To kind of go along with the last post, India comes with its own cultural differences. After the 20th time of me going “Did you see that?” Rahul told me he enjoyed my outsider perspective to a country he has been living in for two years. Things Rahul had become accustomed to stood out to me, such as the seeming absence of car seats, women wearing colorful saris sweeping the medians on busy streets, shops tucked away in the Old City packed full of tires of varying sizes; the list goes on and on. As I said in the last post, I feel that India is a country transformed into a novelty all too often; the truth is, however, that India is a country just like any other, with its own customs, oddities, and gems. That being said, I compiled a list of a few things that stuck out to me:
- The traffic—cars and scooters interweave in a scary fashion. When someone wants to cross an intersection that is not marked by a light, that car or scooter inserts itself in the traffic until vehicles stop long enough for the others to join them.
- There are people everywhere! Almost anywhere we went, minus Ladakh, there are people cluttered on the sides of the road, crossing the street, calling for autos. To add to that, there’s a surprising amount of children.
- The head nod, a leftover from the British rule when citizens would use the head bobble as a way to respond to a question without providing a clear yes or no. The head bobble still confused me at the end of my trip—I had a hard time deciphering when it was being used to actually signal yes.
- To go along with number 3, I learned this one from Rahul—that most people prefer a clear answer instead of a “I don’t care” type of attitude, which I use often. I option for this kind of answer to questions like “Where do you want to eat tonight” because I usually really don’t care—I’ll be fine with anything. But, instead, I had to learn to say exactly what I want.
- You’re going to sweat. It’s a hot country. On days it rains, the streets flood because of poor drainage. And when it’s sunny, many people wear long elbow length gloves to protect their skin from the sun. Where America contains a high population of people who yearn for the sun’s rays, India contains just the opposite.
- Your business is a hot commodity. When I say that, I mean a Tour Guide is not going to leave you be until you say yes to his services or come up with a better excuse. Auto drivers desperately want your business. We had an auto driver in Delhi who drove us all afternoon to three or four places because he wanted our business. In Agra, we were followed by a cab driver, even while we were clearly aimlessly walking in circles, because he wanted us to use his taxi service.
- Hecklers will find you. At any major attraction, there are hoards of people trying to sell gifts. There’s a big difference between people trying to sell you goods and those begging for money—many children begging would tug at my pants leg until we responded or walked away. At the bus stop in Jaipur, a woman told two younger children to knock off while all three were asking us for money. In Agra, two young girls got into a fight over the amount of money given to each of them by us. By far the grossest offer we had was a man who wanted to clean one ear for us.
- One thing that stuck out to me the most was the amount of people with jobs in India. Jobs that would quickly be eliminated in America due to the economy are thriving in India. Rahul said this was to create jobs for the Indian people, and it seems to be working. At the airport, I had to show around four people my ticket stub before loading the plan. When Rahul bough a hard drive, five people helped us get it off the shelf. When we went to the Taj Museum in Agra, one man took our money for tickets and another tore the ticket—even though the two men were sitting directly across from each other.
- The presence of religion. Almost everyone seems to be attached to a clear faith and very prevalent of their beliefs. Our driver in Leh when we visited Hemis, Thikse, and Shey Monestaries would bow in front of the Buddha when walking around with us. The religious images many drivers had placed on the inside of their auto, or Prayer Wheels drivers in Ladakh had on their dash, could be compared to religious stickers on cars in America.
- Indian boys travel in packs—and they want pictures with white girls! I was asked several times to take pictures by Indian men, but luckily Rahul deflected each request. The girls we did see that got sucked into their pictures had to sit through 5 or 6 different guys taking his own picture with the girl(s). But, I do have to say that the asking was way better than those who would just take your picture, no question.
- The country seems to move at a slower pace, which I had to get used to. I am kind of a control freak at certain times experience impatience when something is not moving as fast as I want. So, coming from a country where everything is if not fast-paced, expected to be fast-paced, it was a good chance to slow myself down and realize that I can’t always be in control, or that I need to be okay at moving at a pace slower than normal.
- Animals everywhere! The cow is a sacred animal in India, so cows are pretty much allowed to roam free. As Rahul said to a few other tourists we met in Ladakh, “if there’s a cow chilling in the middle of the road, there’s a cow chilling in the middle of the road.” There’s also a high presence of dogs, pigs (considered unclean), donkeys and, in some places, peacocks. In Nubra Valley, marmots outnumber the human population by 1,000 to 1! We also saw wild horses on the way to Pangong Lake, in addition to the elephants and camels we saw several places. But, of all the listed animals, the elephant and camel were probably put to use the most, for entertainment purposes.
I could add several other things to this list, but I’ll stop here for now. I was fascinated by everything I saw in India. Even if it was something that could be construed as a negative, I enjoyed it—because it was something different than my norm.