Reflections on India
I’ve had a couple of weeks since leaving India to process my nearly two months of adventure throughout the multi-faceted country. India was without a doubt, the most unique place I’ve had the the opportunity to visit. I had so many crazy experiences, some extremely good, others not so much. I alternated between expressing my love for the country and wanting to rip my hair out in frustration. Other people whom have been to India have said that they have a love/hate relationship with the country, and I think I can safely echo those statements. Here are a few things that I loved and miss about India as well as some things that frustrated me to no end and am glad not to deal with anymore!
Things I miss:
- The Food
Indian cuisine is unlike any I’ve tried before. Visiting Thailand prior to India, Thai food was at the top of my list. However, I think I can safely say that Indian food has taken the number one spot, with the caveat being that I wouldn’t like if I had to ONLY eat Indian food for the rest of my life. Never have I tasted such flavorful food, from the rich and spicy curries to the fluffy naans and delectable sweets. And of course one can’t forget the sweet and creamy lassies, a hybrid between yogurt and milkshakes.
- The chaos
India is without a doubt, an assault on all 5 senses. Simply a walk down the street is enough excitement for a normal day, as so much is going on at once. From the brightly colored saris of the women to the rich smells of food cooking in the air to the endless chatter in Hindi between passersby, it is hard to keep track of it all. As someone who hates monotony and thrives on variety, I enjoyed being a part of the chaos for a couple of months. Even though everything always seemed in disarray, broken or late, there was a refined nature to it, like it was supposed to be exactly so.
- The Nature
From the endless desert of Rajasthan to the towering Himalayas in the North, not to forget the bustling cities with tens of millions of people, India sure has a vast and varied landscape. Just when I would begin to get bored of one region, the next would offer the exact opposite, always keeping me on my toes.
- The people
As many times as they might have inadvertently frustrated me, I am firmly convinced of the good intentions of the Indian people. Some of my fondest memories are being offered a seat when I rode the crowded general class carriage to Jaipur or being offered food with nothing expected in return. Treated like a mini celebrity, Indians constantly inquired me if I was enjoying their country and where I had been. I also was the main subject of many selfie requests, sometimes as often as 10 times a day! I wonder how many pictures of me with random Indians are floating around Facebook…
- The Culture
Although I didn’t get to attend number one on my bucket list, which was to attend an Indian wedding, I was able to witness and participate in a wide variety of cultural experiences, from the famous Holi festival, to seeing a Bollywood movie, to witnessing a cricket match. Getting firsthand knowledge of the Hindu and Sikh faiths was also interesting, as I had yet to ever come across them in my daily life prior. There are numerous other cultural things unique to India that are too numerous to name, although a few that I will miss include daily yoga, chai tea breaks and the infamous Indian “head bobble”.
- The other travelers
While this isn’t a direct reflection on India, I do indeed miss it and feel it is worth mentioning. I’m very thankful for the recent outcrop of hostels that have popped up over India the past few years, as they’ve proved vital for meeting other people. Even though you are surrounded by people in India and are never alone, it helps to have kindred spirits that are going through the same experiences as yourself. My fellow travelers were indispensable in giving travel advice, sharing humorous and horror stories, and simply helping one another tackle the beast that is India. I firmly believe that it takes a special kind of person to want to travel to India and it is not for the faint of heart. I value the friendships and memories that I made with the other interesting and inspiring people I met along my journey.
Things I Do NOT Miss:
- Vehicle Horns
Without a doubt this is thing I dislike the most about India. Whether from a car, motorbike, bus, or tuk-tuk, each and every horn seemed extra loud especially compared to any other country. Indians have no reservation about using their horns and seem to use them more often than not. Even when driving on a street with no other vehicles and pedestrians walking calmly on the side of the street, a passing vehicle would have no qualms of blaring their horn for all to hear. Many times I found my ears only inches away from the passing motorists and falling victim to the intense noise. I fear that I may have lost years on my hearing. Couple the eagerness to use horns with the 1.1 billion people currently living in the country, and it is a recipe for DISASTER.
India is without a doubt, the dirtiest country I have ever visited. Trash lay in huge piles on the streets, and humans and animals alike showed no reservations in defecating in the streets. It was a common occurrence to watch an Indian finish using something and casually drop their discarded item on the ground, showing no reservations for the act. Other vendors would burn their trash, filling the air with a putrid odor. This country is in serious need of some recycling education and they need it ASAP. Especially as they are slated to pass China as the world’s most populous country in the near future…
- The Stares/Lack of Privacy
I know that I can’t have been the first foreigner that most Indians had ever seen before, but that did not stop them from trying to burn holes in my head with the intensity of their stares. Young and old, men and women, it seemed like everyone couldn’t take their eyes off of me. It can get especially uncomfortable when you are seated across somebody for several hours on a train. Not only did Indians like to stare, they also like to look over my shoulder when I was on my phone or writing in my journal and some would even go as far as to read what I was reading or typing out loud! I had little patience for this and would stop abruptly to stare back at them.
- The Smell
This goes along with point #2, but there were often horrible smells permeating the air, especially in the larger cities. In Delhi it got so bad that I contemplated wearing one of those surgical masks that are so popular with Asian people. The only places where the air felt clean were Manali and Dharamshala, located up in the mountains.
- The heat
Boy. was. it. hot. I traveled India during the shoulder season, shortly after their winter and before the start of the brutal summers. It was still hotter than any place I’d ever experiences, with the temperatures reaching 109 F during my last couple days in Delhi! Even at 8 in the morning would the sun already be out in full strength and I would find myself downing liters of water in an effort to replace the fluids I was losing from sweating.
There you have it, folks. Some of my opinions and experiences from the last couple months. Has anybody ever made a similar list for their own travel experiences?