africa, if you are not going to sample the “Bunny Chow”!

I was initially going to title this piece, “The Idiot, Rude Indian Traveler”, but decided that it made no sense to harp on the obvious. If we are rude, loud and racist in our own country, why would we be any different in South Africa, or for that matter Switzerland?

If you do get a chance to talk to the locals, whether it is in South Africa or Switzerland, it is clear that they don’t like us, but can’t do without us, because they need the money that we bring in.  We don’t tip, we don’t say “Please” and “Thank You” and worst of all, we don’t follow rules. Each time we met a new guide, the first thing we were told and then reminded three times the previous evening, despairingly, was “Please, please be on time”. And until we actually were, they refused to believe that we would be!

35 Comments

  • franston rayer wrote:

    I love the pieces you write. I wait holisticaly for saturday to come just to read your column. On other days I read da mirror too. But you portray the real mumbai. We are so caught in the hustle and bustle we forget to notice minor yet beautiful things mumbai offers.

  • franston rayer wrote:

    Plz send sum more posts. Whenever you get time.

  • Amit Upadhyay wrote:

    As usual a brilliant piece from you Bhavin, you make us sound so loveable with all our faults. Maybe subconsciously liking us with all our faults.

  • Ronak Shah wrote:

    loved this article. Some said right” Time is money”

  • Sunil Kamath wrote:

    Once again MY COMPLIMENTS to you Bhavin (ji) for writing on subjects SO RELEVANT.

    You have made a veiled reference to the one community who loves to enjoy life – EATING & TRAVELLING being the PRIME ACTIVITIES.

    I remember one Travel agent – who himself was a GUJJUBHAI, saying that on tours, THE GUJJUs are not concerned if we show them fewer ‘sights’ as long as we FEED THEM WELL.

    As far as travelling in large groups this is one community, who ‘pioneered’ the GROUP TRAVEL system – RARELY does one find a Gujju family of four, while on tour. Nowadays, the MARATHI MANOOS has taken up travelling in a BIG WAY. There are a few Tour Operators who cater to the Maharashtrians. SO MUCH SO, when I, myself was making inquiries with a WELL KNOWN TOUR OPERATOR – Efforts were made to find out if I am a Maharashtrian – so that I could be accommodated with one such group.

    And I FULLY ENDORSE the -“Interlaken is like our Ghatkopar station” remark, b’coz it is quite common on such trips, to meet an acquaintance / neighbor / relative – whom one may not have met for Years together.

  • Sameer wrote:

    I was seriously contemplating a peaceful vacation in Gujarat this summer, in the hope that the noisy gujjus would be out conquering the world….no disrespect intended (since I am also 50% gujju)

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Actually that would have worked Sameer.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    At least the tourists were able to distinguish between a leopard and a lion! Or, was that prompted by the guide?

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Obviously the guide. Though lion versus leopard is not such an issue. Cheetah versus leopard is the more relevant one.

  • Nitin Tamhane wrote:

    Well written Bhavin.This is the reason I find myself in Braunshweig Germany,Siena Italy,Oslo(It is expensive!)Bern and Biel where I do not find lots of our kind.

    It sounds snobbish.

    Only when there is a crisis or delay of airplanes and some personal problems we cling together and I have experienced it.

    It is a feeling like young adults who do not like their parents around where they enjoy but when they fall sick they want their mother around.

    It is the same with us, not liking fellow indians around when we travel abroad.I want to add that lot of my friends from other countries have same feelings aboout their own countrytmen while on travel to another country on a holiday!

  • Ravi Gadiyar wrote:

    Sir,

    One has to have BREAKS with BRAKES, and it simply looks astounding, wherever one goes on tour.The mannerisms are personified to its hilt. Indians are born achievers when it comes to food.Namak Kam Hai , Tikha Jyada Ho gaya, Dal mein Tadka nahi hai. It is said “CUSTOMERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT” which is LEFT out. JAI HO !!!

  • shefali wrote:

    Totally agree with you… Just back from spain, and the indians who travel in group tours behave exactly the way that you have described…. Awesome

  • Raymond wrote:

    I’ve personally never been on a group tour to date – but have been travelling on work and short family vacations since the late 70s so my observations are solely from the outside..when i guess group travel to phoren lands was still not the in thing – but travel en mass migrating was – when plane loads of one particular community would refuse food served by the airlines, instead open up their little tiffin boxes and merrily pass on a stack of greasy papads over the heads of perfect strangers to manubahi or sarlaben from seat 31A to 10B – possibly a precursor to culinary selectivity or the times when we would be sent on training to some remote Bavarian hamlet and my Indian colleagues wouldn’t mind trudging miles in near freezing temperatures just to dine on watered down Indian curries at prices that could feed a small village back home, all along by passing eateries that served exciting local stuff… intriguing yes but more perplexing is how we all manage so well and not stain the sidewalks and trains with our streams of vermilion jets, so long as we are on videshi soils.. that i wish we carried back home with us…

  • Sriganesh wrote:

    Superb! Vasu and I just got back from USA. You should have added, as soon as you get back the first thing that hits you as soon as you get out of the airport, the cacophony of car horns, whistle of the security and excited family members (does it require 5 family members to receive one individual?) greeting your co-passenger, a guy blaring out tea and coffee whilst using the airport’s luggage cart! Oh! Why did we get back to this noise? Home sweet Home!

