Prejudices < The world and it's people

Rain poured over the gabled roofs of the stilt houses in Inle lake, Myanmar. As our colourful boats bobbled up and down in the impending storm, I stood on the wooden platform, clutching my quivering umbrella in vain. I see a Shan woman (Shan is a local state in Myanmar), rowing her boat, loaded with wares exclusive to this part of the world : beaded jewellery and other Shan handicrafts under a transparent cover.  

The Burmese woman with her boat

I see her approach me determinedly. Suddenly on my guard, I was ready with an excuse of not buying anything. “Chatubeh” (Burmese for Thankyou) I shake my head in a polite no. She still advances, positioning her boat closer to mine. I back off on an impulse and she lunges forward. Before my mind can comprehend anything, she slaps my bare leg. Shocked, I look down as she opens her wet palm, revealing a dead insect that was sucking my blood seconds ago. I am speechless, as she bends down to cup the lake water in her palm and instinctively washes away the blood oozing out from my leg. My heart melts as I stand in a foreign land in this wide world, touched by this selfless deed of an absolute stranger.

The Burmese are known for their hospitality world wide


Flashback to 1996: My heart flutters as I sit in the privileged, coveted window seat of the school bus, peeping out excitedly. As my face feels the wind, it also feels a brush of newly acquired freedom. My mother’s words echo in my mind on loop. “Stick to your teachers. Don’t venture out by yourself. Don’t talk to strangers. If someone coaxes you to accompany him, don’t oblige” Eventually leading me to be the class teacher’s tail in the school excursion. 

Memories of a cocooned childhood : Picture clicked at Pwin Oo Lwin, Myanmar

And thus I grew in a protective cocoon, torn between being vary of the world on one hand and waiting to explore the world with open arms on the other. If mom’s warnings were imprinted in my elephant-like childhood memory, Enid Blyton’s magical books teleported me to the enchanting world of Noddy and the likes that reeked of goodness of strangers and bounteous hearts.  

 

Between scurrying through gates of airports, boarding flights, sauntering through local markets, attending cultural shows, explaining what my kind of vegetarian food looks like, losing my way umpteen times and leaving behind bags at shops, the world opened up to me or was it vice versa? It laid out itself sometimes fancily, sometimes in a grossly unpretentious manner: imperfect yet adorable. 

How the world opens up! A sunset at Yangon
How the world opens up at Capri, Italy!

On a spring day, the world opened up to me as a cheeky girl in a school in Thimphu, breaking my reverie and leading me  mischievously to watch a football match which I never intended to.

A chance meeting at Thimphu

The experience gave me memories of an event I never planned to attend, of a smile I wouldn’t ever forget and of a good bye that happened several times, till she was whisked away by her parents. 

The smile and the goodbye!

On a sweltering afternoon in Dubai, the world opened up as a helpful tall man, who I eyed suspiciously as he walked to me offering help with my bags. From the corner of eyes, I looked at him sporting an impish smile as I swore in Punjabi, how difficult it is to get a cab when you need one. When he walked away with my bags across the road, my heart skipped a beat. Is he running away? He has stopped a cab, opened the door and…

He is looking behind, signalling me to get in as he holds the door. I fumble an embarrassed thanks as he announces he is a Punjabi as well. Belonging to the other side of Punjab, in Pakistan.

Memoirs from Dubai

In the adjoining continent,  the world opened up to me as a hero : whose name I never asked, but whose face is etched in my mind.  After checking in at Lombok airport in Indonesia, I realise I have left my jacket inside the bus. I panic as I try to call Sam, our guide. Unable to get through, I sprint outside only to meet security guards who have failed to understand my incoherent requests of calling the Big Orange Bus back. An airport official intervened, calming me down and checking my boarding pass. As my boarding time neared, a dejected me ran leaving them all perplexed. Five minutes later, as I sit near the boarded gate, the official frantically comes up, asking me to come with him as he has called the Big Orange Bus back. As the now famous bus arrives, I see a wide grin on his face. And no, it wasn’t just that. He escorted me all the way back to my boarding gate assuring me I wouldn’t miss my flight as long as he is there.

The next day as I sat on a bench in the crowded Fatahillah square in Jakarta, the world swarmed to me in the form of a bunch of over excited girls who pointed at me, announcing India! Shahrukh Khan! Kuch Kuch Hota hai! What followed was a bewildered me smiling in several photo sessions and that sweet feeling of being a celebrity in a strange square and an unfamiliar country.

