I thought several times before posting this. But in the end, I could not resist.
In an undated incident, a family – presumably from India – was caught red-handed in Bali. They were attempting to steal several items including a hair dryer, toiletries and what looks like a decorative pot.
Some people – either onlookers or hotel staff – recorded the incident on video. As expected, the video has become a sensation on social media. You can view the video here
This family was caught stealing hotel accessories. Such an embarrassment for India.
Each of us carrying an #IndianPassport must remember that we are ambassadors of the nation and behave accordingly.
India must start cancelling passports of people who erode our credibility. pic.twitter.com/unY7DqWoSr
— Hemanth (@hemanthpmc) July 27, 2019
Most of the conversation is in English. Although some other languages can also be heard. One of those is Hindi and hence the presumption that the family was Indian. It is another matter that a humongous number of Indian-origin people are citizens or residents of other countries.
If you were not able to understand, here is my ‘neutral’ take on the incident.
A family was staying in a hotel in Bali. Either during their stay or on checkout, they got into an argument with hotel staff and yelled at them. Some members of the family stole items from their room. This was discovered and they were asked to open their bags for inspection. Like skeletons tumbling out of a closet, stolen items started coming out one after the other. The family, initially offered to pay and then pleaded the hotel staff to let them go because they were getting late for their flight.
The staff, however, seemed in no mood to relent. It is unclear from the video what happened next. There was a uniformed person in the video but he might be part of hotel security rather than a policeman. I googled Bali police and it seems their uniform is different.
Addressing the Race Angle
There are several stereotypes associated with travelers from various countries. Indians are too demanding, Chinese have too many selfie sticks, French are rude, Americans are ignorant. The list is rather long.
It is not to stay that stereotypes are completely baseless. Neither is this a ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of situation.
Stereotypes often play in the mind of hosts as well. By host I mean anyone that interacts with a tourist – hotel staff, immigration officers, tourist guides etc. In fact, I have only faced one such incident ever. It was during my first trip to Manhattan and I was in a cab. I was not aware of the tipping culture in US. When I paid the driver the exact fare as per the meter, he burst out and alleged ‘You Indians are so cheap!’
I was young and kind of taken aback. What did I do next? I certainly did not incriminate all the taxi drivers of New York. In a similar vein, why should the behavior of one family be a reflection of all tourists from India?
Many people commenting on this incident on social media claim that it is not an isolated incident. A businessman and a multi-millionaire from India, Harsh Goenka received this notice from a hotel in GStaad.
Reading this notice I felt angry, humiliated and wanted to protest.
But a realisation dawned that we as tourists are loud, rude, not culturally sensitive. With India becoming an international power, our tourists are our best global ambassadors. Let’s work on changing our image! pic.twitter.com/7R4ZrZIXKi
— Harsh Goenka (@hvgoenka) July 22, 2019
This is where I diverge from the general sentiment on social media. This note, singling out Indians specifically, is racist. Sure, the hotel wants to ‘educate’ its guests about its policies. However, it cannot be aimed to a specific section of people without racist connotation. And as expected, the hotel has tendered an apology.
The Harsh Goenka is effect ! However we Indians cannot ignore the fact that we do are loud and indisciplined when we travel. @hvgoenka . This article is in today’s @MumbaiMirror pic.twitter.com/NjNstj0zoi
— Dinesh Joshi. (@dineshjoshi70) July 25, 2019
In no way am I defending what happened in Bali. It does not matter if your stay has not been worth the money you paid for. Or even if the service was not good. There is no justification in stealing hotel property.
However, does that mean every tourist from India (or looking Indian) is a potential thief and needs to be taught ‘travel etiquette’? I cannot agree.
What is your take on this incident? Comments are welcome.