Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Years

New Years wasn't quite a gala event.

With a semi-dodgy stomach, I couldn't justify blowing 8 dollars on a 15 course meal at the awesome 5-star hotel I had lunch at yesterday. I really wanted to, but I knew that I just wouldn't be able to appreciate the food.

Thus, instead, I headed to their rooftop balcony, ordered a hookah, and whiled away the evening people watching...

The thing is, I feel really uncomfortable around rich Indians...

I've sort of gotten used to the fact that I'm usually the richest person on any bus I take. If I see a monk, a sadhu (hindu holy man), a priest, or just a really really old guy, I'll usually buy their bus ticket before they can get a chance to. Sure, it's rather patronising, but it makes me feel good, and no one has ever objected to it...

At the hotel last night, I saw Indian families walk in to dinner all kitted out in western clothes. When I wagged my head at them to say hi, they looked very strangely at me, and then the father of the family would proceed to whip out a fat fold of rupee notes, and pull off one 500-rupee note (10 dollars) after another.

The rich kids are spoilt and poorly behaved, and they don't smile like the poor people.

Contrast it to a normal day walking down the street - especially in a town like this one, where not many tourists venture... Heads turn as I walk down the street, and as soon as people establish eye contact, I wag my head, smile, and am immediately greeted with a beaming smile and a fastly wagging head.

People in the street last night were wishing me happy new year - and earlier in the day, a first for me, 2 ladies, university students I think, even flirted with me when I was at the same restaurant as them. They both smiled at me, said hello, waved to me during my meal, and kept sneaking looks at me for the entire time I was there.

Rich people are so much more boring....

The other strange thing about the hotel, was that the sea of waitstaff (there had to be at least 15 waiters, and another 10 cooks) all refused to waggle their head, smile or say namaste back to me when I said hi to them. Instead, they did something very similar to the "wai" you see people do in Thailand (both hands raised together, in a prayer sign, with the fignertips at a nose-ish level). The only time I've seen this up until now was with very very small children in a rural area.

Clearly, the point of this is to show respect... but after months of receiving smiles, it's very strange (and rather unpleasant) to have someone show respect in this way.. It feels so unnatural, as they are in effect, demonstrating how far below me they are in the social ladder.

In the end, I celebrated the coming of new years in a much cheaper restaurant down the road, where the waiters smiled at me, came back to the hotel, and fell asleep.

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