I am always asked by the locals, wherever I go, if I am alone. As I sit here in this fancy restaurant catered to foreigners with money to splurge on dinner, I am really coming face to face of what it truly means to be alone, something that usually does not bother me or cross my mind for that matter until I am asked by others, “Alone?”
All around me are tourists dining in groups or as couples and it is very clear to me, and perhaps everyone else here, that I am indeed alone. I ask myself if I feel sad about this obvious realization or if I am comfortable with it, and I don’t think I really know.
It’s like this: I have all these feelings and thoughts stirring inside of me and there is no one to share with over a nice dinner. And the other thing is this: I am certainly a tourist like the rest of the customers here yet I feel kind of guilty for eating at such a fancy restaurant. This is the first westernized and proper restaurant I’ve eaten at in all of India, well not that I’ve traveled extensively in India yet, and it just feels strange to me. I feel as if I have been rudely jerked out of India and back into my old life, and it is somewhat jarring to experience and I am not sure how I feel.
(“All by Myself” by Celine Dion played shortly after writing this part. Too funny)
The thing that bothers me about dining here is that there is such a distinction between eating here and at a typical Indian restaurant. The aesthetics of the restaurant is immaculately clean and well decorated and the service is top notch. The staff is Indian. It just doesn’t seem fair to me that the foreigners’ restaurant is so clean and the Indians’ restaurant is not. Why must this distinction exist? I wonder if this distinction crosses anyone else’s mind or is it just me? And why is that it is acceptable for foreigners to have a different set of standards when they are visiting someone else’s country, but the locals are not expected to have the same set of standards? Why are the standards of the locals far less than the ones visiting their country?
It kind of makes me sad when I reflect on this. I am also guilty of being one of these foreigners whose standards are higher than the locals when I visit their countries, but this unique journey I’ve been on for the last several months has opened my eyes and my heart to a more introspective take on my own self. Traveling to St. Kitts, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Bangkok and now India have forced me to examine my habits, my lifestyle, my consumerism ways, and my actions in so many ways. I want to be a conscientious and conscious guest in the people’s countries rather than a flighty, self indulgent tourist blazing through all the main tourist traps on a mission to complete my jam packed itinerary.
So here in this fancy restaurant tonight, I do feel alone and I feel strange because this is not my vibe. I long to congregate with my fellow Indians and eat the same food they eat. I did not enjoy my expensive dinner tonight because it was bland and I was actually missing Rashi’s cooking. On top of this, I might have blown through the rest of my weekly food budget on this meal and that is so disappointing! I contemplated whether or not to eat with my right hand when they brought out my food and silverware. So interesting how everything is relative, depending on where you are and the situation you’re in. For instance, here I am in India where the locals eat with their hands yet in this restaurant, I was questioning whether or not that would be a “proper” thing to do simply because the company is western. I opted to eat with my hand because I wanted to remain loyal to my Indian roots! Hahaahah.
Being asked over and over if I am “alone” has also opened my eyes to travelers around me as well as delving into the minds of all people in general more deeply. Why is it so abnormal for us to do things alone???