Category Archives: Chandigarh

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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India: First Impressions


”You are just going so that you can avoid responsibility. If you want to go to a third world country, why not move back to Kenya?”

I had plenty of time to reflect on these sentiments during my long, long journey  to Chandigarh. And ask myself, why, as my friends were applying for jobs, I was hustling another traineeship. In India.

My well had been poisoned.

Once I got to New Delhi, India hit me so hard I had no more time for self doubt and emo angst. I was soon relieved of a good part of my stupid tourist money, and instantly began to pay more attention to my surroundings and less to  my existential questions.

It’s been four days or so and I think I can make my first list of wildly judgemental and probably inaccurate observations about this  my new home:

1. Traffic rules are for tools: Everyone knows that driving in this country is sheer madness. What they don’t tell you is that road anarchy is a way of life. A philosophy, even. Motorists frequently drive into oncoming traffic to avoid making detours, pedestrians casually saunter across the road wherever they feel like, and everyone hoots ALL the time. Throw in the occasional horse drawn carriage, chilled out water buffalo/cow, bikes and scooters with nonchalant women perched on the side all sharing the same space, and well, it can be a little overwhelming. Fortunately for me, my city is quite well planned, so I’ve never actually been caught in a traffic jam.

my city on a good day (meetravels.blogspot.com)

2. Cigarettes are Satan’s breath: I have never been to place where it is so socially unacceptable to light up. At most, I have seen ten people smoking. I think this is specific to my city, but there are threatening signs in both open air space and closed ones, curtly informing you that ”it is an offence to smoke here”. Come on, what happened to the neutral ”no smoking” sign? Even our little dusty neighbourhood market is thoroughly offended by these uncouth beings poisoning everyone else around them with their demonic sulphur and tar (or whatever).

3. East meets west…on our terms: In my hood, there is a Subway sandwich shop. Squeezed in between Happy Singh’s general supermarket and a burnt out parking lot. And all over the city, you can see McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, KFC, United Colours of Benneton, Ralph Lauren, Polo and other over priced, pretentious clothing brands. You just have to find them, partially hidden by signs advertising ‘Spoken English lessons here ‘ , ‘Royal Real Estate Services’ and giant posters advertising skin lightening creams that will take all your problems away and help you find that perfect man.

4. The heat: I arrived in India during Summer. And my colleagues delight in telling me that I ain’t seen nothing yet, and that it will get hotter soon. Before it starts raining. And then they ask me, ”but it’s also hot in Kenya, right’?’

Well now, the glue in my wallet does not melt after four hours in a train in Kenya. My face does no glow in the dark from all the accumulated heat every evening in Kenya. I don’t feel the heat from the tarmac burning me while I’m on a bike in Kenya. I don’t sleep without sheets or a blanket at night in Kenya.

So no, it’s not the same weather in Kenya.

5. What are these chest appendages that you display?: I made the mistake of wearing a vest to the supermarket. There was a man standing behind me, looking all holy and guru-ish in his turban. We queued for about ten minutes, and in that time he must have caught up with ten years worth of ogling, as well as probably committing everything to memory to serve him for his remaining days, I don’t know. I was uncomfortable, but at the same time, did not want to make it worse by self consciously fiddling around with my clothes. So, yeah, kind of awkward.

So far so good, right? Well, I have to register myself at the government office in the next couple of days. And officially meet my boss  who is currently away on a very busy and important trip.