Monday, June 24, 2013

The Love And Hate Experience Of Travelling to India

No matter how many photos, and how many stories, I share about my time in India, there is just no way to capture the experience of it all. No way to give anyone who has not been a full idea of the experience. A full taste of the assault on your senses, the pull at your heart, a glimpse into the oscillating feelings you will have about being there. Many people have described India as somewhere that travellers love and hate, all at the same time. I had not really understood how that could be – but I certainly do now after travelling for 5 weeks there. This is exactly what traveling in India is like – good and bad experiences, love and hate of processes, and the sights and smells.

Nothing makes sense, the level of frustration is often so high, and everything seems to take so long – it took me an hour to send a parcel home from a Kolkata post office, 90 minutes to get a taxi arranged by my guesthouse in Mumbai to go to the places I wanted to go, which seemed pretty straight forward to me. It seemed when I went back to my room to get my bags upon agreeing on the taxi arrangement, my request was completely forgotten, and then I had to start the discussion all over again, With the same people who had understood just 5 minutes before. Or said they had understood. Then, having understood the second time and agreeing that my request was possible and that it would be 5 minutes, they then spent 30 minutes calling around to get a driver, it seemed. I would have hailed one by then, however they kept insisting that they had a driver who was on his way. Grrr! Asking why for anything is really a waste of your time! Patience and a sense of humour have never been more needed than here in India.

Talking to a local about the frustrations, we were met a couple of times with the notion of “that’s why we call it Incredible India!” Indeed.

When there is an issue, with anything, just be insistent is my advice. This seems to work 90% of the time, as it seems that in India it is easier for the locals to give in than continue with the hassle. I am not talking about unreasonable things, but when you could do something one day and then suddenly the next day it is “not allowed” (this is from our infuriating cricket security experiences), a firm stance will normally resolve such a discrepancy for you. I think also, many men will not argue too strongly with a female tourist – and so standing strong with a price for your ride in a taxi or auto rickshaw, once you are confident on the right price for the distance you are going.

The food is spectacular. I don’t think I have ever eaten this much cottage cheese (paneer) or vegetarian meals – not just out of concern about the cleanliness of the meat, but mainly because the veg dishes are worth writing home about. The spice and flavour combinations are to die for! A street vendor selling samosas was my favourite sight on most days!

Everywhere is strewn with rubbish, you see people throwing bags of waste into lakes and rivers everyday. The roadsides are lined with litter, and you see people throw things out of rickshaws and as they are walking along – we witnessed a woman who had clearly just brought herself a new handbag at a bazaar, empty the newspaper padding inside it as she walked away from her
seller, into the busy street. Amazing. There are actually signs everywhere about not littering, and about preserving India’s beauty by carefully discarding waste. It will take some serious efforts to enforce and make such change here, though.

Although most of Chandighar has managed to figure out effective rubbish disposal, or maybe they just have teams cleaning up the streets, cos that is a clean Indian city. Just shows that it can be done!

And let’s not even get started about the spitting in the street and the public urination! This is not a place for the weak-stomached, or the easily repulsed.

India is all about colours! The saris on the women are breathtaking, sparkly and gorgeous. The beauty in India is abundant, the connections with a look and a smile is so precious. The women working in the fields, lush green crops, are still wearing bright and vivacious saris that stand out – so beautiful. Such pride taken. Watching a woman emerge from a slum, all decked out and colourful, and perfectly groomed, is a sight to be seen!

The misogyny, on the other hand, is heartbreaking and demoralising. Spirit crushing, and so pervasive.

The ever-present sound that is everywhere in India is the beeping of a auto rickshaw and taxi horn. Beep! Beep! Beep! Rather than a warning, or used in frustration and rage as it is done in Australia, the horn in India seems to be a “look out, I am here”, or “I’m about to pass you” , and often just “I just like beeping my horn all the way along here!” It's a constant, regardless of which city or State you are in. A constant drilling into your ears and consciousness.

India is a place of opposites – such beauty, such ill treatment of women. Such amazing food, such stomach turning sights and smells at so many corners. Such amazing places to see, so much frustration negotiating a fare, and directions, and safety with a tuk tuk or auto rickshaw driver, or taxi. A place rich with technology, and yet so many antiquated ideas and ways of doing things. Such riches on display, and such poverty within plain view everyday. Incessant noise everywhere, and then the peace of the Taj Mahal.

A place to travel that does indeed elicit feelings of love and hate, all at the same time.


  1. This is so true, I think of it as the Beauty and the Horror of India.

    India is just incredible... and there is something that just keeps drawing you back, again and again.

    You forget the bad (or make it into jokes and travellers stories) and remember the truly amazing parts.

    I think there is two types of people who have travelled the sub-continent... Those who come again or those who will never consider it in a pink fit, which is dependent on whether the good outweighs the bad in their memories of India.
    For me, the bad fades fast, but the amazing lives with me forever.

    So the question is...

    Will you go again?

    1. At first, I was like, I don't need to go back, and was still recalling all the bad, full on things. As time passes though, more and more of the amazing stuff is the main memory. I think I'll go back....but not for a little while yet!

  2. Love this post - the contrasts are wide. I can't imagine the culture shock - thanks for sharing.

    1. It's so confronting at times. And yet so beautiful too!

  3. I completely agree with you. As someone who lived and worked there from 2011-2012, I probably had more really bad (and really good) experiences than I can remember. The particular community in which I lived and worked was a source of such frustration, kindness, intelligence, poor decision making, filth, lack of discipline, and rules. No one understands unless he or she has truly experienced the place!

    1. Wow, such poles of experience! It really is an incredible place, to have all of that at the same time!

  4. Great blog, summed up everything I thought about India. After thinking I didn't want to see any more of the country in the near future, I now find myself booked to go back in early November. A different part of the country, but am ready for another roller coaster ride of emotions, sights, sounds, smells and experiences.

    1. Thanks!
      Ha, yeah...I could go back now. The good far overshadows the bad, in the end!
      Have a great return in November!

  5. You can't get everything good inn life if there is some thing good so also there will be something bad.

    1. That's very true Harry - although with India, it seems to be served in such extremes!


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