“Beta, abhi kitni der aur hai?” (Sweetheart, how long will it take?”)
“Shayad aadha ghanta aur, ma” (maybe half an hour, mom)
“Aadha ghanta aur…baap re itni der kaise control hoga” (OMG how am I going to control for half an hour more)
“Arrey yahan nahi aage kar lengey.” (Not here. I’ll do it at the next station)
“Par kyun ma, aapne toh pale bola tha aap se control nahi ho raha…to phir ab jab yahan uttre hain to aap kyun nahi ja rahe” (But why mom? You earlier said you are unable to control then why are you not going here?)
The reason for a sudden change of heart is not because Indian mom’s urinary bladder mystically became XXL from XS but because she saw a paid Toilet signboard. Her Brahmanical upbringing will never approve 1.5 € expense on a WC. That’s an utter waste of money. So instead of relieving her pressure, she decides to show restraint. She’ll not spend more than 50 cents, and when it’s FREE, she will use it even if she doesn’t need to. Her mantra – anything FREE must not be missed, and anything that costs should be avoided.
I am sure you would have encountered many such incidents where people travelling abroad become Traveling Mathematicians as soon as they set foot on foreign shores. Here are a few unique behaviours I noticed during my travels-
1. Full Paisa Vasool In-flight EntertainmentWhether it is pleading for extra luggage allowance or becoming risky after drinking too much whisky or regularly pressing the flight attendant call button or sneakily pocketing the blanket, headphones, socks or anything that we can lay our hands on; we love to derive the best value for money even if it comes at the cost of providing free in-flight entertainment to others. Why care about image. After all, we have spent so much money on flight booking. We are taking what’s rightfully ours. The ‘dhania mentality’ is not to be left home but carried along.
2. New Skill Acquired - Mental MathsShopping without calculating how much it will cost in INR is just not our cup of tea. Foreign yatra up skills our Mental Maths. Conversions are done in seconds without any calculator aid. For a great retail therapy session, the global price has to match the Indian price. Only when we are sure we won’t find a better deal in India, will that crisp note come out of our wallet. I still remember in 2009 I so wanted to buy a pair of Nike sneakers, which were exclusively available at Oxford Street store, London but the price tag of 88 pounds made it look less attractive. I was reluctantly convinced by my mental maths that it was overpriced and not worth it. Till date, I rue for not buying that pair. Sometimes you should just let go of your mental maths and follow your heart.
3. From Four Wheel Cruisers to Two Feet WanderersIn India, we won’t even walk to the nearby Kirana store to buy a packet of bread but in videshi dharti (foreign land) walking for miles becomes a cakewalk. And it’s not because weather Gods are in a good mood there or suddenly health becomes a priority. It’s the fear of losing the dollar count that decides our mode of travel. And dare we take a taxi from the airport on arrival. After all NRI relatives have some duties to fulfil.
4. Food Experimentation Is Not a Part of TravellingWe love to eat but our love starts and ends with Indian cuisine. We will not travel abroad without our bags full of thepla, khakhra, bhujia, ready to eat Indian dishes, kaju katli, aam ka acchar, besan ke ladu and everything that we can carry through immigration. We rarely explore the local cuisines. If we are forced to eat outside then we will go searching for Indian restaurants and the selection criteria are based on price, not reviews. We order the cheapest dishes on the menu and share our food, even if sharing is not allowed.
I am guilty of not experimenting much with local cuisines. However, in my case, it’s not the Indian cuisine love but my limitation of being a vegetarian. On the contrary, I rarely eat at Indian restaurants because I don’t want to destroy my taste buds for forever. What irks me the most is when I see newlywed chudah-clad couples asking for bhalla-papdies at places like Halong Bay. Yes, it actually happened.
5. Flea market ChampsFlea markets are the treasure troves which we, the Traveling Mathematicians, love to hunt. The artefacts which will later grace our living rooms are bought from these flea markets. And stores like Primark, Dollar store, Japan Store, Landmark are our BFF. Their attraction overweighs any sightseeing attraction. And once we arrive at the flea market, we would not think twice before using our 'brahmastra' – bargain. Bargaining runs in our blood. Being a true-bred Indian, I have bargained from Nottinghill to Greenhills. There is a certain joy in thrift shopping, which only we Indians can appreciate
6. Crazy Coins SyndromeCoins drive us crazy. We can’t figure out for our life which one is a 50 cents and which one is a 5 cents. The queue will keep getting longer behind us while we struggle to find the right coins. Nobody likes to carry weight, so wherever there’s an opportunity we will try to get rid of them. And we absolutely love to mix our currencies. We would mix our francs with cents, yens with piso and every other currency we would have collected from our first trip onwards. But crazy coin syndrome is a real problem.
Imagine having a coin for 10,000 yen (equal to 500 INR) and 1 cent in the same purse. Anybody would get confused. And lesser said about currencies like Vietnamese Dong and Indonesian Rupiah better it is. My mental maths takes a long vacation when I travel to these countries. Spending 5 lacs on a meal? That could drive anyone crazy when in actual sense it is less than 1000 INR. Best is to spend using your credit card or globally accepted currencies like the dollar. Less headache more time for fun.
7. Food Faux Pass Are UnforgivableI was marvelling the beauty of Brussels Atomium when I saw an Indian woman throwing up. I asked her if she needed any help. Suddenly her friends burst into a laughter. I was flabbergasted. Apparently, they couldn’t read the menu right as it was in Dutch and she ended up ordering a dish which was a complete food disaster. But being brought up in an environment where wasting food is a sin, she gulped it completely only to throw it up later.
8. Get Greddy Over "All You Can Eat" BuffetsBreakfast becomes the most important meal for us because usually, breakfast comes complimentary with room booking. We would greedily pick everything from the buffet bar to quench the hunger of our eyes. In the process, we forget that there is a limit to how much our stomach can accommodate. And if we can’t gulp it down, we will get it parcelled to be eaten later. It will serve as our lunch and sometimes even dinner. I used to do that as well because many times it was more convenient to carry a fruit than go vegan food hunting in the middle of nowhere.
9. Only Two Kinds of Souvenirs Exists - Fridge Magnets and KeychainsThere was a time when I used to hate the idea of meeting anyone returning from foreign trips because I knew what my return gift would be – either a key chain or a fridge magnet. Later, when I started travelling myself, I realised the economic reason behind that love for those souvenirs. Fridge magnets and key chains are the cheapest souvenir items and they don’t take much space in the luggage. For your friends, it acts as an image-building device – more the number of fridge magnets better your ‘Global Traveler’ image is. So what if all those fridge magnets are gifted. A win-win situation for Traveling Mathematicians and their friends. However, I am not a big fan of these souvenirs so my friends don’t get them. I usually buy something unique which they can cherish for life.
10. Last-Minute Shopping at Duty-Free ShopsIn the quest of excelling mental maths and setting thrift shopping benchmarks, we – the Traveling Mathematicians – fail to realise that our trip has come to an end and we haven’t shopped anything yet. More than 50% of the foreign currency we carried at the start of the trip is still intact. And then the mad rush of last-minute duty-free shopping kicks in. We would spend hours checking chocolates, liquor, perfume, makeup and everything that our eyes can scan in duty-free zone. It’s a do or die situation. We have to spend all the cash in hand. Who knows 'kal ho na ho'.
So these were some of the things I noticed about Traveling Mathematicians. Did you notice the same or something that you recall even today?
Read the original blog here!