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March 22nd, 2005

In Foreign Land

A Diary of My Travels to Amsterdam


Travel is fun. It’s intelligent. And what’s most fun is encountering ‘foreigners’. I encounter them in my city, on my field sites. Foreigners are not white or black skinned people. They are strangers who exist in my imagination until I start conversations with the persons. It’s not that I am extremely good at this. There are times when I am sloppy, patronizing, prejudiced and biased.


This time, I encountered foreigners in a foreign land, in the city of Amsterdam. When I landed there on March 13 2005, Paul Keller tells me, “It’s a small city. But it’s so famed. Size does not correspond with the worldwide fame.” He is confused about the size and the fame equation. I don’t know how Paul imagines the city he works in. I wonder whether I will be able to step inside his mind. I also wonder whether I will be able to imagine Amsterdam in a way different from how I imagine Bombay? Does size matter?



13 th March 2005


Now I am at the Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj (CST) International Airport. There is a raging controversy about installing the statue of Shivaji in place of Queen Victoria’s on the CST aka Victoria Terminus (VT) Railway Station. Public is saying “improve the train services instead of changing statues”. I wonder what Shivaji thinks from beyond the seven skies, in heaven. I want to be an urban black magician!


Now I am at CST International Airport. Thoughts in my mind:


  • Why do I need a passport?
  • Why cannot I travel the world without having to go through the procedure of visas, customs, immigration and all?
  • Yeh nationalism kya hai? Yeh nationalism?


I am looking precariously inside my handbag. I am checking if my passport is still with me. Thoughts in my mind:


  • I am such a hypocrite.
  • I am talking about nationalism.
  • But I am tightly clinging to my passport.
  • I am trying to ensure (read reassure) that I will come back from Amsterdam.
  • I am trying to ensure (this time ensure) that I will not face a fate like Tom Hanks’ aka “Terminal” – my eternal paranoia.
  • I am such a hypocrite!




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