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Photo taken at Plitvice National Park, Croatia by Vibhor Dhote Oh! What are these days I have found myself in! The bagpacks I carry n...

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Being Desi in a Foreign Country: Sweden

“I am not hungry,” he said with a visible frown on his face.
 Tim was a Russian musician who was tired having traveled all the way from Bangkok to Stockholm without proper sleep that day. We both were couch-surfing at Stockholm for the first time, the way many travelers do when they wish to meet new people, and our host was out with his friends for some time. It was a crazy evening and the three of us had gone out but I had to return mostly because Tim wasn’t feeling well and he didn’t know the way back home and partly because I couldn’t afford the club we were in.

The clock had struck 12 in the midnight and I knew I was hungry. I am not sure if this is because I am a foodie, a fatso or an Indian but I simply cannot sleep if my tummy indicates it needs something nor can I imagine others not being hungry when I am. Tim was adamant that he’d not have anything, since he was too tired to get anything and too upset with the sudden change in temperature he observed between the two countries, while I knew he hadn’t had much to satiate his hunger from the evening. I insisted and he said he’d just drink some cold milk since he doesn’t eat very late at night. I hate doing kitchen-work, more so for someone else. But like all the times when the mother India in me wakes up, I saw myself warm a glass of milk for him and serve it in a tumbler. Imagine the plight of a girl who always had food served for her in a plate on the table, no matter if she is in India or any other foreign country, no matter if she is living with her parents, friends or acquaintances. But somehow I realized the plight would have been mine to keep forever had I not kept my ego aside and shown some hospitality although I wasn’t the host.

Later when I believe his hunger was satiated because his hours-long frown was gone, he thanked me and I think he also smiled.

Sometimes, such gestures keep you smiling whenever you recall them. Sometimes, success isn’t an accolade you won or a large amount of money you received but a smile you’re able to bring to someone else’s face.

 It’s only when we step in a foreign land we get the opportunity to focus on how we react and/or act when faced with certain situations. When in India we are hardly bothered about ourselves, focusing more on the next goal, on the next day. But when I stepped into one country after another in Europe, mostly solo, for three months I had more time than required to ponder upon my own ways.

If hospitality is one way Indians relate themselves with, the other would be ‘Jugaad’ – a low-cost solution to problems also seen as some sort of frugal engineering. My budget for my travel in Europe would not be preceded by the adjective ‘shoe-string’ when it came to my eating habits; but when it comes to buying any other material I’d shy away from spending anything.

It was when I realized my Snow jacket got torn at a visible place that I attached a tiny owl badge on top of it, hiding the embarrassment. It was when my backpack was torn at places that I simply took out some band-aids from my first aid box and put them to cover the tiny holes on my bag. Whenever I met people and they asked me why, I’d say it’s my style statement and sometimes, they’d agree.
I remember not buying another phone for weeks when both my cellphones fell in Greece’s water rendering them useless. I’d then just pick a tourist map from any nearby store and go visit the places with its help.

My ways were more Indian than I ever saw them to be. I go to continental restaurants but still insist on eating Biryani with hands in Biryani joints. I love eating French bread but a hearty meal is the one that has rice or roti in it. A polish guy I once met said I don’t have the typical Indian accent he had expected, maybe because I have an Assamese accent he hadn’t heard before, but I still nod my head the way Indians do, somewhere between a yes and a no.

This reminds me of Lufthansa’s new TVC of the service being #MoreIndianThanYouThink. Having done my MBA in Marketing from MDI Gurgaon, I notice advertisements from the customer’s point of view as well as a marketer’s POV. The ad is humorous and it tells a story and maybe that’s why it has struck a chord with everyone who has seen the ad. The brand recall is great since you not only remember that there is an airline that excels in hospitality and serves Indian food but you also remember its name. And when there are so many Indians flying to and out of the country, it is good to have an airline to prefer over the others.

Do check out Lufthansa’s latest ad below and about the campaign here, and drop in your comments if you’ve experienced Lufthansa’s Indianness


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