  • No, you’re not a snob, at least not in my eyes! I consider myself extremely lucky to have settled in Oslo, far from the madding Indian crowds. Even here, I venture into Oslo only on a need to basis and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction if I spot an Indian tour group. Luckily these are few and far between thanks to the cost and the climate. Unfortunately I haven’t been as successful when traveling in other parts of Europe where I have been assaulted by inane conversations on food and Bollywood while trying to get a glimpse of La Pieta over their heads!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Just wait for a few years and see what happens. Oslo…here we come.

  • Nikunj wrote:

    First and foremost an amazing article bhavin as always.
    Your observations are so so true but at the same time it was hilarious.
    I currently live in Switzerland, in Zurich and I completely agree with you. If Interlaken is Ghatkopar then Luzern is Bhuleshwar!!!! trust me on this.. was there last week when my uncle and aunt had come on a trip here.. in the evening only one souviener shop was open and trust me 10-15 tour buses converged at the same time in this little shop… and they were shouting at the top of their voices..trust me a macchi market (fish market) would be too silent in front of what i saw in that shop…
    and the funny part is when they go on snow clad mountains with minus degree temperatures.. indian women are still wearing those brightly coloured sarees with sandals and chapalls and then they are heard complaining it is so cold!!! ya right! this is the part where most locals feel strange and bizzare!

    but you are completely right, all countries know that indians have a cpaacity to spend money and thus promoting and marketting their countries so well and we fall for the lovely scenic pictures shown by the tour operators and spend thousands/lakhs of rupees…
    it might be considered snobbish but I run away from a group of indian tourists too!!

  • Hi,

    Nice article truthful I agree, But this article pin points one main thing in our culture “we tend to hate and look down at each other”… Why do we keep abusing each others habits, if you have a problem with how indian people behave why don’t we take a personal flight to The Islands of Micronesia where I doubt you will find Indians over there..and mind you its breathtakingly beautiful but its not tourist friendly in terms of food availability…. And If a traveler hates Indians so much why doesnt he go to places like Alice Springs in Australia or Alaska or Norway or other varies different places where the INDIAN population isnt that much.

    So If you have a problem with gujju comments don’t go in those pre organized tours, spend big money get private jet, limo for hire, pvt safari etc… pay big money… oh hang on … Your INDIAN you wont do that will you ?

    This is the reasons Indians do not progress in life, they are to F***ing busy cribbing about each other and their bad habits.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    I agree and that was the trouble writing this piece, because it adds to the cribbing that I am complaining that Indian tourists do. A kind of Catch-22

    The problem is that I didn’t anticipate what would happen. I didn’t go in a tour-group. I went privately, spent the extra money, but could not escape the tour groups at each tourist destination because these are public places. Wherever we were without other Indians, it was great fun. I am waiting another 4 years. As soon as my kids are out of school and I no longer have to vacation during “vacation” time, I will start moving around the way my wife and I used to earlier…in off-season, when all these problems just don’t arise.

    And we need to f*** crib, so that hopefully some of us will improve.

  • Pushpendra Shah wrote:

    Yes, this is one of the reasons why you leave home, go on a holiday – to forget the daily routines for a while. ( And perhaps also hoping and praying for a miracle – that there will be a change, and the “problem/s” will have disappeared ) Only to find that everything is the same as when you left ! The “nashaa” evaporates in an instant !

  • Pushpendra Shah wrote:

    I have a saying – when we visit the game parks in Kenya, where I live… It does not matter whether we see the big five or the terrible three…we have our own menagerie with us, and a few decks of cards…. The memories that will remain will be that of the group that went along – not how many lions we saw, and how many elephants moved past us… So, when I want some peace and quiet, I will travel alone, or with my wife. . . !

  • Pushpendra Shah wrote:

    People who travel in groups are exactly the same. Of every nationality . They will speak of the same thing, they will complain of the same thing, they will discuss the same thing. The difference is that when you understand the language – you will think ” oh, no ! I am back home, OR where have I come… ” And the other people will probably be saying exactly the same thing of the other . . .

  • shaukee wrote:

    You forgot to add that, at 10 in the morning, after the heavy breakfasT-“BURP” THEY start discussing “aaje maharaje lunch ma aam ras puri che”

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Absolutely.

