Waiting for a 2 hour delayed flight in Delhi I worked out how many flights, God willing, I will take before my sabbatical is over. 13. Good job I’m not superstitious. As I sip my flat white from Costas, in several ways the modern airport is an apt image of globalisation.
The language of the airport is English. Even Indian airline staff address other passengers in English. (Since their first language could be hindi, gudjarati, punjabi or tamil.) At first glance this is reassuring to Northern Americans and the British. Given time everyone comes round to our way of thinking. Yet when you listen carefully you soon realise that the truth is more complex. The english spoken is a mix of Indian dialects. Most of the people in the check-in queue spoke english interchangeably with gudjarati or hindi. (At least I assume that was what they were doing, it is possible that one young couple had invented their own language so that they could express their undying love to each other on public occasions such as this.)
So it is not really english. It is indian english. The current Lufthansa advert on Indian TV shows an Indian grandfather telling his grandson that he is about to take him on a plane, as a treat, to see his father in NY. However, the bad news is that they were going to have to travel with Germans who have no sense of humour and eat bad food. Of course the advert shows the boy being surprised when treated by very friendly cabin crew and eating Indian food on board. The message is clear – we are happy to use your transport and your language, but we will keep our culture. And why not?