Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.
I am a traveller by nature-yes I mean that-by nature.Travelling is inherent in me, it is in my soul. This passion of mine has taken me to various places around the world-places which are extensively written about and visited, places which are not very popular and places which have altogether never been heard of. I am not here to recount a traveller’s-tale or to brag about the number of places I have set foot in, I just want to share a few of my experiences and hope you find it funny and interesting:
When I visit a place, most of the memories I take back home with me are not of those associated with the sight-seeing, food or the luxury hotel rooms, it is all about the people there and their culture. I might not remember where exactly I saw the castle of King Ludwig but I will surely remember the John Travolta look-alike taxi-driver in the small town of Kitzbuhel in Austria who coincidentally came to pick us up every time we called for a taxi and the resultant sense of familiarity we shared with him. I have a clear memory of the owners of the cosy and homely apartment in Interlaken, Switzerland, where we stayed-an old and generous couple who treated us like family members and the various happy conversations we had with them. A funny memory that I have is of the manageress of a flat we had rented in Frieburg in Germany-she would giggle away to glory every time I would ask her how the strange-looking geyser worked, or if there was a supermarket nearby- because of the sheer fact that she didn’t understand much of English, my sister would then help me out with sign language and the woman would suddenly get everything!Much to my surprise. Then there was this sweet lady, also the owner of a certain place we stayed in who used to bring an ice-cream for me and my sister everytime she went out shopping.We will never in our lives forget the driver cum tour-guide we had in Sri-Lanka-he was a gem of a person and the entire experience of the country was enriched because of his warm presence.I will always remember and thank those two tiny-looking teenage girls we met in a small railway station,somewhere in France who helped us find a taxi as we had missed our train-we would have been lost had it not been for those God-sent angels. Another cute teenager and her charisma is embedded in our memories as she helped us with directions in the tiny village of Zermatt and made a grumpy face only to explain that the best Pizzeria in town was known as ‘Grumpys’.These experiences and interactions left me with the conclusion that people all around the world are characteristically the same-they love,they care,they help,they cheat,they hurt;its just that their culture and lifestyle is different-the basic human mind and nature always remains the same, no matter what.
When it comes to the diverse cultures we have around the world, I am always amazed at the truckload of things that one needs to know,see and experience in order to cover the subject completely. As far as my knowledge is concerned, all I can do is recount my personal experiences of the same and the conclusions I have drawn.So here it goes:
I feel at home everytime I see the Thai people bow down their heads and fold their hands to greet us with the shrill yet welcoming ‘Sawasdee Kha’-it is so like our very own Indian ‘Namaste’. I was very amused at my mother’s facial expression when a French acquaintance of ours air-kissed her-she certainly wasn’t aware of the fact that the French do not fold their hands and say ‘Namashkar Bhabhijee‘. It was enlightening to know about the similarities that the Balinese and us Indians share-they are primarily Hindus,worship Gods and Goddesses we are familiar with and also have temples where it is compulsory for men to wear dhotis and ancient-looking coronet style skull caps and offer fresh flowers to the deities.Something that my grandparents wouldn’t approve of but i witnessed was the casualness with which public display of affection is seen in Europe-it was certainly like a ‘Discovery Channel‘ for my younger sister with an impressionable mind.Oh yes, my favorite is the Italian culture of placing food and wine above everything else-it ranks number one on their priority list but then again,one cannot ignore the warmth and friendliness of the Italians.Speaking of the Italians,I was suddenly reminded of the two extremely handsome Italian police officers who had helped us with directions once……..drool! Speaking of handsome, I was reminded of the dashing hotel receptionist in Salzburg(TOP SECRET-both me and my baby sister had a crush on him!), did I mention the amazing looking German who sat on the table beside ours in a small cafe in Baden-Baden,Germany and spoke to my father about the various business deals he makes in Calcutta (as a matter of fact, he had visited Calcutta a week ago then and was telling us about the bad weather-so we had a German in an alien country, giving us the weather update of our home-town) whatever,he was handsome!but married =(…Okay,I know I wandered off elsewhere-let me come back to the point I was mentioning before…God!Just the mention of the word ‘handsome’ gets me to another direction…..sigh!
I feel that culture and customs are complementary to the language of a place.The one thing I notice the most about the various people of different nationalities I interact with is the way they speak.Having a lot of interest in languages spoken around the world, I love to observe the accent of the locals-so when the French speak, it is like sugar mixed in cream,no I am not trying to make it sound trite but I believe that French is the sweetest language ever. I love the way they add an extra ‘e’ to everything and use ‘z’ for every ‘t’.You dont get it,right? Sample this:”ohh,non non Mademoiselle,zees ees not posseeblee,you haave too paye ze cash een adhvance” or “Ahhhhh,Indsia…verry beauzeeful…but ze food wass verry spiceee!oh la la!”**laughs**(these are some conversations I had picked up during my visit to the country and Iam in love with the way the “Francais’ speak their language,love their language and adore their language).Let me now come to the Golden-hearted Italians and the way they stress on every word they speak with a lot of nasal influence.When it comes to nasal tones,no one can beat the Thai and Chinese-they speak as if they only use their noses for the action and never their mouth.It is some times amusing they way they eat up major syllables of certain words so that it sounds like something entirely different from what it is supposed to be-“Ohh,yoou go shoppin shoppin,den luk luk den cum baak..ohhhh…okaye”-this is what a Thai taxi-driver told us when we told him we wanted to go to a certain place and shop nearby.I cannot stop laughing at the way he made the ‘shopping’ sound like a ping-pong ball.Then there are the Germans,Dutch and Austrians who use an altogether different kind of nasal undertone when they speak English,so there is a lot of ‘s’,’f’ and ‘c’ to be heard-“yuss,yoou haf too tahke tshe richt turn for dsat”(the local meant-‘yes,you have to take the right turn for that’)……then ofcourse,back home no one can beat the ‘Bangali Babu‘ when it comes to speaking with a distinct accent-“yaas Ghoshbabu,wee are landeeng in the Parees…can you see the Eiffal Towar? Ghosh-naa baba,aami toh dekhte parchi naa….can yoou see? whear whear?”(‘‘yes Mr Ghosh,we are landing in Paris,can you see the Eiffel Tower? Ghosh-no,I cant..can you? where??”)-I do not intend to hurt any Bengali sentiments,Iam very much a Bengali at heart,my sole intention was to add a bit of a fun element.So much for having an, ermmm ‘accent’! I sit back wonderstruck at the amount I have to comprehend!
For the wandering and observant souls,there are so many things in this world which only need to be explored.We are a lucky bunch of people to be the habitants of an amazing planet such as this (oh,but I heard there is a newly discovered similar one…..no problem,we will send half of our population there in the future-this will lessen the burden on Mother Earth and the two planets can live together in peace and harmony like India and Pakistan*every pun intended*).I bet the Martians are jealous of us.The experience of discovering and unfolding is surreal and it is only by virtue of the variety we have around us.Thank God for human diversity!
So……..lets go travelling!