Did that ever happen to you: On your way home from office the taxi driver praises you for knowing the way?
Of course not. That’s the most normal thing in the world. You take that route twice daily. Ten times a week. Fourty times a month. Four hundred eighty times a year. Well, minus a couple of days of holidays but you get my point, don’t you?
It would be the most normal thing in the world that you know your way home if…
If only you weren’t a foreigner.
As a foreigner you are expected to tell the taxi driver to take you to the Gateway of India, the famous Taj Hotel in Colaba or to the Prince of Wales Museum. But not to a residential area in the suburbs of Mumbai.
Well, I did ask him to go to the suburbs and showed him some of the roads that would prevent us to get stuck in traffic.
Upon arriving my apartment complex, I had to listen to praises for my great Hindi and for knowing all those tiny roads that lead us here. (‘Had to’ because it would be so much better to just be recognized as one of them instead of a foreigner who knows the language).
So far, so good.
A couple of days later, I am booking my taxi and recognize the name of the driver. Of course, he, too, remembers me and proudly tells me that he was talking about me the other day. Huh? Really? Not sure whether I want to know about it, I ask him.
He had another customer who wanted to go to the same residential complex and when he took all the short cuts to reach fast and without traffic, the customer was very impressed and asked him how he knew all these short cuts.
He proudly said: ‘I myself didn’t know about it. I learnt it from another customer. And can you believe it… She is not even a local. She is a foreigner!’
Argh. There it was again. The dirty F word. Foreigner.
P.S. I must admit… I still feel a bit proud that I could impress a taxi driver with the short cuts I know. 🙂 And that’s because I am not any random foreigner. I am a local foreigner.