Monthly Archives: August 2012

India, I will be back!


I only have a few days left in India and I honestly do not want to go back home. Things were rough at some point, but every day had at least one moment when I would be like,

Wow, only in India!

Here is a random list of things I will not forget about in a hurry:

1. Indians and their theories: It’s not that I have been discriminated against. It’s just that these guys have the guts to say things that the rest of the world considers politically incorrect.

For example, there is this belief that the ‘real’ Indians come from the South. And the guys in the North are not real Indians because they are descendants of Alexander. From what I know, he did pass through India. But the superiority that the Northerners derive from this knowledge is what irks me just a little bit.

Then there is the obsession with skin color. The shops are packed with skin lightening creams, for both men and women. In fact, the ads and the labeling are pretty straightforward. It’s called whitening cream.

2. Indians and Hitler: Closely related to the above. You can buy a copy of Mein Kampf in waaay too many places. And a few too many street vendors stock tattered copies. And talk for just a bit too long about how he was a great leader.

3. Nightlife: I finally discovered Chandigarh’s nightlife. A well kept secret. Also, a gigantic sausage fest. They tried everything – free drinks for girls on Wednesdays. Couples only entry even into pubs. But good Punjabi girls have to be home before 10.00pm (even if they don’t live with their parents) so yeah, cheap Vodka cocktails and drunk, awkward Indian boys on the dance floor.

4. English is a fluid concept: I assumed that Indians are pretty good at English, based on their 200 years under British rule. I was wrong. So, in India you can have scrumbled eggs for breakfast, veg macheronni for lunch and you get warnings like these:

there are worse things that can happen to you than dying. [picture of broken arm]…Drive carefully!

I think that word play was totally lost on me.

5. The staring: This one deserves a post all on its own. Before I came to India, I asked one Miss Bree how she was finding life here. She said,

‘Everything is fine, except for all the stupid staring.’

I thought, yeah, whatever, how bad can it be? Well it seems that not being the right shade of brown in this country draws a lot of attention. I’ve had parents prod their children so that they can see the human anomaly walking in their midst. I’ve had groups of friends nudging each other and laughing at my freakish appearance. And families coming up to touch my strange hair and marvel at my bizarre countenance.

I’ve had so many pictures taken of me, with or without my permission, and been manipulated into impromptu photoshoots with every single member of the family. [I just hope none of them turn up on a weird Indo-African website somewhere on the internet..]

And no, this was not in a remote village without television and contact with the outside world.

I had many doubts about coming here and spending a precious (and now too short) four months of my life, working for some unknown start-up, instead of supposedly establishing myself in the grown up world.

So, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ in India? I don’t think so.

Still,  I’m glad I came. Yes, I learnt some yoga. And yes, I worked for an IT company. No, I did not get Delhi belly, and no, I did not find any spiritual enlightenment. And I might even have a little bit of an American accent by now. (Don’t ask why)

All I can say is that I loved every moment of my stay: short enough to be sweet but not long enough to become exhausting.

I will be back!!

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Real India? No thanks, could I have mine airbrushed and airconditioned please?


The search for ‘Real India’ usually comes up when tourists and visitors see something that does not match their Googled images of India. Like tall buildings. And large stretches of smooth road with no traffic.

At this point, person A usually says something like,

‘This is not the image of India I expected. Let’s get away from the commercial areas, I want to see the real thing.’

Which, of course, is claustrophobic streets reeking of urine, dirty kids begging for money, cows  weaving in and out of traffic and lively market scenes that will later be Photoshopped into artistic black and white pictures that supposedly capture the beauty of Incredible India.

And then everyone goes home happy that they experienced the Real India, not like those fake ass tourists who lounge about in air conditioned coffee shops to complain about not being able to wear tiny shorts in public.

hey! let's travel  like the natives do!
hey! let’s travel like the natives do!

 

But even getting followed by drunk men in small towns, sampling whatever the locals eat at roadside restaurants with questionable hygiene and traveling in rickety, old buses is still not real India. That’s called budget traveling.

‘Real’ anything happens to you when you have to take on the systems of the country: It could be going to a hospital in the middle of nowhere, or having to file a report at the police station. (None of which have happened to me yet, touch wood)

Or it could be being given two days notice to find another place to live due to ‘cultural differences’ with your housemates. It could be having to negotiate with people so that you can keep your job after getting into a massive amount of shit.

Real India is when you start to realize that cultural differences are not ha ha, these people all use bidetsbut are more like,

Oh shit, I’m in trouble because I broke rules I never knew existed and how do I get these people to understand my perspective?

Let’s take the house example. Before, the other trainees had a list of somewhat reasonable complaints:

  • the washing machine looks funny
  • it’s too hot in here
  • the shower does not have enough water pressure
  • I can’t stream movies here because the internet is too slow
  • these guys are always scratching their balls when talking to us.

First world problems (source: http://imgace.com/pic/tag/rfirstworldproblems/)

And now, new housing options:

  • Creepy old female landladies hiding knives in the folds of their skirts
  • paying to live in a building with 20 other people and only sharing one toilet
  • opting to stay in a girls’ only prison ‘Paying Guesthouse’ with a 10.00pm curfew
  • Not being allowed to bring ‘non-veg’ food into the premises

Nothing like being downgraded to bring a little perspective into your life.

Chandigarh’s most famous trainee was a guy named Edward. On his birthday, he convinced a bunch of other trainees to go sleep at the train station, in order to experience ‘real India’.

A friend of AIESEC gave the cops a small bribe to keep an eye on these idiotic daring and adventurous youths. And so they got to experience ‘Real India’ in all its mosquito infested glory. And a feeling of accomplishment because they survived a night at a train station.

Congratulations! thanks for showing us how pointlessly hardcore you can be. (source; http://travelawait.blogspot.in/) )

Congratulations! You just showed us how pointlessly hardcore you can be. (source: http://travelawait.blogspot.in/)

My point? I rarely ever travel  with the explicit goal to make friends with the locals and experience ‘real‘ life in that country. I don’t want to because its difficult. And frustrating. And I would just rather have a good time and let things happen,  than going around smiling at the natives like an idiot, trying to show how well I can fit in.

And in any case, ‘Real country x’ will come around and smack you when you least expect it.