Reflections on India

Lucy We entered India in Manipur and we had to be very careful for 2 days because there had been riots. When we drive along we saw some burnt out trucks, it was quite scary. Then we went to Kazaringa, we saw loads of rhinos while we were riding ELEPHANTS! There was a little elephant, just 10 months old, walking with the adults, he was adorable but very naughty and kept on trying to trip up the adults who had people riding on them. We saw a tiny baby rhino only 3 days. We then went to Varanassi, where we saw bodies burning which scared me a bit. But the people who died would have been happy as Varanasi is such a holy place. We bought a candle and flowers to float down the Ganges River, it looked like it was a reflection of the stars. We've seen some amazing animals in India. Indian ground squirrels are absolutely adorable, they are everywhere and I love to watch them and I communicate with them by twitching my nose. Cows in India are holy, so we saw them everywhere milling around. You are not allowed to eat beef, Daddy had to be very careful as they always stand in the middle of the road causing traffic jams. We saw 4 tigers in the national parks, one female tiger was being pursued by a male tiger when we saw her. She was wasn't very happy because he was big, we saw them cross the road together. Indian sweets have enough sugar in them to made English dentists faint but I LOVE them, they are absolutely delicious. My favourite gulub jammu, is a spongy cake ball swimming in sweet syrup. If you eat 2 you start to feel a bit sick because they so rich. I liked all the other types of sweets I tried too. Some of the Indian foods were a bit spicy but I loved butter nan, lassi and butter chicken. India was such a lovely place with such lovely people, they were kind. The men in Rajasthan had amazing moustaches really long and curly. We had a competition to spot the best one. Alisha If you like crazy drivers, spicy food, constantly loud horns, stunningly beautiful buildings and friendly people then India is the country for you. Like most countries, the good outweighs the bad. In India though the roads are goodish-badish but the driving is atrocious. My opinion is the worse the road, the worse the driving. Can you imagine walking across a crowded street dodging cycle rickshaws and tuk-tuks and then getting to the other side to check everyone else is following you. Its absolutely conkers and almonds and hazelnuts and pistachios and every other nuts you can think of. India though has many nice features, one being the many clothes and trinkets that are on sale. I really enjoyed looking at all the different patterned saris and scarves and I bought some lovely material to make some clothes with. The colours are amazing. It put me off sometimes, that every time you went anywhere near someone's shop they would leap up and say "Come into my shop" or "Many things cheap" or some thing along those lines and then when you went into there shop they would spread everything out and even if you didn't want those things you would feel bad that he had got them all out and buy something you didn't want or need. I really enjoyed bargaining with stall holders the trick is to start walking away and then they are eager to sell it to you. There are many beautiful sights in India. One being the Taj Mahal in Agra and seeing all the beautiful jewel flowers set into the marble walls. I also enjoyed the many different forts and palaces scattered throughout the country. After a bit they started to get boring but I turned them into stories for Lucy so she was happy. It was lovely to meet Granny and show her some of India and to meet Pratibha and Vineet who explained lots about India. I enjoyed and disliked India in turns but one way or another India is exhausting no matter which way you look at it. Gilly India, Oh India - you've made me laugh; you've made me cry; you've titilated my senses with your sights, smells and tastes; you've introduced me to amazing ancient cultures I'd never heard of; and you turned me into a foul-mouthed navvie. India is incredible, to quote their tourist office, but not always in the positive sense and definitely the most extreme country we've overlanded through. After backpacking in the country for many, many months years ago thought I would be less sensitive to the culture shock many foreigners experience. But I think it was the driving that tipped me over the edge, the chaos on some of the roads was shocking even for us. Frequently the actions of the road users prompted streams of incredulous expletives from Steve and I. It was like playing the most extreme driving computer game ever invented - cars; motorbikes; trucks; bikes; people - all in their thousands, funnelled into a narrow market with goods cluttering the sides of the road. Now add in the crazy bits: cows; naked monks; a corpse on a stretcher covered with balloons; camel carts; a wedding procession with the groom on a horse with uniformed men with load speakers and lights balance on their heads and the rest of the family Bollywood dancing behind - if you can