For the longest time, I’ve wondered what it’s like to travel with a group of complete strangers. People are booking holiday packages all the time, and it’s always been a concept that I thought came with it’s share of good and bad. As it turns out, it did. For the first (and the last) time I travelled in a group package, I had the hilarious opportunity to people-watch some of my own tribe, and some common travel habits came to light.
So to rid you of Bollywood-established misconceptions (the ruin of many a life that we owe to Karan Johar!), traveling with a group of Indians is less DDLJ, more Hadh Kar Di Aapne. Yes, it’s the heart-breaking, dream-crushing truth laid bare. I didn’t meet my Raj. I did encounter a random Ludhiana wearing-shades-in-the-dark boy (and you thought it was Gurgaon all along!) who relentlessly tried to hit on me in Punjabi. And the rest went thus..
1. You will be requested to swap seats.
This one isn’t specific to traveling with groups but with Indians and flights in general. It’s almost customary. We travel with a batallion and think it’s alright to assume you’d be okay with trading seats. So what if you specifically asked for a window seat? One does not simply refuse to trade for the middle seat they’re offering you instead. How COULD you? I’ve been the subject of plenty a stare when I’ve flat-out refused to trade seats. Maybe you could have made it to the airport on time (like I did) or opted for a web check-in (like I did).
2. We mistake the seat belt sign for “It’s okay to use the washroom”
Because the moment the plane is about to land, we will queue up outside the washroom like it’s nobody’s “business” with a baffled air crew wondering how to seat a group of people who suddenly remembered they need to use the washroom urgently.
3. We will always be unhappy with the food
This is where I pity all the travel companies in the world. How do you explain to a bunch of Indians traveling abroad, that an Indian Vegetarian Jain meal might be a tad bit difficult to find on a train ride from St. Petersburg to Moscow? Someone actually said to me at Subway, “This salad doesn’t taste Indian at all” to which I couldn’t find an appropriate enough response. We want to travel to Europe, but we want an Indian dinner and Gujarati snacks during the day.
4. Because you’re an Indian woman traveling abroad alone..
There’s something wrong with you. You must be a rebel or traveling for work or.. Why are you alone in a different country? Why are you vacationing alone? Are you intending to step out alone at night? Do your parents know? The “Queen” reference will come up at some point, followed by pitiful glances throughout the trip. We just don’t get you.
5. We are not interested in history, culture or information of any kind.
Take us around the city in a bus and we’re really happy; but as soon as you take us inside a museum-we don’t know what to do. Sure, we’ll glance around. By all means, do take pictures of us outside the cathedral. We just don’t want to know when it was built and why. As long as we have pictures in all the important places, history is history.