Mobbed at Fatahillah! SRK love <3

 

The experiences are countless: from the honest Bhutanese woman who ran a mile to hand over my forgotten phone at her stall in Paro, to the Lebanese chef who whipped up a desi meal with a huge grin when I politely told him I have had enough Falafel, to the handsome Danny who struck a long , hearty conversation with me about playing Hanuman at the Fatahillah square to the Balinese woman in Penglipuran who conversed with me in sign language and smiles.

 

But each experience speaks volumes of how prejudices die a slow death when the world traveller is receptive to the world and it’s people. 

Travel for me was an escape earlier but soon it evolved to be the best source of learning I could ever get. It soon became an exchange, between places and me. People and me. Stories and me.

It has made me loosen my knots, let go of my inhibitions, accept the world with open arms and most of all bettered me as a open minded, human being.


All the travel inspiration and exploration has led to one universal truth: Deep down we all are the same, despite all the geographical and cultural differences and language barriers.

The Baiga tribes of Madhya Pradesh

This is what this video from Lufthansa showcases as well.

I sit at the airport lounge, waiting to board my flight to Nepal, ruminating on mom’s words. “Call me daily. Don’t venture out at night. Be careful about who you talk to.” I smile at her incessant concern as the plane kicks off into the windy horizon, where I can’t feel the wind outside but my heart still feels a brush of freedom.  Freedom from prejudice. Freedom from pre-conceived notions. Freedom from judgements and a sense of inexplicable love for the world and it’s people.

Exploring the world with Freedom from fears

 

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23 thoughts on “Prejudices < The world and it's people

  1. THAT is the mark of a born nomad and a world-traveller! A moving read with snippets that give a sneak peek into your vast travels. Travel sure shapes your thinking and personality.

  2. Wow wonderful post and how well you have brought in the humane part of all of us. I have always believed that the stories, like ones which I had experienced in Kashmir are far far more in numbers than the ones where they say that the trourists havent been treated well. Great one Divsi.

  3. So many great stories here. We often don’t give enough credit to all of the kindness in the world. Once you open yourself up to the world, it opens itself up to you. Great read!

  4. This is a beautiful, beautiful post! Meeting people from different cultures and dealing with the different traditions, customs and mentalities is the beauty of travelling, but at times also very challenging. Your pictures are wonderful!

  5. Love this post! I think it is great to share all these positive experiences with strangers. So many people are scared of how people will treat them in another country, but this post really proves that you meet lovely people wherever you roam!

  6. Nice read. Having lived in Dubai for 3 years, your cab driver experience so resonated with me. The Pakistanis drivers were always delighted to talk to me endlessly. Well, I have never been the cautious, inhibited sorts, headlong meeting and greeting strangers from everywhere and getting acquainted easily. Traveling has just enhanced that.

  7. I really loved and enjoyed reading this heart touching post of yours. I am really moved. So many experiences from other people that will taught us something while we travel like different cultures, food, and more about people. Thanks for sharing this outstanding post, I really love the captured moments in here.

  8. This was so beautifully written! I totally agree that we really are all the same deep down. It’s truly amazing how traveling opens not only your eyes but your mind and heart as well. Stunning photos by the way!

  9. Beautifully written and beautiful photos. The vast majority of people in the world are kind-hearted and really want to help if they can. It’s so wonderful to be able to see this first hand when we travel. These positive experiences far outweigh the negative, despite what news outlets prefer to report on. Thank you for sharing all those wonderful experiences you’ve had.

  10. Beautifully written piece. I love the first story especially, about the woman who was just getting rid of the giant blood-sucking bug attached to your leg! Funny how we can easily prejudice against others when travelling. Some moving experiences. I remember some Fijian men yelling out to me as I walked back from the markets – I tried to smile and ignore them, thinking they were chatting me up – only to realise later that my backpack had unzipped and all my fruit & veg from the markets was falling out. Sigh.

  11. Very nice stories of kind deeds by people from around the world. We are usually very vary of strangers and that’s normal because it’s a big bad world out there but your stories are reminders of the fact that not all people are bad. I loved the story about the boat lady who killed the insect on your leg, such a kind deed for someone she didn’t even know! And since I live in Dubai, I can relate to the story of the guy who stopped the cab for you and opened the door, there are very kind people here and I’ve experienced that kindness a lot myself.

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