“Don’t you get bored?”
That, invariably, is the first thing I hear when I tell anyone I’m going to Manali by myself.
It confounds me. On an average day, most of my time is spent in an office with many people I can barely stand, a large part of it driving around – alone – in this wretched city, and the remainder inside my room – reading a magazine, watching a TED video (porn, I mean), eating, and sleeping.
And here I am in the mountains, reading a book, drinking beer by a stream and not replying to any mails. Right. I should be bored out of my skull, shouldn’t I.
It’s funny how people weep all day long about how their jobs are miserable and thankless, how their bosses are cunts and how their commute’s a bitch. But take it away from them for one extended weekend and they don’t know what the hell to do with their lives.
I stayed at a new place this time. It’s run by this man who quit his marketing job in Gurgaon to live in the mountains and run a hotel + cafe. I bet half the fucking DLF Cyber City, at this very moment, is dreaming of doing exactly this.
He was interesting; said he spends most of his day turning people down. The place is designed to appeal to a certain kind of TG, in his words. I am a privileged member, I assume. Amused as I was with the obvious High-Fidelity-esque attitude we all aspire to, I do empathize. I saw a white, Delhi-plated SUV pull into the driveway, occupied by at least 3 families from west of Karol Bagh, and my first, purely instinctive reaction was to mumble to myself, “Oh, for fuck’s sake.” (Watch this for the precise effect.)
Now, a lot of Indians seem to have this notion that people in Manali – the hotel owners, waiters, shopkeepers, etc. – prefer dealing with the foreigners, and look upon the Indian tourist with unabashed contempt – a sort of reverse-racism, towards one’s own ‘race’.
If you’re one of them – an Indian tourist, i.e. – let me clear the misconception right here. Yes, everybody hates you. And no, it’s got nothing at all to do with racism.
While it can be argued, as a poor generalization, that Indians seem to have a certain kind of reverence for the white-skinned man (for women, I doubt it can be termed reverence). I suppose centuries of domination leaves a stain not easy to get rid of.
However, I think the primary reason for the discrimination is something simpler. It’s just that Indian tourists act like absolute fucking cunts.
Old Manali, for instance, gets very few Indian tourists because of its debauched, hippy image. But whenever a bunch of boys from Chandigarh or a nice group of families wander in (Why, why do they travel in groups? Isn’t one family excruciating enough?), they exhibit one common trait: they treat waiters like they treat their servants at home. Like shit. They’re obnoxious, feel entitled to have every demand met instantly, complain constantly about every single thing and shout at everyone to hurry up. I never really understand what the urgency is for. For Big fucking Boss, Season 6, perhaps.
They also stare (leer, in case of females) at the foreigners sitting around them, make some idiotic, ignorant remarks and giggle, and wonder why the hell they’re all smiling politely at the ‘racist’ waiters and saying strange things like ‘thank you’.
I’ve spent my share of time in Manali (and yours too, probably) and I’ve never once been treated badly. Because I behave myself. It’s a rather simple concept to grasp, really. Smile, and they smile back at you. Snap your fingers and be an asshole, and they piss in your Shahi Paneer.
Anyway. The trip was pleasant and largely uneventful. Well worth the 30 hours spent in the buses, watching a total of 4 popular Bollywood movies. Let’s just say they were a bit of a far cry from Taxi Driver. I think most of them had Akshay Kumar in them. And at least one had Bobby Deol. Not too enjoyable, especially when combined with motion sickness.
There was one annoying event when this guy came up to me in a cafe and started talking. He was sitting two tables away and I had noticed him glancing at me. On his way out, he started walking towards me with a grin on his face. (Replay the video above.)
“I just noticed you’ve been sitting here for a while…”
“Are you a writer?”
“I ask because you reminded me of something I read about Prasoon Joshi. Do you know him?”
I’ve heard the name, yes.
“He said he went to Goa once and locked himself in a room to write. That’s how he came up with the lyrics for 3 Idiots.”
Really? That’s very interesting.
“Anyway, all the best. See you around.”
This exchange depressed me on so many different levels, my head started spinning. So, I went back to the hotel, locked myself into a room and watched Jurassic Park.
To be fair to the guy, I had been scribbling on a notepad when this happened.
The saddest part is, this was what I was scribbling.