Sequels are wonderful and practical tools that come handy when you cannot think up anything original. This is the rule set in motion by the film industry, now patented by J K Rowling, whose Harry Potter series is essentially about the magic of conjuring up the same seven books under different titles.
This interpretative explanation is needed for this piece as it takes off from the last week’s column, which dealt with the travails of the Indian traveller abroad. What you read may sound similar, but believe me it is original, as at least I have thought up a new heading, which is more than what you can save for the makers of Billa who actually remade an old movie with the same script and the same story without even thinking up a new title. The makers of Ninaithale Inikkum have taken this concept to another level in that they have copied a story from one language and stolen the title from another and released a film in the hope that people will appreciate their creativity for delivering a new product.
But back to the Indian traveller and his toils in, er, toilets.
Potty is not petty
The problem for an Indian visitor to a foreign shore usually starts in the mornings itself. The Indian potty training is vastly different from that of the westerners in that the former needs roughly the entirety of the water that Karnataka is supposed to discharge into Tamilnadu for his or her morning ablutions, while the latter can come out of the loo without even so much of a droplet of water actually splashing on their skin.
The Western concept of high hygiene has carefully evolved from the commonsense clamour for cutting down on the expenditure of precious water in bathrooms. The use of tissue papers obviously precludes the need for water in washrooms. This smart strategy has in one simple swoop transformed what is essentially personal issue (wastage of water in bathroom by individuals) into a global crisis of climate change and deforestation, which is what use of tissue paper actually entails as plenty of rain-forest trees need to be destroyed for manufacturing paper. This has also further helped the Westerners to conduct costly seminars where suit-clad, spectacles-sporting trendy men and women get ample chances to ceremoniously advise third world countries on the need for practising hygiene and eco-friendly living.
Apart from the complexities and confusions of the commode, Indians have also got to contend with bathtubs, which have been thought up as a leisurely and luxurious way to wallow in one’s own grime and muck, as the user has to lie back buoyantly in the water that he has just soaped himself in. The thing about bathtubs is that its essential working set-up is such that the water is always either too hot or too cold, but never just right. Desperate Indians mostly end up using the bathtub as a shower stall by going through their bathing routine in the standing position even though the contrivance is meant for use in a sleeping posture. Bathtubs are, however, a highly recommended method to bathe if the whole idea is to waste all the water saved by refraining from cleaning one’s bottom.
Broken at breakfast
With the bathroom experiences usually less than satisfactory, an Indian traveller is in a surly mood as he heads to the breakfast hall, whereupon he is confronted by more challenges thrown up by the food as well as the implements used to eat them.
The Western method again sets much store on the all-important hygiene, as it frowns upon the use of your own fingers, which are usually dirty even though they have conceivably not entered any one else’s mouth, and instead places its faith on an army of forks, knives and spoons which can be trusted to be clean despite the fact that they may have practically tangoed, just a few minutes ago, with the teeth and tongue of that man with terminal gum disease.
Use of forks and knives generally call for dexterity and nicety with hands that are mostly beyond the pale of Indians, who usually manage to make the Danish pastry that they are trying to eat to surface on the plate of the Westerner sitting in the next table.
Indians are also very fussy and complicated in their selection of food for breakfast. On the other hand, foreigners are simple and straightforward in their method. While Indians worry over the choice to make among breads, pastries, jams, butter, cheese, bacon, omelette, scrambled egg, porridge, fruits, juices, coffee, foreigners take the easy way out by consuming all of them. This naturally stands them in good stead in the physically demanding exercise of attending seminars and meetings, which is what they seem to be immersed in all seriousness all day.
‘Is it vegetarian?’ is a question that is known to reverberate in most dining halls that has an Indian in them. But sadly for him, even though the answer is yes, he is never truly convinced and is naturally forced to peck at his food with ill-concealed distrust.
While vegetarianism is a growing fad in the western world, it has missed many parts of Southeast Asia, where people seem so taken up by seafood that even if they were to drink water they would prefer it to be one swimming with fish or other marine creatures.
Indians find the Western food very bland, as they are wont to seeing their everyday food floating on oil in quantities that are generally handled only by refineries in other countries.
The typical Western way of eating, especially vegetables, entails a process of cooking that does not involve actual cooking, while the Chinese method can be defined as tastefully imparting a foul smell of deep-sea slime into every item on the dining table.
In the event, an Indian, because of culinary proclivities, ends up gorging on yogurt and desserts to helpfully supplement his cholesterol intake back home.
But it is just not at the breakfast table or the bathroom that the Indian is all ease when travelling abroad. He is equally ill-convenienced at many chic social occasions that involve people greeting each other by rubbing cheeks but kissing the air. But I’ll leave those details to another occasion, for another, what else, a sequel to a sequel.