Final Thoughts and Observations of India
Rules are everywhere in India. Signs posted everywhere telling you what not to do. Not that anyone pays any attention to them. In no particular order this is a mostly light-hearted list of some of my own rules for India and some of the things I’ve learned and noticed over two months I spent there.
1. Anything is possible in India! This is definitely not true, but in the north I heard it repeated often. It’s fun to say.
2. There are onehundredgajilliontrillion people here! Pretty sure that official population.
3. Hipsters have nothing on the beards and mustaches of northern India.
4. Crossing the street: Road rules exist, but mean nothing and neither do you. So, if you are too scared or simply unable to cross the street, find a cow. They are everywhere and they are sacred making them the only thing that traffic stops for. Or find a local, latch on, and run!
5. Knowing when someone is saying yes: The head bobble thing is confusing for a very long time and difficult to get used to. It looks like a contemplative but definite I don’t know, but it means a confident yes. I just can’t un-train my brain to wrap around this, but I love it. It makes me smile.
6. Gender separation is a thing. It never feels normal to me but separate queues and separate seating sections on a buses and train cars are common. Honestly, I sometimes find it nice. Not to be confused with gender inequality which is very much a problem.
7. Feeling a little congested? No problem! Hocking a massive, loudly executed, uninhibited loogie in public, in a crowd is perfectly fine to do. Don’t hold back, really go for it, get it all out. Look, I get that there’s a lot of pollution but for serious, It’s gross. And if you’re a dude and you need to relieve yourself, piss anywhere. Really, anywhere at all! This is also gross … and smelly. Yes, I know public toilets are few and far between but, just, I can’t.
8. Pushing, cutting, and smashing are methods most frequently used to form a queue. India seems to prefer the bottleneck method to single file. If you leave any space, be assured someone will slip in and fill it. So elbows up and get in there kids!
9. Sometimes the word hotel is used for actual hotels, but sometimes they’re only restaurants, sometimes they’re both.
10. Every place has electricity, wifi, and hot water. Just don’t be surprised when one or all of these aren’t working.
11. There are goats everywhere. I love them all. Everyone in India has a goat and I want one too!
12. Transportation: Take the trains! India is incredibly well connected by train, bus, and tuk-tuks. You can get to and from anywhere very easily and super cheap. I’ve spent between 175 and 475 rupee ($2.50-$7.20) on train rides. My train journeys have been between 4 and 17 hours long. Sleeper cars make it easier to endure long rides. It’s also a great way to gain unique perspective on the country as a whole. You can see untouched beautiful country side to small villages, industrialized mining sites to wealthy neighborhoods. The best part of train travel is you often you get the chance to chat with very lovely locals.
13. Get your cameras ready, cause everyone wants their picture taken. They want to pose alone, with a friend, and with you. They take a quick look at the photo and that’s that. At first I found it strange, now I love that I have pictures of happy, smiling faces to look back on.
14. Chai for life. It’s more easily accessible than drinking water.
15. India time. Things happen when they happen. Hurry up and wait should be the country motto. May I suggest a chai in the meantime?
And on a more serious note…
There is a lot to love about India but one very unfortunate truth that I can’t get past is the trash. Like many parts of the world, plastic and lack of infrastructure are a serious issue here.
The trash in India is part of the landscape. The sheer size of the population make this subject a very daunting undertaking. Free roaming animals pollute their bodies by eating from the mounds of litter in the streets. People often burn the trash as a way to get rid of it, but that is just an additional environmentally damaging alternative. I’ve had many conversations with locals and travelers alike on the subject and it’s always a complicated topic boiling down to education, personal responsibility, and the greed of corporate giants. There seems to be no real infrastructure for dealing with it, but I’ve learned the system is there, just not used and not enforced.
On a few occasions I’ve found myself clutching a sweaty palm full of plastic wrapping or an empty bottle, usually on a bus or train, for however long it takes to find a trash bin but I’ve had the trash removed from my hands by a local and thrown out the window. When this happens I grin through gritted teeth. I can see they think they are helping me, that they are doing something nice. I cringe knowing I can’t explain to them why it’s not ok. Out of sight is not out of mind. It’s not pretty but it’s impossible to ignore, and important to bring attention to.
India has incredible depth to it. Two months is hardly enough time to scratch the surface of understanding the culture and the country. Each state is vastly different than the next in food, culture, and geography. Rich tradition and modern living try to blend here. There are quick changes happening amongst unwavering customs. It takes time and effort to learn and experience the heart of a place like India. There is a magic here unlike any other place I’ve ever seen. As I prepare to leave and on take on my next adventure in another place, I look back on my time fondly, even the hard times. I hope to return one day to explore the parts I missed and reunite with friends I’ve made. Thanks India, until next time…