Discrimination is somewhat commonplace and noticeable. Hinduism introduced the caste system many full moons ago and it is still observed to this day. It is too intricate for me to discuss it here, google it yourself, but in short there are 5 classes (technically 4 +1). All good and well if you were born into a caste that is known for its priest, or warrior, or trades people, but spare a thought for the (literally) poor untouchables. It is this lower class that will come out to unblock your drain. With minimal equipment, often the job is done with bare hands. Such is the divide that even if the shadow of an untouchable passes over you, you need to be swiftly taken to a temple for a drawn out cleansing ritual. To me this just sounds like an excuse for a day spa. I am grateful for not being born into a caste, where my future was predetermined – I am big on free will.
Dubai import labourers from India by the planeloads. When their work visa expires, they need to leave and re-apply from their home country again. On that last flight out – having not seen their friends and family for a long long time – they over indulge in the illusion that is duty free shopping. They board the plane with laughable amounts of cabin luggage, optimistic that they will find overhead storage space for their hefty haul. Naturally they turn to the cabin crew for assistance. The same stewardess that greeted us with a sweet and friendly smile minutes ago, now dust off her resting bitch face and blandly states “sorry, I can’t help you”, before she turns and walks away. At dinner time, we get asked politely if we would prefer the scrumptious chicken dish with couscous, or the Mediterranean vegetable casserole. The Indian passengers get a German Matron barking “veg or non-veg?”. The airline’s in-flight entertainment system is world class with a wide selection to cater for most, but the live entertainment – albeit disturbing – was better.
If you fly regularly you know to remain seated until the seat belt signs are turned off and the plane came to a complete stop. This bit of safety advise is lost on most Indian passengers. We are still on the runway … I guess we even have enough thrust to still take-off again, as a wave of clicks ripple through the cabin. Loads of people are getting up trying to open overhead storage, ignoring the panicky screams from strapped down cabin crew, to please sit down. This dangerous behaviour is not exclusive to Emirates, as we witnessed it also on Jet Lite, Jet Airways and India Air. The last three however have all Indian cabin crew accustom to this conduct and thus no sheer horror displayed from them, when the unbuckling starts on the runway.
Unfortunately, my dreams of weight loss brought on by visiting an exotic destination and resulting gastric incompatibility, did not realise. The food is good and cheap in relation to my own country. You can order your roti / nan / paratha buttered. It means they prepare it the traditional way, but bathe it in ghee (basically melted butter!) before serving it to you. It should arrive with a massive heart foundation warning, but instead you order another one as your mesmerized tastebuds crave for more. One evening a waiter asked us if we expect more guests at our table, after we practically ordered the whole menu. (LOL) In South Africa leftover food either goes the doggy bag route (rarely), or straight into the bin. In a land of opportunity, leftover food goes over the kitchen backdoor to those in need. After I learned this there was nothing stopping me ordering more adventurous dishes and journey deeper into the spicy textures and tastes on offer. Meat is however problematic. Beef is holy and pork religiously frowned upon. Lamb is really goat and then there is water buffalo masquerading in the mix as well. Chicken is chicken is chicken and safe to eat. If you ever plan on visiting India, explore their vegetarian options. We stayed one night in a small town called Pushkar. It is situated around a small tranquil lake (some deity’s mother wept there, according to folklore). The whole town is vegetarian. Out of protest for the absence of meat, my brother and Dad went to bed early. I had the best dahl dish that night.
Pepsi is the market leader. Even if you ask for Coke by name, you still get a Pepsi. Shout out to Pepsi India for their awesome market penetration!
Continue reading India – part 5 (of 5).