So, dear readers, you’ll recall from a previous article, we hated India in our first few weeks there. This is Part 2.
The big cities in the North are hot, dirty and smelly at times. The roads are downright dangerous, and the locals make for terrible drivers (noisy too).
The majority of people we came across were categorically rude and arrogant. Whether it was the concept of queuing they lacked (they would often just look at the white people and just push in front of us) or just in general day to day interactions, we were met with either hostility, indifference (which isn’t really an issue) or just plain stupidity.
Some people have pointed out that what we have experienced may have just been cultural differences. Does this mean we should have been dicks in return in order to fit in? Probably not.
No, avid reader, we call bullshit.
We understand why people claim this to be cultural difference, we really do.
|For those who don’t know, culture can be defined as social behaviours, rules and values within communities.|
Nothing here in this definition says, “be a douchebag specifically to others based on their race, nationality, sexuality or anything else”, yet all over the world people are judged within their own communities based on any possible factor.
For us, India in our first few weeks was the perfect example of a culture that was just downright shitty.
For those of you that can be bothered to keep reading, our time in India did actually improve.
Once we had left the horrible* environment commonly known as Rajasthan, we started to enjoy ourselves.
(*Based on this experience alone, there are other places we want to go in the state of Rajasthan that we might even enjoy)
The further south we went, the more we enjoyed our experience of India. In Mumbai everything felt a little more relaxed (not Netflix and Chill relaxed, but at least more laid back). The people were a little kinder, the roads a bit easier to walk and the stall holders a little less intent on harassing us.
We were still in a big city and we knew it! It was still noisy and overpopulated, but things weren’t as difficult. We had the best accommodation that we’d had throughout our very long and exhausting 2 weeks in India, Backpacker Panda Colaba. We could walk the streets and feel comfortable for the first time in what felt like forever – this could also be down to the fact that we knew we would be leaving after 3 days, so if shit got bad, we didn’t have to deal with it for too long.
After Mumbai, we were feeling moderately upbeat. The most stress we had was getting on our flight with carry on only, desperately hoping no one would notice our backpacks were bulging and most definitely over weight (by at least 6kg).
India, until Mumbai, had been a draining leech of a hell hole and we were tired. With daily anxiety attacks, which ultimately lead to panic attacks and a feeling of agoraphobia, I (Hello, it’s Dale writing by the way) was feeling pretty lifeless. Matt had to cope with not only his own experience, but with an anxious mess of a human who rarely knew which way was up let alone what day it was.
We were ready to really unwind. Travelling had been such an effort that what we really needed was…
“But isn’t Goa where all the white people at? And where the party scene is?” You ask, “That sounds like the least authentic Indian experience”.
You are thoroughly correct. Well done. Except you are wrong. (NOTE – Dale is always right. No point arguing. Just ask Matt. And yes, Matt does think this attitude is exhausting and yes it does piss him off.)
It was in Goa that we realised that travelling isn’t just about the places you go. Sometimes it’s about the people you meet.
We met some of the best people in Goa.
The free spirited Irish girl (woman really- fully grown, but girl is just a nicer sounding word) we hope we stay in touch!
The German boy who was so easy going. The German girl who may or may not have been “away with the fairies”. The Australian group who were pretty much always drunk.
But the person who really was a highlight amongst the plethora of strangers that we met was that Indian girl.
The Indian girl was on holiday after quitting her job because it wasn’t what she wanted. She had attended a women’s rally and had met up with her secret boyfriend (there was nothing sordid in the secrecy, the boyfriend was great too, but secret because of what Indian culture dictates – we will try to tell you more about these sorts of things in another article).
She was such a treasure to speak to and really allowed us a glimpse into the life of a modern Indian woman. She is lucky to have somewhat progressive parents but not everyone is. We talked for hours about the real problems Indians face and the atrocities that still take place in the country. We spoke about feminism and its importance. But mostly we got to know her and how kind she was.
Because we are travelling so “light” and have no space in our bags, we haven’t bought anything for ourselves other than necessities. No souvenirs. No gifts for those back home. The Indian girl did though.
One day, she went to the market with some other people and saw a vest top that looked just like Dale. She bought it for him – just because she wanted to.
A few days later, she bought Matt a gift, a silver bracelet. He’ll treasure it but what he’ll treasure more is the note she left in the bag for him.
It was interactions like these that really saved our India trip.
Goa turned out to be the place where we learned about the India that a lot of holiday goers and “middle class” travellers (the type of people that get ferried around from door to door by a guide) don’t get to see. This was a good learning experience because a lot of what we saw in the North (poverty, sickness, cultural clashes and what we would describe as general backward-ness) was re-iterated and explained without having to experience it again.
The North/South divide
So, this is a sweeping generalisation based solely on the conversations we had but, the Southerners hated the Northerner and the Northerners hated the North.
Every local Southerner we conversed with about our time in the North told us how rude and disgustingly behaved the Northerners were.
