Novice international travellers are bound to make mistakes especially when a city like London is your destination. On my third trip to London in 2017, an incident happened with me that was to change my entire outlook to travelling for good. A London-based education networking company had hired my services for an event and sponsored my visit.
With the way I’d been living my life, something undesirable was bound to happen eventually. Had I been a little careful, it could have been easily avoided but I believe that everything in life happens for a reason.
Upon landing at the Heathrow Airport, I was received by a young man from India who also worked for the same company. It was decided that I stayed with him for as long as the company required. Not far from the airport, our dwelling was a room in the attic of a private home at West Ealing.
My roommate was a Hindu. Our eating habits despite our religious difference didn’t vary too much. He was a voracious meat eater as I was.
Within the diktats of faith
However, a Muslim non-vegetarian and a Hindu non-vegetarian is quite a different ball game with our own respective red lines not meant to cross. I would often go out to eat together at the eateries that sold Halal. It ensured whatever I ate was well within the diktats of my faith.
One morning, however, my roomie expressed a desire to have an English breakfast. I didn’t realise what was on the menu as the plate was laden with a lot of vegetarian stuff including bread and a bowlful of baked beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. As I began to eat, the very first morsel produced a strong salty sensation inside my mouth and I could hardly swallow it down my throat.
“Why is it so salty,” I asked my friend. He ignored my query as I struggled to eat further. Halfway through the meal, he looked at me impishly and said: “Do you really not know what you’re eating?”
His question baffled me and it didn’t take me too long to realise that I had crossed my red line. I wanted to throw up but the situation demanded that I held firmly on to my nerves. It was my fault after all not to have checked the contents of my breakfast menu.
Balancing a relationship
At home, I didn’t create any furore about the incident, instead resolved to be more vigilant in future. I didn’t even take the matter up with my friend. It could have jeopardised not only my relationship with him but my work too would have suffered.
A few days later, I got an opportunity to pay him back in the same coin. For a moment, I even thought of settling the score with him. Our neighbour, a young man from Poland, had prepared stir fry noodles for the dinner. He offered us some. While I was busy doing some work on my laptop, I saw my friend putting a spoonful in his mouth. Within a fraction of a second, I sprang from up my chair and with one powerful swipe at the spoon flung it away.
Flabbergasted, he was clueless what on earth did I do it for. I gave him a stern look. “Some lines are not meant to be crossed,” I warned him.
He stood motionless, eyes fixed at the bowl on the table and unable to utter a word. Hiding his face behind his hands, he threw himself into an armchair nearby. After a minute or so, he raised his head and said: “I shouldn’t have taken you to the English restaurant the other day.”
Farooq Shah is a journalist and columnist based in India