[BITList] From another List...

John Feltham wantok at me.com
Sun Mar 14 04:14:26 GMT 2010

Dear friends, Perhaps we should move back to the country of our origin. 

To be Indian is now first prize in life’s lottery

Sebastian Shakespeare

What do they know of England who only England know? I have just returned from a two-week holiday traversing Tamil Nadu. 

Unfortunately, in order to secure a tourist visa, I had to give the Indian authorities a solemn undertaking that I wouldn't write about my experiences. So I can't share with you the delights of Tamil Nadu, its fabulous temples, its sensational food or the unfailing courtesy and hospitality of its people.

What I can reveal is that I've encountered more beggars on the streets of London in the past week than I did in my entire sojourn in Tamil Nadu. India is the future — 25 per cent of people in the world under the age of 25 are Indian — and Tamil Nadu is one of its most prosperous states. 

I also think I can share with you details of my return flight from Chennai to Heathrow on British Airways without incurring the wrath of Shiva. I haven't flown with BA for 20-odd years and it was an eye-opener. Full marks to BA for punctuality and inflight entertainment (excellent choice of films from Julie & Julia to The Reader). 

But the BA cabin steward was unfathomably rude to the mainly Indian passengers and made me squirm with embarrassment. Why did he refuse to help any of us load our hand luggage into the overhead lockers? Or even deign to show us where we might find a free locker to stow away our bags? When an Indian passenger gently remonstrated with him, the steward replied tartly: “It's my duty to stay at the back of the plane.” Was he already on strike? OK, we all have bad hair days, but it left a sour note in the air. And what an appalling impression to give a first-time visitor to England (I was sitting next to one).
The next day I witnessed bank rage at my local branch of Lloyds in Kensington High Street. For some reason there are never enough cashiers to man the tills so a huge queue of impatient customers always quickly builds up. The man in front of me had had enough and hurled abuse at the staff. It was a disgrace, he shouted, that Lloyds had to be bailed out by taxpayers with billions of pounds and yet the bank couldn't even find enough staff to man its tills:     

“Get me the manager!” “I am the duty manager.” “Get behind the till!” “I can't get behind the till because I'm not a cashier.” 
So what do I know of England after my trip to India? That we are a nation of jobsworths and British Airways and Lloyds Bank still have a long way to go in improving customer relations. It used to be said that to be born British was to win the first prize in the lottery of life. In my next life I would like to be born an Indian.

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