It has now been a month since I left India from Kochi. People ask me, how was India? What do I say? We had a great time? There really is no standard answer in describing India. I am fully aware that I saw the best of India. I did not experience the poverty first-hand, nor did I lack any comforts. We in our group were never really without WI-Fi or TV, we had it available. I was a means of income for many people in India, I am fully aware of that. Sitting on the top of an elephant, being driven anywhere, eating in fancy places, having services like bell hops, waiters, guides, etc. makes me look like a rich man to the Indians I met. I am not rich from an American point of view, so there is a misalignment of viewpoints.
Every person in India and Nepal was very friendly, courteous and forthcoming. Each of the people I met had a feeling of self-worth. The rickshaw man was proud of what he did. He competed with his fellow rickshaw drivers, of course, but there was no obvious envy comparing himself to a taxi driver. His station in life was being a rickshaw man. He lived with that and did his job well. The gardeners trimming the hotel plantings, the delivery man, and each other working person, each one seemed to accept his lot in life. Something I sometimes feel is not the case in New York City, for example. Ambition, envy, is not as obvious to spot in India as in other countries. The folks I met seemed content with their lives. I met many, many diverse people in India. Each one had a story. Each one is unique; each one needs to make ends meet.
The country is crowded. 1.4 billion people, the most populous country on earth. Cities groan under the pressure that modern society puts on natural resources. Rain is needed. Not just in the south, but everywhere.
Traffic is over the top. The driving is regulated but somehow people find their own way to drive. What amazes me is that it works. There are really not many accidents in India. Not that I have seen. Tolerances are much greater in India than in other countries I visited. They beep their horns constantly, whenever they are about to pass someone, at corners, and just to let others know they are there. The drivers swirl around each other instead of insisting on their right of way. The fast give way to the slow in certain situations. It is chaotic to my Western mind, but for India it seems to work. Everything in fact, seems to work. Telephone lines, electric lines, cable lines, anything that snakes wires throughout the streets seems haphazard, but… it works.
Most people have electric lights, watch TV, and Bollywood on cable but there is still extreme poverty; people living in shacks with no water or power. Sure the mess of wires and cables I saw, wound around telephone poles, bunched up on buildings, hanging loosely in the air, all seems to scream amateurs, but…it works. Traffic moves, Electricity is available to most and people are everywhere.
Sanitation is a problem. Or is it? Everybody we met was always clean. Everyone we met smiled and was happy and washed. Sure, not everywhere do you find porcelain in the bathrooms, but their business gets done, somehow. India’s Government pays people to put in flush toilets, the government pays for the materials, the labor is done by the owner. Does everybody install flush toilets? I was told, not really. They take the money but they like their old ways, squatting or standing at the side of the road. We never had a problem finding a toilet, thanks to our tour guides, but I understand in some areas in the country this can be a problem. We lived like rich people; moving from one nice hotel to the next.
We really lived like kings. So it is not fair to ask me, how do you like India? I had the upper hand here, not the top berth but good enough to tell you, India is fabulous. The history will floor you. This country is chock full of events, of past Empires conquering, of religious points of view, of food choices, of art, of architecture, of whatever interests you. Yes, India has it all. It is up to you to find it, of course. Exotic living, right out of a book, can be had here. You want a cold climate, go north. You like it hot and steamy; we found that in the south in abundance. India is very, very different from any country I have visited. To put my finger on any one thing and say this is India, is impossible. I let some pictures talk for me. Those are daily events in the pictures. Those pictures were not staged. In what other country do you find a different way of living like that, I ask YOU?
Amazing India…you just have to see it for yourself.
Don’t listen to TV or other media, YOU have to go and see it. YOU have to make up your own mind. As for me, my mind is made up, I love India.
Now it’s your turn, so I can ask YOU……how did you like India?
Many kudos and accolades for the brilliant organization, sense of fun, and great camaraderie provided by our tour company representative Fiona Butchart and her husband Gary. They added tremendously to our enjoyment of the trip.I would highly recommend any trip with them. They were an awesome team. Thank you Fiona and Gary.
Fiona Butchart | Travel Consultant | Travel Insurance Advisor
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Dinesh Durani, our local Guide for northern India also added a great deal to our trip. His local knowledge of things to see and his impromptu stops (for example he had our bus stop in front of a pastry shop and he purchased a local sweet for us all to try). As well, his knowledge of the history of India and the flora and fauna in the Tiger Preserve in Ranthambhore seemed limitless. He had many contacts and when we expressed an interest in something, he made it happen (for example Dinesh took us to an artist to learn about a unique way of drawing tigers). Thank you Dinesh.
Founder and General Secretary of the Sariska Tiger Foundation