Happy Holi in India and Happy Women’s Day in Uzbekistan. Since yesterday, men have been greeting women everywhere for Women’s Day which is a national holiday here. Men wish their wives, mothers and daughters, buy them flowers and take them out for a meal or bring a cake home. It is a real celebration of womanhood and so nice to see. One of the good things left behind by the Communist state. Oh, and they do celebrate ‘Men’s Day’ or ‘Army Day’ but not to the same degree.
There are many tour groups coming from India to Uzbekistan. Unfortunately the majority are hordes of 45-50 young and middle-aged men being given a freebie as a dealer incentive by mostly pharmaceutical and cement companies. Their behaviour is the talk of the town as they come with a single-minded purpose – to drink and to womanise. From the airport they tell the guide on the bus not to explain about the history or culture of Uzbekistan as India is full of it. Just tell them where the ladkis and nighclubs are. Most carry their Johnny Walker with them as whisky is expensive. They eat only in Indian restaurants after which the guide is asked to leave them to it at the night club.
Here are a couple of stories we have been told. Once, having left them to their devices, the guide received a desperate call as the police had raided the bar and demanded passports which had been left with the hotel. The guide had to ‘borrow’ them (hotels hold the passports for the duration of stay so they can check rooms for lost property before releasing them) and when he showed up, this is what he saw: policemen having a beer while 40 Indian men faced the wall, legs apart with hands behind their back, each separated by a bar girl, all in one row. Another incident was one sub-group coming to Bukhara and on arrival saying ‘this is a big old village’ with no bars and women. Take us back instantly. This meant a 9 hour trek back to Tashkent.
Completely mortifying for me trying to do quite the opposite. Anaheeta and I were aghast when we are told these stories. We cannot deny it nor apologise for the desperate behaviour of some. But what a terrible impression to leave with those who think of Hindustan with nostalgia for the ties that once were. If it is any consolation at all (for me it isn’t), the farmers coming from a neighbouring country, again as dealer incentives offered by fertilizer companies, are known to bathe outside the bath tub causing leakages in rooms below and even worse, “settle themselves” in public, an unheard of practice in Uzbekistan.