By Keira Louis
The middle-aged English man smiled at us warmly from behind the customer service desk and asked us if he could help us. “How do we get into central London from here?” we asked. He took out a free colour “London Guide” brochure, flicked to the back page on which was a map of the London underground system, and circled the stops we needed. After explaining which tube lines to take and where to change, and engaging in brief conversation about our travels, he handed the guide to us and wished us a pleasant stay in London.
Leaving the desk, Adam and I looked at each other and almost laughed out loud. It had been a difficult week in India, not only with the hospital incident, but the Indian culture was hard to come to terms with. It seemed that each and every Indian was out to look after themselves, with no time in the world to help out a tourist or even a fellow Indian, unless there was a monetary incentive involved. Consequently, help was something we hadn’t received in a while. Nor had we been greeted with a genuinely friendly, smiling face since Nepal. Suddenly, London felt like a whole new world. And we were extremely grateful to enter.
The help and friendliness didn’t stop there. After collecting our luggage we changed the last of our Indian Rupees into Pound Stirling and the gentleman behind the counter was polite and courteous. The woman who sold us our tube tickets obviously enjoyed helping tourists navigate the public transport systems around the big city and a huge smile lit up her face throughout our interaction. Adam and I were beside ourselves with relief to be back in Western civilisation.
Don’t get me wrong – the first 2 and a half months of travel prior to arriving in London were fantastic and we thoroughly enjoyed the varied cultural experiences. It was the week in India, unfortunately, which had us craving the familiar Western world that we had been away from for so long. Perhaps this week was tarnished by our initial food poisoning, our queasy stomachs thereafter and subsequent lack of appetite, and the 36 degree heat that sapped every last bit of energy out of us, but we just couldn’t get out of there fast enough! (The 6-year-old princess in the seat behind us on our flight from Delhi to London added to this frustration – I have never heard a child scream as loud or for as long as this one did. It was a painful, painful flight!)
We stayed at my cousin Jenyce’s house in Wimbledon Park for two weeks while we rested and planned our next moves through Mediteranean Europe