‘How was India?’

A lot of people have asked me what I thought of India.

A lone woman walks home in Udaipur

It’s a big question because India is a big place.

It’s huge in every imaginable way – population, religion, history, culture.

There’s so much to learn; I found it completely overwhelming.

Mughal ruins crumble beside open drains choked with rubbish. There’s traffic and noise and colour everywhere. Modernity and history squash together like passengers on a train.

Farmers in the most remote corners of the country have brand new mobile phones. Elderly gents wear elegant suit jackets with traditional Rajasthani turbans and lungis (similar to sarongs).

Everything is done by hand. Life is heavily specialised. One person sells peas. Another sells milk desserts. The system works so long as everyone stays in their 1m x 1m space and doesn’t cause a fuss.

India is a tough place. I had to stay resolutely positive to enjoy it. I kept telling myself, ‘You’re an observer. You’re just here to learn’. Somehow that helped me stay up whenever the pollution, traffic, cold showers and incessant parade of vegetarian curries started to get me down.

The thing I hated most? How dirty the streets were.

The thing I loved the most? How unpretentious everyone was.

My lasting impression? That India is complicated. That it would take a lifetime to even begin to understand it. Hopefully I have taken the first step.

Have you been to India? What did you think?



3 comments on “‘How was India?’

  1. You are so right, but I am totally besotted by the country, its people, its culture and its colour.

    For me, it had an unsettling effect when people here complain about things that seem so inconsequential in comparison. We are however very lucky in that we live in relative comfort, albeit in a state of blandness.

  2. I’ve only been to India once.
    It’s the kind of place where you will bump into travellers visiting for the 4th or 5th time…midway through a 9 or 12 month trip.
    I was amazed at how people accept their lot in life…and the lot of others around them, how nothing is wasted, and how hinduism as a way of life…more than a religion… manages to keep over a billion people in check

  3. You’ve made me want to go back, though my first visit was a kind of cheat’s guide to India: I went on a Taj Hotels media trip through Rajasthan and stayed at the incredible Umaid Bhawan palace (where there’s still a resident maharajah) and assorted other luxury hotels en route. I didn’t take a train, didn’t see the Taj Mahal, didn’t visit a slum. I saw a Bollywood movie on the one evening I had off-the-leash. I vowed to go back one day and do it the way you did it – in the raw. Thanks for the inspiration!

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