I am back in Toronto. Home sweet home.
Right from the time I exited the самолёт (समल्योत = aircraft) to the time I arrived home (90 minutes), I must have received 12 Thankyou’s and 5 Sorry’s, approximately. Quickly I panicked to restore my North American ‘polite’ avatar which I had, after intensely painful efforts, buried for over 3 months. This avatar had a nasty habit of sneaking up in unexpected places when I was in India or even Russia – leading to embarrassing situations – usually causing me to apologise for being ‘polite’ in the American way, which again was met with glares and a sympathetic ‘oh, the poor boy is Americanized’ look.
I was walking in the very crowded Moscow metro when the tip of my wrist brushed against the tip of a woman’s handbag who whizzed ahead of me. Like any normal person in Toronto would, I thought she was rude for not apologising to me but nevertheless I said by reflex, “I’m sorry, извиненте!” (इझविनीच)
The huge lady turned around, stopped and giving me a look said, “что?” (श्तो = what?)
I laughed inside my head, said “ничего” (निचीवो = nothing) to her and left.
I spent many hours explaining to both, Americans and Indians, what the American ‘polite’ manners mean. The Americans don’t understand why Indians never seem to thank or apologise (one survey even put Mumbai as least polite city in the world – imagine!) and the Indians don’t understand why critical words like Sorry and Thankyou are treated like commodity and used hundred times a day. Well, cultural differences are so beautiful and I discovered that in spite of living in India for first 25 years of my life, I could not, after just 2 years in Canada, switch to a different culture in an instant. Predictably, it will take me some time to get used to thanking and apologising hundred times a day here too.
Moscow from the sky
My Аэрофлот (ऐरोफ्लोट Aeroflot) flight flew from Mumbai to Moscow, change plane, Moscow to Toronto. Aeroflot served me BEEF in my Hindu meal (will make a post with pictures on my travel blog), they are known to flatly refuse to serve plain Water (which is what Indians drink), served a drink called “chai” which they think is tea (well it is Russian tea), their flight was 4 (FOUR) hours late and their seats are designed for discomfort. Yet, I flew them because I had to go to Moscow and the ticket cost was too good to be true. I discovered that the airhostess had a bias against, well, Russians and non-Russian-looking-but-Russian-speaking people like me on one side compared to other non-Russian-looking-and-no-Russian-speaking people on the other. boooo. Nevertheless I found this international discrimination less insulting than what happens in Mumbai between different ethnic groups ironically belonging to the same country…
As the flight landed, I was deeply touched to see the passengers clap as a ‘thank you’ to the pilot.
“Nyet nyet” my neighbor said wisely, “They clap to thank God that the plane has finally landed. It’s Aeroflot, Russian airline!”
View from my window
I was finally glad to be home. Toronto looks beautiful, wrapped in a blanket of snow and occasionally glittering with a scarlet glow from the rays of the sun. I tried to sleep, but I was still tuned to IST. Still I tried to get into my bed and catch some sleep something that was difficult to get without the familiar barking of street dogs…