Everyone should spend a week in India

In general, I find that people complain too often and much. The world needs people to be patient, relaxed and do things with a smile. Too often (I think) this bitching and complaining is due to a lack of exposure to the world or a lack of appreciation for the things we have. Few days ago I was boarding a flight from Toronto’s downtown airport and some of the comments I heard from people around me made me think,

“..these guys should go spend a week in a developing country!”

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Before I get into the details, let me setup the environment. Toronto’s downtown airport is located right next to downtown. To get to the airport, you take a subway or a streetcar or ride a bicycle or simply walk there. The airport provides a complimentary shuttle service. The airline sends you a boarding pass via email so check-in is hassle free. If you don’t have access to your email, there are plenty of check-in counters and very cheerful staff to assist you. Finally, once inside the terminal, you are welcomed to possibly the best waiting room in the world – with free tea, coffee, juice and complimentary snacks and computer terminals. The whole place has wi-fi and the procedures take no more than 30 minutes.

These facilities are above and beyond what’s offered in any major city in North America. As for a developing country, such efficiency and comfort is beyond imaginable unless you are a luxury traveller. Still, you will hear people complaining…

Complaint #1: Long lines

There were fifteen people ahead of us and the young couple behind us were getting extremely bitchy and restless.
“OMG, this is like the longest line in the world!”
“It’s like, yaa, nobody is moving!” said the valley girl again
“Why is that $%^@* taking so long?!”

Patience people! Do you know what long lines really are? Heck, do you know what lines are?!

(PS: In North America, queues are called lines and many people find the word queue too sophisticated.)

Complaint #2: Disorganization

The airport is located on an island so you have to take a ferry ride to get to it. This is a special ferry ride, it takes 90 seconds to cross the approximately 121m distance. Bonus: You get to experience one of the shortest ferry rides in the world. Fantastic! Isn’t it?

These ferries ply every 15 minutes and people are asked to wait in a holding area until then. That’s when the complaining starts.

“It’s so crowded here!”
“Wait, those people are budding in!”
“We have to enter the ferry first”
“They (security officers) did a terrible job of handling hordes of passengers”
“Why don’t they just build a road?”

Lady, if you call this crowded, let me take you to Mexico-city subway or a market street in Mumbai. Starting a parallel line for new arrivals is not the same as budding in. It doesn’t matter who goes first, it’s a ferry (everyone goes in it anyways), that goes to check-in area, then you enter a waiting lounge, then you wait for the airplane, what are you so worried and worked up about?

Complaint #3: Security check

If you are bitching at airport security for making you take your jacket off, clearly you missed the last decade. I was standing behind a woman with a baby stroller. She was arguing with the security staff about some nonsense. It went on for few minutes too long and even I was getting restless. She turned and talked to me to bitch about ‘stupid security rules’ (and maybe for support?) but I was quite mad by that point and said “Yeah it must be hard for first time travellers…”

That set it straight. People have to follow airport security rules, however ridiculous they may sound. Do it happily with a smile or take it as punishment and get worked up. Your choice.

Complaint #4: Everything is so slow

This is like a summary of all the complains above. ‘Why is everything so slow’ you ask? It’s because:

  • A. It’s people (like you and me) who refuse to co-operate at the security. It’s people who misplace their tickets or pack too much. It’s people who rush at the last minute. It has happened to all of us at some point. It’s NOT because airport staff is incompetent.
  • B. You haven’t experienced what slow really means. Try waiting for a bus in India, or filling all the forms for government offices. Then you’ll find this a breeze!
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A week in India

…will teach people necessary virtues like patience and perseverance. There are several things that people in the first world take for granted – speed, efficiency, comfort, customer service – and I agree it may not be perfect but you will be more far more flexible if you have seen something worse, or just different. I find that Canadians complain too much.

A week in India will also teach people about non-conformity. India is like a country of countries. Dozens of religions, races, languages, tribes, food, costumes and every possible combination of variables exists there. It shows you extreme faces of humanity – spiritual and uplifting aspects right next to oppression and filth.

Lonely planet calls India the ‘litmus test’ for travellers. People who like it, like it a lot, but most visitors end up hating it or having an emotional breakdown. In any case, one week in India will expose you to enough transformative experiences after which little situations, such as waiting in a queue, will seem trivial.

Go ahead, take a flight to India (or any developing country for that matter), and thank me later.

10 thoughts on “Everyone should spend a week in India

  1. Works for China too! ;-)

    I saw a show on TV the other day where a rich Midtown Manhattan mom and her teenage daughter were spending a few weeks in India to teach the teen she was indeed spoiled. But really, I think the mom was the problem: they stayed at 5-star hotels in India and interact with locals as if they were the “great white people bringing civilization to the poor country”!

  2. Thank you Priyank… India is definitely a ‘litmus test’ for travelers. Never a dull moment here. I am one of those that love India

  3. While I was in Manchester, I once took a local train to a small town called Glossop to meet a British friend whom I knew from office. The train was 15 minutes late reaching Glossop.
    The guy later told me that a lot of people left the station in frustration because of this.
    I spent the rest of my day picking up my jaw from the ground.
    Imagine such a crowd made to wait for a train for 10 hours in India!

  4. I agree! People also complain about “crowds” in the GO train, which are so comfortable. On the topic of lines/queues, don’t you think the lines in India are funnel shaped (i.e. everybody is crowding near the front)?!

  5. So true ,We Indians do these things very often i will not blame just others ,may be i was also doing these things before :D

  6. Pingback: The bicycle immigrant | Final Transit

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