It’s been a week or two now since we have been in India and I am writing to you to let you know India has broken me, I am Indian.
Now folks from all over the country as well as snubbing me in photographs to grab a snap with Steph are convinced I am Indian and not just Indian, the Keralans have claimed me, so have the Mumbaikers and even the Delhites….it must be my convincing head wobble!
But this change of nationality comes with benefits. Now we all know that when we visit emerging countries that there is always a local price and a foreigner or tourist price and if you’re good you get to haggle and barter down the foreigner price to what’s good for them is good for you! But when it comes to the Government and its various ministries they are not to be bartered with, one in particular is the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) they run and manage all the famous buildings and temples around India including admission prices!
Now let’s not forget we are on a budget and we have to wheel and deal our way around the world, so when we discovered the prices for entry to the Taj Mahal I sensed a change of loyalty in me, I was becoming Indian! Entry to the Taj Mahal for a foreigner is $15, for an Indian its 40 cents.
The game was on, could I get away with being Indian, as far as banter and conversation with locals around the country, yes I was Indian, now money was involved would I get away with it?!
We arrived at the ticket office where I promptly separated from my future wife and went into the building, I had my game plan to hand and game face on i.e. head wobble and hand gestures ready! I went to the counter said nothing and thrust my 100 rupee note at the man, he looked at me, then the note and spoke in Hindi to me….I was stuck, for a split second I thought the game was lost, then he made a move towards a pile of notes as if looking for something, I guessed he had no change, I smiled and nodded in recognition and escaped!
I found a confectionary shop and got change! I checked myself, game face back on and walked back for round two! This time all three of the attendants were watching me, I thrust the 20 rupee note forward, game on. One of the attendants on the left eyed me up with suspicion he spoke to me in English “Where are you from?”, “me?” I replied, “Mumbai”, there it was I had become Indian. He still seemed suspicious, “So who is the Chief Minister of Mumbai?” he asked, I was cornered, “I don’t know I just work in finance I don’t care for politics”, he seemed to accept the response and sunk back into his chair, but then his friend perked up “Do you have any ID?”, “No why would I, I’m Indian!!?!”, I felt the ‘where are you really from?’ look from the man, I continued “I was born in India, raised in England and live in Mumbai now”, “What nationality are you?” he replied, “I am Indian”. It was enough he took the money and gave me my local ticket, the game was won and I had a new nationality!
This episode was not the last and I made us savings galore on all the places we visited, but this was by far the toughest test of my new Indian identity! The rest was easy; I just piled into the mob in the queues and thrust the correct money each time to get my local ticket! Happy Days!