There’s an overused and clichéd Bollywood dialogue, where a love-smitten Shahrukh Khan says “Kehte hai, agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho, to poori qaaynaat usse tumhe milane ke koshish mein lag jaati hai”, which essentially is a ripoff of Paulo Coelho’s “When you want something, the whole universe conspires to make it happen.” The qaaynaat in my case was clearly on my side, and I was stamped out of the country by Immigration at Mumbai airport.
Thirty thousand feet above the Bay of Bengal, I stared outside at the dark nothing, listening to Daft Punk’s Veridis Quo, as it hit me full force that I was going to be away from my country for a full month. It had been a dream come true- working in another country by myself was something I had dreamt of, ever since I was a daydreaming teenager stuck in a physics class. My parents weren’t fond of the idea- ‘you’ll get bored alone’ was their point. Fair enough, I get it, but I wanted to experience it first hand to be able to have a bias. As far as this first week here in Nong Khai on the Thai-Lao border goes, I have a strong bias for it.
I sat by myself at gate A5 of Bangkok’s swanky Suvarnabhumi airport. I had spent the whole of the previous day having fun with my friends in Mumbai, I barely slept through the flight, and spent a good amount of the day hyperventilating over my laptop charger which decided to not work briefly. Oh, and add walking at least a couple of kilometers through the airport to get down from my international flight to the gate for my domestic flight. All that build up culminated at one moment where my eyelids just decided to shut. I had to keep myself awake lest I miss my flight. The majority of the co-passengers were Thai women and older farangs-as they call foreigners here in Thailand. I have half expected another Indian to show up when a Punjabi family rolled in. I bet they expected the same, and the head of the family gave me a brief smile, which I promptly returned. Indians!
A full week has rolled by. A full week of surprises- finding out that Thais are huge fans of Mahakali, and one had me narrate the story of Shiva and Parvati, to finding Thai variant of chikki, to witnessing my Russian roommate joke around, crushing all my pre-conceived notions of Russians. I think as Indians, we are stereotyped of being used to spicy food. I do not enjoy spicy food as much, but as an Indian amongst a few westerners, I have to put up a strong face when it comes to having the Som Tum or the papaya salad, which reminds me of my adventures with chili chicken wings every time I have it. From the point I landed up in this town, I haven’t felt lonely one bit- strongly killing my parents’ idea about solo travel. I am working with Thais, Lao, Burmese, and host of other European nationalities, and at the end of the day, I’m glad that I turned down a couple of pretty well-paying jobs.
I have had to explain my pun in my title to a lot of people. One strand of the pun is “Haan, solo!”, giving a firm answer to interrogative neighborhood aunties. The second strand is quite obvious. Chewie, we’re…in a foreign land.
I miss butter chicken, though.