Hair gone frizzy, clothes soaked wet, shoes stinking in the closed tempo traveller, yet determined to continue the sight-seeing. Aren’t we Indians enthusiastic when it comes to travelling abroad?
It was the season of white nights in Russia, celebrations all around. Saint Petersburg, renowned for its White Nights festival, attracted tourists from all around the globe. The Russian ballad, the fireworks, and the starry sky; fascination spread all over people’s faces. Moreover, the air, itself, was enchanting the mantra of celebration, and us, the addicts of its serenity. That day, we wanted to see it, see it all. From the weird graffiti randomly sprayed on the walls to monuments with their history unknown to us.
Why did I decide to wear those Aldo’s today? Now the leather is damaged. And the top of it all, my hair! Feels like chaos all around. Beep, Beep! The driver pushes the horn. It was time to go see the Hermitage Museum. Ugh! A long ride in a wet attire; such mess.
Our tempo traveller slowed down as we analyse a long queue. What was it for? Oh, damn! The queue is for the museum. I am no genius in maths but I can say with certainty that there were around 300 people waiting to get into the Hermitage. And that too, in such a drizzly atmosphere. As we reached the parking spot, I looked at my guide, Artem, with scepticism. He gave me an assurance and rushed to get our tickets. Now, it gets interesting. Let’s wait and see what he can do.
It took him like ten minutes to get the task done. He came up to us with a cheeky look on his face. What? Are we supposed to join the line now? “This one’s out to all the Indians whom I have guided in the past. Well, I have learned a thing or two, despite my reluctance,” he said, slyly. All confused, I protested. Be clear. “I did a jugaad,” he said. So, to sum it up, he compromised his ethics and lied to the authorities. He, basically, nagged about how annoying his clients were, with children in their companionship. He even bribed them a little to gain an easy access to the museum. I felt a little offended at the time being, but turned my denial mode on, for all I wanted was to delve into the art on display.
It was mesmerising, the Hermitage. The art was surreal. I forgot about every annoying detail prevailing in my surroundings. On being asked to leave for further sightseeing, it broke my heart a little. But proceeding, it was dinner time. I wasn’t hungry at all. So I went up to Artem and hit a random conversation with him. One thing led to another and we started talking about Indians. Evidently, he has been a tour guide to a dozen Indian groups. Having experienced through many encounters with Indian aspect of rationality, he pointed out how unsystematic things worked for us Indians. Consequently, he continued ranting on how unorganised our way of functioning was, and how it was a cry for help for us to change our attitude. And that’s when it all struck me!
Despite his offensive tone, I could sense a hint of truth behind his words. Moreover, what he said wasn’t completely wrong. We, as representatives of a nation, need to consider various aspects of our behaviour. How we conduct ourselves says a lot about the place we come from. And a lot of us fail to live up to such expectations. However, I couldn’t just sit around and let him think with such negativity about the people of my country. But, as I opened my mouth to defend my people, words seemed to fail me. I just couldn’t speak up.
That night, it became hard for me to sleep. Artem’s words kept echoing inside my brains. To add to it, questions popped up in my head, questions that changed the way I used to think. But what mattered the most was the answer, not the question. The answer is more of a solution, a solution to the way I conduct myself. My demeanour isn’t just a representation of who I am, but also a representation of where I come from. That night, I resolved all those unsettling notions, the notions that challenged my kinship. And by the dawn, St. Petersburg witnessed a progression of who I am today.