They say that the first impressions are often the strongest. Especially unpleasant ones, no matter how tiny compared to the rest of the good or pleasant impressions. That one tiny bad experience can colour one's judgement, perception (negatively).
On our arrival at the Indira Gandhi International airport, Murphy’s Law struck. We got stuck at the slowest counter at Immigrations. Then our luggage took its time to arrive. Others whizzed past.
We waited feeling dazed, disoriented having traveled across three time zones within 24 hours, jostled and shoved by others who got their luggage and rushed out. I left the trolley for a closer look at the belt, when there was a resounding crash behind me. Both A and I froze. My precious Indonesian fan had been knocked down. Having cradled the large cumbersome thing like a baby from Jakarta, only to have it crash so close to home, was too traumatic for me. I ran, picked it up and then before I knew it, I scowled (too mild a word), snarled was more like it, at the hapless (and I suppose bewildered Chinese co passenger, one of the large China Express group), who cowered. To our relief, it hadn't broken and was intact.
We collected our luggage and passed the Chinese contingent, who by now, were even more confused. Their leader was holding a piece of paper, no doubt with the instructions, which at the moment was making little sense. I can imagine what a contrast IGI must have seemed to them from the efficient order of Changi airport.
Outside, it was hot and dry and ugly and chaotic, traffic was bad, roads were dug up. And to make matters worse, remorse struck.
And just five hours back, we were in Singapore, where everyone, without exception, had been so nice, friendly, cordial. (A told me that was because S’pore is dependent on tourism). Perhaps it was. But they felt so genuinely nice and warm.
Lately, there have been these Atithi Devo Bhavah ads running on television as part of the Incredible India Campaign, Based on the ancient Indian thought “Atithi Devo Bhavah” Our guest is blessed. Our visitor is God”,
It’s simple logic, if someone in a house is rude to you, as a guest, you don’t encourage your friends and relations to go there”.
First impressions are often the strongest. And to the Chinese lady, I (Indian Jane Doe) was mean and bad to her. It was my fault after all, to have left the 4 feet long fan precariously balanced on the trolley. She would after all never know that I have cherished the thought of having my own Indonesian fan (since I first saw one at the age of 12) and finally getting one, what it meant to me. She would not know that we are, in general, a warm and hospitable race. She would never know that I am actually quite nice and non aggressive and helpful. Worse. What if, I was responsible for making her think badly of Indians forever.
A part of me says that as usual, I am blowing things out of proportion. She must now be busy in sightseeing. And yet, like a small itch that refuses to go away. I keep remembering that odd officer at the immigration desk at Changi airport who very curtly (and completely opposite to the warm and friendly Singaporeans) asked me to step back from the monitor and not see what he was typing in. (Also, the fact that he had a layer of foundation, eye brows thickly penciled in and had lipstick on which had smudged and spread over his lips. Yes he did!)
It’s never too late. Atithi Devo Bhavah