In the days of yore (never knew when or what yore was), hunters and trackers could tell their exact location based on the lay of the land, colour of the soil and vegetation. I figured I’d perfected my own method (besides of course knowing where the hell I was going in the first place).
The theory (Before): Its based on my first interaction with a local official. A combination of the accent and politeness quotient. The former would indicate which side of the equator and continent you’re on, the latter, how developed the country you’re in. Given my only excursions before last week were to the US and Australia (for current purposes, stopovers in Zurich, Frankfurt and London should count). Its only logical that the difference across nations in per capita income and the associated disparity, population density, financial stability will manifest itself noticably.
That had to explain the condescendingly bored tone of the official at the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai) that made clear his absolute control over every individual leaving the country’s shores or the salivating expressions on the faces of those stationed at baggage carousels to ‘help’ passengers, who sidle up going “psst…need help with getting through customs?” Also the contrasting smiley “Good Morning Sir” at the local SSN office in small-city, USA.
That theory however died quietly in a nation not unlike ours in two key aspects; population density and disparity in economic development. Every interaction -polite and respectful. The traffic, as dense as Mumbai in peak hour, and yet, orderly and minus the honking. The excellent infrastructure makes you wonder why Mumbai’s arterial roads are still 2-laned dribbles clogged worse than Elvis’s must’ve been when he croaked. That said, judging by NCR, four lanes are not an automatic cure for boorishness.
The theory (After): It has now been whittled to saying that if the official is polite and shows a smidgeon of pride in his work, you can’t tell where you are, but one place you’re definitely not is India.
p.s: Completely unrelated note, the food in that part of the world is amazingly diverse. My list of
meals experiences include padang (indonesian), sushi & teppanyakki (japanese), kimchi (korean), mexican, indo-indonesian-chinese (at a restaurant called Queens!) interspersed with Krispy Kremes and Starbucks. My abs hurt from the crunches. Guilt can be an amazing motivator.
Oh, and the title means Thank You in bahasa indonesia, not the swear word you were thinking