3rd June 2015 – Bucharest, Romania
I didn’t sing, or do the colourful Roma dance.
And I walked around with a camera, the tourist stamp.
Yet, a pretty girl asks me if I was a travelling gypsy.
Not cool, Romania. I am going to remember this scamp.
It wasn’t long ago that I was in Dresden, scared of the Pegida people. Or the time when I was in Monaco, and profiled by the cops. But the Balkans had helped me forget those 2 episodes, with the love and mutual respect they have been showering on me, all the way from Albania to Slovenia.
Well, not Romania. Atleast, not yet. And 2 stories on my first day in Romania, did not give me the right impression about this country yet.
Tale 1: The violinist
I started the day walking around the old centre (Lipscani) area, heading towards the Stavropoleos church. And on the way, saw this guy playing the violin, rather beautifully I must admit. So, I clicked him. And after dropping a couple of Lei (the Romanian currency) in his violin case, I showed him the picture I just took and we had a quick talk. He was a Belgian busker who spoke no English, yet somehow we communicated with the little French that I knew.
A pretty, young Romanian girl watched me talk to him for a while, all curious. Then came to me, and asked us something in Romanian. Of course, I had no clue, so I told her I spoke only English.
“I wanted to ask if I can take your picture together“
“I don’t mind, but you should ask him“, I replied with a smile.
“Oh, you guys are not together?“
“Nope. I am clicking him too, just like you“
“Sorry! I thought you were a Roma too!“
I was offended on 2 levels here. One, for the sake of my newfound friend. He was from Brussels, and was busking around here in Bucharest, and this girl was convinced that he was a Roma just because he played street music. And secondly, I was offended for myself. I know I did not look anything like the typical Indian tourist, as I was alone, and walking around in shorts and flip-flops, but I did carry a camera on me. And somehow, this little girl had just mistaken me for a Roma. I love the Romanis and the Gypsies, but good god, don’t the parents in Romania ever teach their kids not to generalise people based on looks?
Tale 2: The blogger
I brushed the girl aside, said goodbye to my French friend – who, I noticed, brushed her aside too – and went on to a photo exhibition of a couchsurfing friend. After admiring the exhibition (about Nepal actually, with some beautiful images), I went to another meet up, of a community called the ‘passionate travellers community'(?!) who was meeting to discuss about travels to India and South East Asia.
I did meet some interesting people there, like a Romanian author with an interest in India, and a young guy who wanted advice for Thailand, where he was heading. I helped as much as I could with advices for both the countries, and had a healthy argument with the author who liked all those things about India, which I hated (Of course, I am referring to spirituality and Bollywood!). It could have ended as a good evening.
But I also had the misfortune of meeting a ‘famous’ Romanian travel blogger who was describing her experiences travelling through India. Unfortunately, I was wearing a couchsurfing t-shirt, which somehow steered the discussion towards couchsurfing in India. And this travel blogger went all gaga about how she was scared of couchsurfing in India, because of all the lecherous people there.
“Which cities in India, did you couchsurf in?“, I was curious to know.
“No. I didn’t try couchsurfing in India actually“
“So, you said you met some lecherous people there?“
“No, I was scared of meeting any lecherous people there“
“So, you actually never experienced any real negative events while couchsurfing in India. But your decision was based on what you have heard in the media? In other words, were you biased?“
Silence, and I am not entirely sure if she even understood the word ‘bias’. I wanted to tell her that her decision would have been similar to me not visiting Romania because of what Antonescu did to the Jews and Gypsies.
But of course, I didn’t. I don’t want to judge Romania based on 2 stupid people I met on my first day. I have plenty of stupid people in my own country, and I know how exactly it feels when someone judges a whole country because of a few stupid words or deeds.