  • bhuvana ramsay wrote:

    Your article pinpoints exactly the indianess you experience when you are abroad.reecently as my husband and myself were taking our serious morning walk in a remote countryside ,we come across a chatty couple talking loudly and seriously disturbing the early morning tranquil one, comes to experience.its like , i am like this only. enjoyed reading yours.

  • Vipin Nair wrote:

    A friend who runs a place in goa says that the monsoonmonths of june-july is called gujju season. It is also the time he can afford to spare all his chefs except indian cusine on leave. He says and i quote ” you can love them, you can hate them….but you just can’t live without them”

  • Sandeep wrote:

    Very true Bhavin. I think that majority of the Indians travelling abroad today want their food security and Maharaj and also want to crib about it. I think speaking in their Mother tongue and eating their Native food makes them feel secure. Very unsettling for those of us who want to soak in the real experience of the place. But India is the second most populous nation on the planet, rest assured that whatever season you travel in you’ll bump into a Desi tour group

  • K.B.Raghavan wrote:

    You have hit the nail on the head with your article on how the Indians behave & conduct themselves where ever they go around the World.They do not respect the locals & think they are superior to everybody due to their inflated Ego.
    I have observed that whenever any Foriegner visits Indain cities they try to communicate with the locals to know more about our country through personal intercation which seems to be lacking in Indians.

  • mehul bhatt wrote:

    one can’t escape world’s 2nd largest population.The world need to learn to live with it & you need to stay away from topics relating gujjus & their love for food for some time now.their mention has become quite repeatative in recent articles.In the end your articles are always a fun to read.

  • Janak Sheth wrote:

    Few years ago a taxi driver in Interlaken told us that in May they rename Interlaken to Indialaken.

    I travel privately. I believe that group tours anywhere by anyone in the world only provide a touch and go feature. One never gets to any sight in depth or see things you want to.

    I have found that shop keepers, restaurants & locals are able to distinguish the two varieties of travellers. Maybe our body language, our mannerisms, the time of day, places we eat etc. Most of the time we tend to get treated differently from group travellers.

    Local cuisine – I agree there are few culinary adventurers amongst the Indians but that said how many culinary adventurers have we seen in Japanese and Chinese groups – same proportion as Indian groups.

    That leads me to other nation’s travellers. During my conversations with foreign clients, friends and locals surprisingly we hear similar horrible tales of loud, obnoxious, racist and brash Americans, British and Aussies. Obviously Japanese are the most respoected due to their politeness and sensitivity to others.

    Don’t get me wrong we as Indians do need to improve we need to improve our mannerisms, loudness but most important of all learn to BE ON TIME.

  • Amishi wrote:

    Bhavin, This is happening since timeI remember. But the trend is the same within the country. My cousin visited Rann of Kutch-most popular destination since last year-Superb experience except he felt-those silly gujju jains-not from Gujarat but from Mumbai should have been kept away. Their money and ego just kept them away from all the services they got-bisleri, neat clean tents,walk to the border, military escorts and only kept them arguing away with the staff for some Samosas !!! He’s from a town in Gujarat and said -gosh mumbaities need a class in behaviour & need to get self sufficient if they are so classy. I agree. Its just our way of living here that translates wherever we go.

  • Dear Bhavin
    Your short clip was Hlarious and may be factual too. I am in Oregon, US for the last 40 days touring places when my D2 is free. Yes you rub your shoulders with Indians but any communiy or caste comment i will be pulled up as Racist by my D2. So Silence is golden is my Gita. Well timed and good feedback. but Aamir Khan criticism is hurting. Is it because he is bringing out facts though it is tip of the iceberg covered in 1 hr. Personal comments laced with freedom of speech Bhavin are allowed transitions i suppose. Thanks.

  • Dear Bhavin,

    Yet another excellent article, I must say, compelled me to drop a few words! Been living in Oslo for awhile now (where our kinds are rare yet.) Took a short trip to Rome recently and encountered the exact same specimens you have pointed out! But not being around our people for a long time does have it effects, so hearing “aa goose che ke duck che?” (it was a pigeon mind you) or even better “aa Rome ma toh boej chalvu pade che! Badhi pathar ne murti joe ne takhi gaya!” while had me in spilts, felt really nice to watch the groups from the sidelines!

    Do let me know if you and your family would be dropping by Oslo in the near future :) Would pass on some tips!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Thanks Nirja. Will do so.

  • @ Bhavik…. If you went privately and you went to those public places and you still found yourself in a bad situation. I humbly request you to take trips down to a few very small yet extremely beautiful locations like

    1. Monaco
    2. Grand Canyon (Helicopter Ride)
    3. LV and stay at the Wynn
    4. The Islands of Micronesia
    4. Any small European countries (language is an issue)
    5. Mexico
    6. Argentina
    There are a lot more

    But you need to hunt good places to stay eat and stuff before you catch a flight to that place.

    and even if we f***ing crib, the message wont reach them at all.

    Till,
    Happy vacationing

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