Size Matters

(A Youtube video of Pokhara, Nepal)

Trips to Nepal (some time ago) & Hong Kong (recently) have convinced me that I am a ‘size matters’ kind of person. And, please cut the snigger – I am talking about dress sizes and currency values here.

For as long as I can remember, I have travelled to countries where One Indian Rupee converts into less – a lot less – than one local dollar/drachma/whatever. Essentially, the Indian Rupee was always ‘weak’. So how low or foolish or insecure I felt in a country was directly correlated to the weakness of the Indian Rupee at that time, against that currency.

And then I got to Nepal. For the first time in my life, I was faced with the shocking reality that One Indian Rupee could actually fetch you more than One of the host currency. I puffed my chest, walked with long strides, complained freely about the strange food and funny people and generally became a pest. At which point I realised why western travellers appear in a certain way to Indians. If I were an American or Brit and got 40 Rupees or 80 Rupees for every Dollar or Pound I converted, I know how I would behave. Given that, the Americans and the Brits are a reasonably well behaved lot in India. So, unfortunately for some of us, the size of the wad of notes you get everytime you convert currency is one of the strongest ‘mood creators’ in international travel. A fairly compelling case, I would think, for quickly establishing a worldwide single currency system. Mr Ban, I hope you are listening.

Hong Kong brought me another perspective on size. I walked into Marks & Spencer and asked for a shirt. The shop girl looked me up & down (actually she was at least 85 years of age, so there was no real danger) and said ‘XXL I think’. Wow. In India I am a firm ‘M’. So, it was great to swagger into an XXL. And I had discovered the next ‘mood creator’ of international travel, which fortunately for some of us, occasionally works to our advantage. Once again, this helps the westerners, but also helps Africans & Pacific Islanders. So that is ok.

If you are from a country occupied by a small-built race with a weak currency, a sense of humour might be an imperative for international travel. On the other hand, if you are big-built and have a strong currency, please go easy on the whining. If you are somewhere in between, grow-up. You need to find other pegs for your self esteem. How about playing kho-kho well?