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When in India

Be an indian

 By Cheryl Anson, October 2015

Of the things I love most about travelling, top of the list are the interesting people you meet along the way. From the like-minded, funny and compelling characters, to the weird and wonderfully eccentrics  who you will never forget. I find it amazing that we meet people from other countries and completely different walks of life and yet, we still share a connection and a similar set of values.

Until it all goes wrong.

While in India a couple of years ago, we found ourselves the ideal place to round up our winter trip. Kudle Beach in Gokarna. It was perfect. Like I imagine Goa was in the 70’s. Laid back, chilled and not much to do apart from drink, smoke, relax and lap up the sunshine. Kudle Beach was fairly quiet during the week but on weekends the place came alive as it was flooded with Indian tourists having their own trip away. A big percentage of them were students from Bangalore and for many of them this was the first time they had seen the sea.

Now, if you’ve been to India, then you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that the people in general, are very excitable. Couple this with the fact that it was, for many, the first time seeing an ocean, then to say the beach had livened up would be an understatement. We would spend hours every day watching the hilarity and the fun that everyone was having, but also found ourselves becoming the new lifeguards of Gokarna due to the fact that most of these young men and women couldn’t swim.

The crowd was mostly students on a weekend away enjoying their first time seeing the sea, some with a few too many Kingfisher beers already inside of  them. Most of the men among them would also be seeing women in bikinis for the first time, so they would be far too busy looking elsewhere to be looking out for themselves. This all added to our people-watching entertainment while soaking up the sun. It was good, harmless fun and we found everyone to be extremely sociable. Not only did people like to practice English but are keen to learn about the western way of life, which was really quite charming.

So, it’s a Saturday morning on Kudle Beach and we decide to have a casual stroll along the sand and order a lassie from one of the local bars to watch the action unfold. We saw a crowd of young boys run into the water, faces filled simultaneously with both excitement and fear. Behind us two men began having a conversation which I don’t think will ever leave my mind….

To give you a picture of what I’m talking about I’ll set the scene: the man was English with a Cockney accent sporting the typical dreadlocks, tattoos, body jewellery and… wait for it… a loin cloth! Obviously, he couldn’t possibly wear any sort of normal beach attire. Maybe they don’t sell it in London?

So as the conversation progressed we learned that he had just arrived in India for his annual trip. He has been coming to the same beach for over ten years which to my mind made it sound like this is a place he really liked and now thinks of himself as a bit of a local. But then he started complaining about how things have changed over the years and that it’s not the same as it used to be. Now, you and I can maybe understand where he is coming from. Everywhere changes through time. But his main complaint? Too many Indian people… I almost choked on my lassie.

What came from the man’s mouth next is what I can only describe as a tirade of racism against the lovely, fun-loving people who decided to take a holiday to the beach. All of this coming from a man who we would usually see sitting around a beach camp-fire  preaching peace and showing the world what a wonderful person he was. All the while annoyed that Indians had the cheek to be enjoying life in their own country. How dare these people ruin his holiday?

So, Mr Loincloth 2012, if you’re reading this you might want to pay heed to a small piece of advice. India has a population of 1.2 billion people. If you’re not keen on Indian people, don’t go. Maybe you should find somewhere else to slip out of your 9-5 suited and booted attire and into your loincloth?

I am a firm believer in ‘never judging a book by its cover’ but inside this man was the total opposite of what he was trying to portray to others on the outside.

Usually we remember the people we meet so that we forge a connection with them, or share common ground with them.  These are the ones that somehow  touch our lives and form part of our memories.

But we also remember the few individuals who have affected us in a less positive way. Whether it’s through racist, narrow minded views or just a plain old loincloth, there are always valuable lessons to be learned.

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