Ashamed To Be An Indian In A Foreign Land

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As I looked down staring at the ground, I felt like the kid who had been expelled out of the classroom, colors of shame and embarrassment painted my face.

It was the first day of my long awaited ten day vacation in Switzerland. As I got up earlier than what I had set my alarm for , I took a good view of the city from the 8th floor window of my hotel room. In a few minutes I was all set and ready to explore the scenic beauty of the beautiful city Zurich , I thought to myself.

Not able to wait another moment more , I almost ran out of my room . But the rumbling sounds emanating from my starved tummy stopped me in my steps.

I realized I was famished and more than that had a strong urge to have a cup of steaming hot tea ,something I am badly addicted to .I rushed to the restaurant with my husband and quickly seated myself at the nearest table after confirming my name and room No. to the reception lady.

I screened the whole table. It was full of warm welcoming food and delicious cakes and muffins. There were varieties of cereals and fruits neatly cut and decorated on cute plates and ofcourse there was lots of milk and cheese, something Switzerland is famous for.

But up till now I couldn’t find what my eyes were searching for feverishly, Tea!

I looked a second time again, this time more closely inspecting every single item on the table for a hidden jug of hot water, milk kettles or a teabag box and finally found two small kettles lying at the end of the big table. 

I rushed to the spot , picked up a cup ,poured the hot water , added some milk to it and 2 pouches of sugar , then I looked around and surprisingly found no tea bags.

Surely that they had to be here somewhere…. I looked around again but still no tea bags. 

Seeing the quizzical look on my face, a helper who was standing some distance away approached me “Hi, Can I help you with something”, she asked cheerfully though in a strange accent. 

“Well, I don’t seem to be able to find tea bags”, I replied hastily without even looking up at her, still searching for them on the table.

“Please wait”, she said in a hushed voice and moved away.

She came back in a jiffy with a closed wooden box, the kind my mother used to store her favorite pieces of jewelry. I wondered what she had in that box, not jewelry for sure!

She opened the lid of the box slowly as if she was about to show me a precious gem or pearl and yes there they were, a wide variety of tea bags right in front of me. I was puzzled why they were not on the table, why they were kept in a separate mysterious box but I was so much in need of a good tea that I decided to park my questions for later. 

Before I could pick a tea bag she asked again, “which one would you like to have” , I found the question again a bit strange because I could have picked up one myself, still giving her the benefit of doubt and imagining that she was being extra courteous I pointed at the Earl grey black tea bag. 

She happily handed me one and turned around closing the box. I was so startled by her actions, I wasn’t sure if she was being rude or was just in a hurry. One thing was for sure, she was certainly acting way too possessive for a simple teabag box.

I suddenly realized I needed another one for my husband.” Excuse me, can I have another one”, I shouted from back.

She turned around shocked as if I had asked for her second kidney, “I am sorry you can just have one, the smile completely gone from her face now.

“But I need another for my husband” , I protested. 

“Can you please ask him to come and get it, I would be happy to serve him”.

Oh Great! I now need to give a proof that I am asking the second tea bag for my husband (who is not a robot)…. what the heck, I was way more than infuriated.

This is a buffet, I can damn well have ten teas at breakfast if I want to and I have already paid a heavy amount for this in advance, I shouted at her in my head. 

“Well I need more and I think it’s very rude of you to refuse”, I replied as coolly as I could gather the patience to, not wanting to create a scene and spoil my mood.

I saw her expressions change instantly; she suddenly became gentler and handed me over two extra bags. “I am sorry, I don’t want to be rude, but I am just following instructions from my manager. “

“Instructions, you mean you have been instructed to hide away teabags”, I asked now visibly aghast at her explanation.

“Well, you see, it is nothing against you, but some days back, we had a group of Indian people staying in our hotel. We had the tea bags out in the open then, but one lady from that group used to take 15-20 tea bags at a time every day. She finished all our boxes”, she replied in broken English, still looking a little shocked remembering the experience.

My face fell to the ground at her last sentence, feelings of shame and humiliation painted my face as I looked down staring at the ground looking like the kid who had been asked to stand out of the classroom, trying to think of ways to escape the embarrassment. 

I knew she wasn’t lying or making excuses. I could already imagine the whole scenario in my head. A cup of tea costs a lot in Switzerland (if you compare and convert it in Indian currency). The lady in question clearly found it a waste to spend so much on cups of hot water.

So she must have decided to make it for herself and all her family members in the hotel room taking the hot water from the bathroom tap which is drinkable. 

I felt as if I was the one who had been caught stealing those tea bags. Why oh why, did that Indian Aunty had to steal those teabags, why couldn’t she just bring some from India or just shop for some from the nearest convenience store. Clearly that wouldn’t have been so heavy on her wallet!

If you are reading this “not-so-dear” Indian auntyji, I know you love your tea and so do I but please, please, please stop stealing teabags, milk bags, sugar bags or any other confectionery item bags from buffets (and this goes for the hotel toiletries too). We are treated badly outside for your wrong doings.

The money you save from your loot would be far more less than the pride and invaluable trust you lose on behalf of all the Indians you are representing. Please remember, there are others who have to pay heavy debts of embarrassment and shame for your free teas!

If you have  any such similar stories, please feel free to share them with us in the comment box below. And meanwhile keep your hands off those tea bags!

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