Next to ‘how ya doin?’, this is the most common question I’ve had in the past week from relatives, family, friends and co-workers. I don’t mind actually; every time the question is posed I get to reminisce about the trip.
“It was awesome. It’s an amazing place”
India will teach you things. You’ll learn how different we all are, and how foreign a culture can be. You’ll also learn how similar we are, even half a world apart. You’ll see what a country transitioning between ancient custom and modern convenience looks like. You’ll see a country that has managed to respect those customs while still adopting western technology, or refusing to adopt it because its just doesn’t work for them. You’ll see what real poverty looks like, and you’ll see people getting by just the same. You’ll see people who have woven work and life together in such a way that they occur at the same time, without making them burned out or in danger of going postal. Sure, it’s dirty, but it’s a raw dirt, like a gravel country road that hasn’t been paved. It feels lived in, like an old house, endearing and warm.
I find myself missing it. I’m happy to be home to my clean air, my vast expanses of open living space, and orderly street traffic, but where is the nearest kulfi stand? I miss the barber on the corner with a line of men waiting in patient conversation to have their whiskers trimmed. I miss the smell of the corner tea shop, masala chai on the boil over an open flame. I miss the street bazaars. I miss the cows. I can understand how many Indian expatriates yearn to return to their home, there is a lot to miss.
India is going to be a different place in 10 years. Hell, as fast as they got the Delhi airport up, maybe 5. I have it on good authority from the world’s biggest Tata fan that it will be even less. The Indians are proving that they can make a new world quicker than we can take the old one in, if you want to see it the way it is, you had better get out there before it happens.
So did we have a good time? I’d say so, we’re already planning our next trip.
Cary, who took the lion’s share of the pictures, has been uploading edited pictures. I’ll be returning to the old posts day by day and adding links to them as she posts them.
With that said, I compiled a list of most humorous, but still applicable do’s and don’t if you find yourself making a trip in the near future. Feel free to add to it in the comments!
Do’s and Don’ts
- Stay away from the water. Don’t brush your teeth with it. Shower with your mouth tightly closed. Ingesting the water is the quickest way to get sick in India. Are you likely to get deathly ill? No, I know from experience that it’s not that bad, but it’s still something to be avoided if you want to enjoy your trip.
- If you do get a stomach bug, eat the local curd. Even if you don’t get sick, it’s tasty stuff. Lassi. Yogurt. Etc. Obviously I’m not a doctor and my advice is only empirical, but this worked like a dream for me. I found I was better capable of handling the water if I had been drinking lassi’s all day. Make sure that they aren’t adding ice or water to the curd though…
- Avoid raw fruits and vegetables. Why? They wash them with the water. And if they didn’t wash them with anything, then you really don’t want to eat them.
- You’ll get a better deal if you pay in cash.
- Try not to pay more than 50% of the asking price, unless the price is so low that you don’t feel like haggling. Especially in tourist towns like Agra, bargain your way down to half the asking at the very minimum.
- Don’t give money to beggars. Even children. Ever see Slum dog Millionaire? Seriously, don’t do it.
- Get over the smell. You can’t escape it anyway.
- Use hand sanitizer frequently.
- Bring camping toilet paper with you. You will not find toilet paper in public restrooms. Hell, you may not even find a toilet. Plan to poop like you would on a camping trip, and you’ll do fine.
- Learn to use that little sprayer next to the toilet. Its better than paper anyway.
- Don’t even think of renting a car. Rent a driver. You will kill someone or something if you try to take your terrible western driving skills on to the road in India.
- Don’t be freaked out or homophobic about dudes holding hands, hugging, or lounging together. They develop different relationships than we do, it doesn’t make them homosexual.
- It would not be prudent to say “Whatchoo lookin’ at?” to someone staring at you. You are weird looking. Get over it. They are a fairly pacifist group of folks, they aren’t sizing you up for a confrontation like we on the western side of the world do. People are staring at you because you stand out. It’s ok.