You travel to find out you were wrong about every other country. I read this somewhere (probably Pinterest) long ago and it resonates every single time I travel. And if there’s one thing that’s been common across so many of our trips, it is to find out that the world is more Indian than you think. As an Indian traveller who cowers every time she sees her fellow citizens having a picnic on the carpeted floor of Changi Airport, I’m glad to have a rich and famous culture to be proud of when I travel. As you scroll through this post, stop and glance through the little anecdotes that I’m pretty sure you’ll find interesting and worth smiling about (even if you aren’t Indian). And then look at the photographs from our travels around the world. It’s almost hard to believe not one of them was shot in India. Even for me, who has physically lived each of these moments in another country.
Bangkok evokes memories of Buddha, Beaches and Bars. But that’s not all. We were lucky to have been there during the festival of Loy Krathong, and we couldn’t believe how similar it was to our festival of Diwali. Lanterns, Firecrackers, Lights, Flowers and decor, accompanied by food stalls, crowds and excitement in the air. We enjoyed releasing lanterns into the sky outside Wat Arun where strangers helped each other light lanterns and crackers, all the while feeling just like it was Diwali.
Barcelona was another city that surprisingly felt very Indian. Loud, boisterous people that love or rather live to eat, wear their heart on their sleeve and are extremely friendly and hospitable. Sounds just like India to me. And when a long walk got us lost in the Barri Gotic, we found so much washing drying between two buildings built impossibly close together and it felt just like our hometown of Mumbai. Walking on towards Las Ramblas, we discovered an entire street completely blocked off to vehicles and heard a loud chanting getting closer. All foreigner fears were put to rest the instant we discovered it’s a protest. We see these all the time back home, and they’re usually peaceful, so we let them pass and continued on our way.
We Indians are rather proud of our “Jugaado” instincts. That’s a wheeler-dealer instinct to the uninitiated. We always always find a way around everything, even if there are no apparent loopholes. We’ve got the system licked! So when we found this criss-cross of wires and cables in the Philippines, we looked at each other and smiled. We knew these Cebuanos loved “sharing” their phone and cable connections just like us Indians. This could easily have been a shot taken in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk.
A small scale handicrafts industry fights to survive in the hills outside of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. A visit to the Silk Factory there was a charming trip back to a time of handwoven exquisiteness. Or just to Shimla or any place in North East India.
Thook-Patti. I’m not quite sure how to translate this Indian term. But it essentially refers to a shoddy/ temporary patch up job, which is in fact an intentionally permanent solution to things here in India. We saw this crumbling old house on stilts at the edge of Istanbul’s old city walls and it immediately reminded us of construction solutions back home.
Çay or chai, both pronounced the same way. Just like so many other Turkish words we discovered that were similar to Hindi. While we drink ours with lots of milk, this was just as sweet as what we enjoy, in just as copious a quantity as is enjoyed in Turkey.
Turkish sweets smelt and tasted so similar to the Indian mithais. Rich dry fruits, syrupy sugar, and then there was Halva. The very thing we call Halwa. Amazing.
DDLJ is an iconic Bollywood film, which most Indians (no matter how cosmopolitan and discerning) hold dear to the heart. As a die-hard fan of the superstar Shahrukh Khan, I couldn’t help but replay this scene when he tries to suck up to his girlfriend’s dad by joining him in his early morning ritual of feeding the pigeons. We see pigeon feeding areas all over our country, even in the space starved cities, and this as a ritual seems to play out with as much enthusiasm in Istanbul. This was right outside the Egyptian Spice Bazaar in Eminonu.
Even though Bombay’s name has long since been changed to Mumbai, people like me who have lived here through its heydays insist that Bombay is a state of mind. And we found it at a couturier’s, in Mauritius.
The quintessential Indian thali comes in several forms. Every state has one, and the Banana leaf as a plate repeats itself across many. Imagine our surprise on finding an Indian thali joint tucked away on the island of Mauritius, among several temples. This led to an interesting chat with a 5th generation Mauritian citizen who was determined to discover his Indian roots as he plied us with free drinks from the bar he was manning.
Melbourne. The city of coffee, food and laneway graffiti. The last place we expected to find Indian deities. But there they were, Radha, Krishna, Ganesha all poster celebrities for an increasingly popular subculture in the Australian continent.
Now there’s absolutely no way Paris can be anything like India, right? Well not entirely true as we discovered on our first visit there. It happened to be over Christmas and we enjoyed hitting up every single Christmas market we could find including this one just across from the Eiffel tower. Rows and rows of stalls selling trinkets, snacks, sweets, handmade souvenirs, accompanied by buskers, musicians, carousels and other rides and games for kids, making it all feel like an Indian mela– a fun fair. And we definitely had a lot of fun there.
And here’s a question to our readers, have you ever found a little piece of your culture on your travels? What? Where? How did it make you feel?