They told us that they understood what we meant when we described our experiences and they also experienced the same issues when visiting relatives or when they moved to the North for work during the tourist off season. White people just notice it more because it isn’t behaviour that would be acceptable back home.
Doing nothing was productive
We spent about 2 weeks in Goa doing extremely little. The blog was put on a backburner in favour of relaxing, we still did a few bits of writing, but it wasn’t a priority. We didn’t travel around the state seeing everything that we could, which is the way our travels usually go. Instead, we chose to sit around the hostel.
We would venture out for lunch and dinner and went for walks along the beach. The Goan hostel that we stayed at (Jungle by the Hostelcrowd) was a haven away from the bright city lights and honking noises that we had become soul destroying accustomed to after 2 weeks in the North. We could lay in a hammock, listening to the monkey’s chatter and birds sing, socialise and chat or join in on the Hostel organised activities.
At several points throughout our time in Goa we would discuss how lazy we felt and had moments of anguish that either we weren’t being productive enough for the blog (even though there were a few days in which it was our main focus) or even that we weren’t travelling right (more on this later).
As time went on, we discovered that the best thing we could have done with our time in Goa is exactly what we did. Mental health can be a fickle thing and sometimes trying to relax simply doesn’t work, but this time it did, which is why we say that doing nothing was productive: like hitting a reset button.
India grew on us
India will never be in our top 5 travel destinations. Nor will it probably make the top 10 list.
But India, or rather South India, made more of a positive impact on the both of us. As we ventured further south, we began to relax into the travelling a bit more. In Kochi, we sampled the seafood and walked about the streets, just for the sake of it. We were punted around the backwaters and was thrilled with the sheer knowledge of our guide who knew everything from the local ways, to the chemical composition of the poisonous fruit that grew by the sides of the waterways.
Our favourite place by far was Munnar. In the self-dubbed “Gods own country” of Kerala, we found what we had been looking for (without knowing it). A perfect Oasis of calm located at the bottom of our Homestay (River Rock Homestay). We experienced true Indian hospitality and home cooked meals that were some of the tastiest (and simple) food we had had in India. Our host would stand in the dining room as we ate and try to ply us with more food, whether we wanted it or not and he would make sure we had our travel plans sorted for our time there, phoning his friends to get us a taxi for the day between locations.
Fearing for our lives
OK, so we may be sounding a bit dramatic here, but our one and only bus journey in India was distressing. As in our previous article – we would like to reiterate that the driving in India is extremely dangerous, bordering on sheer lunacy. Our humble opinion would be to withdraw all driving licences and start again. Or just ban all driving. Another idea would be to remove the horns from all cars and scooters. They are over used so much that they are pretty much pointless.
As we got on our bus in Munnar to head to Chennai, we thought – this might not be too bad. The double-ish sized top bunk that we had wasn’t the least comfortable bed that we had in India. As we set off, we realised that we would be swaying for the next 13 hours. By one hour into our journey, we discovered that we would not only be swaying, but bouncing, jumping, hitting our heads, shaking and rolling.
The bus driver flew along the mountain ranges of Munnar: whilst we aren’t the best judge of speed, we would agree that whatever speed we were going at was too fast. The turns were gut wrenching, but worse were the views.
Looking directly out the side of the bus was some stunning scenery. Tree lined mountains with clouds rolling over them, but when we looked down, we realised that we were often about a foot or two from death. The sheer sides of the roads and lack of barriers meant that a slight mis manoeuvre or another passing vehicle might mean a one-way ticket to the bottom of the cliff.
At one point, the roads were so thin that a tuk-tuk couldn’t pass us, causing a traffic back up that we assumed was many miles behind us.
“Get to the point of this horribly long and drawn out article” we hear you say. “Do you still hate India?”
We learned that India, whilst actively developing, has a long way to go. We don’t mean just by western standards, but the developed Western world has some pretty good baselines when it comes to basics.
Hygiene appears to be lacking in the major cities we visited – although Mumbai was the nicest. The stench of piss, garbage and rot is rife in the air in some areas.
Delhi is, in our opinion, mostly an abhorrent shithole, with a few gems of history and architecture. It very much appears that the locals in general care little about their city, their environment or anything at all for that matter. On the flipside, the Goan beaches were often clean and the streets of Kochi and Munnar were gleaming in comparison.
The people of the North were not our favourite and would never be in with a chance of winning Miss Congeniality at a popularity contest. Nor would they probably be invited to the contest.
If we went back to Delhi, it would only be because we’ve found a cheap flight into the country and want to go further north.
We don’t hate India. We hate the various cultures in India and the sheer stupidity of religious indoctrination across the nation.
We hate the way travellers are treated, but we hate how Indians treat each other even more with their outdated views and ideals.
We’ll be back (probably)
It won’t be anytime soon and certainly not on this trip, but there are still treasures for us to find in India. We want to see the far north and the deep south and certainly don’t plan on going to any big cities.
We felt we had a realistic introduction to the country, ticked off the tourist destinations and Dale has never been happier that his grandparents decided to leave India and go to the UK when they did.