Many more Indians on this sojourn in South Africa than I've seen on previous trips to other places. I don't mean the local Indians, most of whom are from Durban. I mean the Indian tourist, now appearing in tourist destinations everywhere.
Thus it was that I heard the distinctive twang of Goan Konkani on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, and then in other places around the city. A whole group of Goans, on a package tour. Another group spoke Gujarati as they raced camera-first through the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Another still warbled among themselves in Hindi.
A middle-aged couple got talking to us at the lighthouse on Cape Point. "Where have you come from?" they asked.
Bombay, I said.
"Bombay?!" they exclaimed, noticeably excited by the mention of the name. Then: "Which tour agency?"
On our own, I said, which set off some quick worried muttering in Tamil. When I interjected something in the language, they grew noticeably even more excited. "From Matunga?" she asked.
At Kirstenbosch, that group of Indians -- kids to grandparents, it looked like -- followed a guide about. But only one or two seemed to be paying any attention to what he was saying. The rest were gambolling along, bouncing off on and off steps, getting photographed against a railing, looking everywhere except at the plants and flowers.
No, but it's really, really good to see so many Indians out touring the world. For all kinds of reasons.
Though not always so good. Also at Cape Point was a large family: apparently most of the wives of six brothers, assorted kids and a few of the six brothers too. They had a guide who was valiantly explaining various things. Like at Kirstenbosch, nobody paid him much mind. Maybe because of the rush their trip was: they had been at Table Mountain in the morning, and were now here at the Cape by 230pm. Took our breath away: each of those two had been an entire day's outing for us.
Done with their visit, the family started piling into their big Volvo bus. Two kids, a fat one about 17 and a thin one about 9, loitered about near me. The younger one took something from his mouth, rolled it into a handful of paper and started looking around for somewhere to fling the whole mess.
Came the loud instructions from their father, halfway to the bus and anxious to round everyone up. "Garden mein pheko," he said, pointing to a patch of green lined elegantly with flowers. "Chalo, chalo, garden mein pheko!" ("Come on, throw it in the garden!")
And the older kid lined up to fling whatever it was into the garden.
I had to say something. "Please, yahan itne saare dustbin hain! Usme kyon nahin?"
The father gave me a long black look, then silently directed his son to the closest dustbin. Not six paces from where they stood.