Recounting experiences of first visit abroad

  • Wg Cdr DPS Bajwa (retd), Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 18, 2014 13:08 IST

These days, going abroad has become common. I am relating the experiences of my first visit abroad when going abroad on a holiday was a rarity. My wife and I went to the US to visit my sister in Washington DC. We embarked upon our tour via the UK.

While in the UK, we were travelling in a local bus in London. We were to go to French Embassy for getting a visa to Paris. In my anxiety that we do not miss our destination, I stood up to request the woman conductor to let us know the stop for the French Embassy. She rudely told me to sit down. This made me realise that Britons still treated us like slaves.

When we were on way to Paris we crossed English Channel by a hovercraft. In Paris, we were to board an underground Metro rail to our hotel destination but did not know how to buy a ticket from the vending machine. As we spoke English, no one helped us. Finally, an elderly man helped us and boarded the train with us. Later, he told us that he had served in Kolkata long back.

After a few days, we headed for the US. Our flight to New York got delayed and on arrival we discovered that we had missed our connecting flight to Washington. We were totally lost as to where to go. Then we learnt from the airline staff that we would be accommodated in a hotel for which there was a bus scheduled to leave shortly from a nearby stop. We spotted a hefty and tall porter offering us to take our luggage to the bus station. He removed our four heavy suitcases from his trolley and expected the tip. As we offered him US $ 3 (1 US $ was equal to Rs 10 then), he was furious. He quickly picked up our suitcases, loaded them on to the trolley, moved away and threw them exactly at the spot where we had started from.

While in a queue at Niagara Falls, a white woman standing behind me asked me, "Are you a maharaja?" I was amused and told her that I was a Sikh whose turban resembled that of a maharaja.

Having experienced the best of environment, roads and highways like runways, greenery all over, cleanliness, courtesy and driving etiquettes there made us feel that this is heaven on earth. When we returned, we felt the contrast and thought we were 100 years behind those developed countries.

After three decades, even now when I visit Canada and return, I find we are where we were.

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