imagine it, we have probably seen it on the road in India. Everyone jostling for prime position, no one ever giving an inch, even if their progress slightly forward completely blocks both sides of the road so now no one can move at all. Amazingly though, this is generally done with no malice and general good humour, apart from by us, the incredulous foreigners who seem to think that driving should have some rules. Now imagine having everything that can honking their horns constantly and you start to get the idea. However, all in all the positives far outweigh the negatives. The friendly people, people all over the country were welcoming and curious about us. Even on Delhi's modern metro on every journey we had people striking up conversations and checking we knew where we were going. London Underground commuters could definitely learn a thing about being friendly to visitors from Delhi's riders. However we had to get used to getting stared at, wherever we went a group of men would gather around to watch our every move. It was a little disconcerting to start with especially if they didn't respond to a friendly "namaste" and just continued to stare but we soon got used to it. It was just genuine curiously as we saw groups gather around anything interesting. I think Steve got the worst of it whenever he was doing anything mechanical, he would emerge from the truck's underneath to find a group around him. We were lucky enough to visit some of India's best religious and historic places. I think my favourites were the caves at Ellora and Ajanta, amazing feats of faith and engineering from a time with little technology, and the forts of Rajasthan that rose from the surrounding desert and glowed orange in the setting sun. It is a country of huge diversity in our last week in the country in Delhi we saw modern, urban India with IT companies, women in good jobs and global connectivity. To huge areas of rural areas where small holding framers worked in their fields with their oxen and the women almost invisible in towns but constantly seen toiling in the fields. Homes are often without any toilets, so we frequently saw people defecating in the fields. However, even in the poorest rural areas we always saw the majority of kids very smart in their uniforms going off early to school. I think the times the variety surprised us the most was when they were side by side, juxtaposed next to each other - the large family living, cooking, sleeping under a makeshift shelter and begging on the traffic island on a multilane highway going to modern office blocks. Steve India - what can you say? It's crazy, chaotic and can drive you mad. But it's also beautiful with ancient cultures and wonderful (when they are not driving) people. India assaults your senses in every way and at every turn. The colours, the smells and the sights both beautiful and unbelievable. There is no escaping it and you just have to plunge right in and hope you come out the other side. We only realised after we left just how exhausted we were from our 10 weeks in India. In that time though we saw some amazing things from the cultural icons to amazing wildlife. From the floodplains, to the jungles, deserts and the mountains. From rural villages to cities of 20 million people. Who can not be impressed by the jaw dropping beauty of the Taj Mahal or the exquisite Golden Temple. The forts and history of proud Rajahstan were also a highlight. And seeing a tiger close up in the wild, well it doesn't get much better than that. India has it all and we didn't even get to explore the South of the country. The food was fantastic, we already loved Indian food before we arrived but experiencing it in India brought a whole new range of flavours to our palate. And the people, they are everywhere, but most of them are helpful, genuine and interested in what we were doing. Yes there are the touts and rip off merchants but you soon learn to see through them and even those interactions can be amusing. There is one thing I won't miss though and that's the traumatic driving. 7010kms of pure hell. Well maybe not all of it but it was certainly the most challenging driving we have done so far. Whilst the roads varied in quality it was the other drivers that were the biggest challenge most with no regard to their own safety. It certainly brought a new meaning to a Hazard Perception test. It was great to spend our last week with friends showing us their country. It meant we left on a real high with batteries recharged for the journey ahead. India is certainly incredible - in many different ways. It brings out all the emotions in you even ones you didn't know you had!

2 thoughts on “Reflections on India

  1. Dear all, thank you for your wonderful stories! Each and every of them is unique and reflects individual take out. As I said earlier, I am not an admirer of India, but I have not seen one hundredth of what you have seen and experienced. Even that little that I have seen was brought back to life by your wonderful stories.
    Safe further journey!

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