A Guest Post by Final Transit
Did you ever visit a place that felt remarkably similar to some other place you had seen before?
It happened to me while I was traveling in Mexico last month. The more I traveled, the more familiar the place felt. Familiar to India, that is. Now what could possibly be similar between Mexico and India – countries that are separated by oceans, and with different histories, races and cultures?
Follow along as I share some clues based on what I encountered in Mexico, and then tell me what you think:
Clue 1: We are “brown”
The majority of Mexicans and Indians are born with a tan. SPF 15 will do nothing. My Mexican couchsurfing host said that he was never bothered by touts in India. And I was mistaken as a local all the time too. What to do?
Clue 2: We talk. A lot
When I asked for directions in Russia and if they didn't know, I was simply told a “Nyet” and the person walked away. Not in Mexico! Time and again, whenever I asked simple things like “Does the combi stop here?” the reply went on forever. People talked even if they didn't know the answer. Before I knew, I was talking about my age, telling them why Indians wear a mark on their forehead and getting invited to visit their homes. Ah, about that –
Clue 3: We invite people… and our families are huge
How do you define a family? Well, I once got invited (by someone I met at the bus stop) to a ‘family' celebration. I was pleasantly surprised to see aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, grandmothers, neighbors, old friends and even visiting couchsurfers included in “family.” Come, share, eat, enjoy, its for everyone! I was so touched by their hospitality!
Clue 1: Collectivist
I got into a very crowded chicken bus the other day and the driver was still forcing more people in. Just like India, buses in Yucatan seem to have infinite capacity. A woman boarded with a big bag and a baby. The baby was handed over to the grandma sitting next to me while the bag was thrust on my lap. Where else might this happen?
Clue 2: Time
I was going to a party once and I arrived promptly at 17:30 as per the invitation. The host asked me, “What are you doing here so early?” Other people came late… quite late. “It's about hanging out and having a conversation,” my friend said wisely, “not about efficiency.”
Clue 3: Colours and festivals
Vibrant dresses, colourful food, dazzling festive decorations and crowded celebrations. I think that the best time to indulge oneself socially is during festivals. More the merrier, come join the celebration! I ended up participating in a fiesta that ended with tons of street food.
Clue 1: Architectural wonders
If you have visited the Chichen Itzas of Mexico, or Taj Mahals of India, you know what I am talking about. The monuments and temples are huge, often overwhelming, and full of intricate details. And oh, several of these were constructed roughly one or two thousand years ago.
Clue 2: European colonies
India was to the British what Mexico was to the Spanish. I won't say anything more!
Clue 1: Noisy and crowded
I know someone who visited India and wore earplugs all their time in Delhi. Yes our cities are a sea of humanity: noisy, crowded and littered. Despite how chaotic it looks, there is an order and it is incomprehensible how the cities function at five times their design capacity (what's that?) While I was disappointed that Mexican drivers don't honk as passionately, their chaotic driving (skills) did make up for the inadequate honking. 😀
Clue 2: Stray animals
I must say that Mexico has a lot of catching up to do is much better in this regard. I could only spot stray dogs and cats. Where did the cows go? Ah, in the burritos perhaps… That brings us to the final topic –
Clue 1: Rotis, Tortillas, Parathas and Gorditas
These are essentially the same, except that wheat is not as popular in Mexico and corn is reserved for roasting in India. The parathas get stuffed with vegetarian fare while the gorditas often get stuffed with meat. The best thing about the food? You can eat on the street, with your hands, fresh off the cooking pan (and probably on the same plates that was used by five previous people.)
Clue 2: Hot and spicy
Being a self-proclaimed connoisseur of chillies, I must point out that Mexican chillies are not the same as Indian ones. Regardless, fact remains that food is incomplete without an adequate dressing of chili pepper sauce of some kind. The madness goes to the next level – we eat our fruit with ‘chili de fruta' (chili mix/masala to season the fruit). Imagine my shock when I was served a pear as dessert in Toronto!
Now tell me, after reading this, do you agree with what I had said at the beginning? Did you have a similar experience elsewhere?
PS: This article is written in a lighter vein. While I have lived in India for 25 years, I have barely spent a month in Mexico.
Priyank loves traveling and getting a glimpse of different lifestyles. Having lived in India for 25 years, followed by Canada for the past 4, nothing excites him more than seeing how remarkably similar we all are, despite our cultural differences.
Priyank's Travel blog: Final Transit | Twitter: @finaltransit | “Like” his Facebook page.