What people think about you when they first meet or see you… does that every bother you? Do you care that someone might be judging the way you eat or the way you scratch your nose as they first plant their eyes on you? Does it bother you that almost 97 per cent of this world’s population makes an instant decision on whether they would be your friend or run for their life the minute they see you (Warning: This statistical data is purely out of my head, bad journalism – I know, but you know what I mean, right?).
Just as we are judgemental about people, we are judgemental about countries, about cities.
The whole “first impression is the last impression” cliche – yep, it exists.
An acquaintance of mine went to Thailand to get her body fixed. She returned with bigger assets (ahem!) and smaller respect for mankind. All she could talk about was how there were flies everywhere in Phuket, women just baked on the footpaths and how it was “so-third-world-oh-em-gee”. She judged and as Karma would strike back, she is probably getting judged by people in the luxuries of her first world now.
But point is, and I do have one, is that you judge the moment something appears in front of you. People, food, clothes, fashion trends…
Four days ago, I landed at the International airport of Bali. I stepped out of the aircraft and the humidity-filled air gushed through the strands of my perfectly straightened hair (P.s. They’re great friends now, my hair is in love with the bastard). The driver who drove us from the aircraft to the terminal flashed the cutest toothless smile at me as I took my seat beside him. It was adorable! He probably drives a few hundred tourists a day and assuming that he smiles at all of them, that’s a hell lot of free ‘welcome to Bali’ smiles. He should be the official representer of this island; no one could ever hate this place. I mean why would you?
So I got out of the airport and landed in traffic hell. I have to say, the city did not impress me at all. There were too many motorbikes, too less road space and was way too humid. But then again, there was a sense of familiarity. I could spot enough helmets to be able to create a mental art piece out of them. It was kinda therapeutic. I see a map of Australia in the sea of helmets… ooh la la.
I asked my driver, Kumar, to put on a local radio station, just so I could get a real sense of Indonesian culture and get diverted from this bumper-to-bumper situation. He followed my command and put on 93.2 FM which blasted Katy Perry, Jessie J and Coldplay. How perfect! I am stuck in a crazy traffic jam that doesn’t seem to move and Chris Brown doesn’t want to be woken up! Is this Bali?
Perhaps not… I didn’t know what it was until much later (more on that soon).
But my first impression of the island… wasn’t quite the first! It was home to me. Home in its literal sense. I was taken back to the streets of New Delhi where I would perhaps be stuck in a similar jam, with an International pop song on the radio and a visual of five adults sharing the space on a single motorbike. Same to same!
My first impression of Bali was a very old one, and that is what made the 2.5 hour drive to Ubud so very special!