Travel in India: The Inconvenient Truth
Travel is awesome. It’s an experience, it’s an education. BUT!… it’s not always fun & games… particularly in India! There is no arguing that the subcontinent offers some of the world’s greatest sights & experiences, but India also throws up some difficult challenges that might have you questioning if it’s all worth it?! Culture shock may need to take on a new name in India because it is another world! But if you’re prepared for it then you can at least expect some of the stark contrasts you’re likely to come across. Here are some harsh realities…
INTENSE – People often ask, “So what was India like?”, obviously looking for a short answer that will provide them with an accurate overview. After much deliberation I’ve whittled my response down to one word… “Intense”. Everything in India is intense. So be prepared! It is NOT a relaxing holiday… at all! It is extreme & emotional, swinging from euphoria to despondency in minutes & rarely anywhere in between.
MAN’S WORLD – It is distinctly possible that when James Brown wrote his infamous hit ‘Man’s World’ he was in India. Men are dominant to an unbelievable degree. Spotting women out & about in the street is pretty rare, especially outside the few metropolitan giants… which actually led to a spot-the-lady game for us in some areas! Male dominance is deeply rooted in Indian culture & unfortunately it does lead to unbearable staring &, on occassions, inappropriate touching for female travelers. Their view of western women is particularly derogatory due to the freedoms women enjoy in the so-called ‘western countries’. These warped views & an inability to gawk at Indian girls led to some ridiculous treatment & left us wanting to fight everyone on occasions.
TRANSPORT – Indian transportation on a budget can be rough. If your budget is stretchable then flying may well be a good idea for longer distance trips. Obviously comfort & cleanliness on buses & trains is not to be expected. The big shock may be the time aspect of travel in India. Trains are pretty slow & the sub-continent is bloody massive! If you’re looking at a map thinking, ‘yeah, we can just get a train there. Should take a few hours. No big deal.’… it may be worth remembering how gigantic India is. Our longest bus journey was 10 hours. Longest train journey… 36 HOURS!!
Awesome to hang out of... Not so fun to hang out in for two days!
WHERE’S THE MEAT & BEER?! – If you like your daily dosage of meat & beer, Northern India may not be for you!…particularly outside the tourist hotspots. The South is very different & has a lot more to offer in this area of essentials. If you do find either of these indulgences up North be prepared to pay a high price for the luxury as they’re usually served up in tourist saturated areas. Meat is somewhat difficult throughout India. Fish is rampant in the South & chicken is fairly common but quite expensive everywhere. With Hinduism & Islam’s dominance in a VERY religious country pork & beef are much harder to come by & more expensive again if found. As far as the booze goes, the tax is much higher in the North & there are fewer local boozers so supplies are quite scarce & prices are high. If you’re travelling through the South & North I would wait til you hit the beaches for booze,… or detox after them in the North!
Meat, meat everywhere, but not a bite to eat
YOU WANT TO BUY SOMETHING SIR? – … Take a look?… I make special price for you?! Obviously people try to sell you random stuff wherever you are. But in India it is WAY more intense (there’s that word again!) than anywhere else I’ve been. It is constant & forceful & it will almost certainly get on your nervous very quickly. EVERYONE is a businessman in India. EVERYONE is an entrepreneur. It’s fairly difficult to escape, so try to take time outside the really touristy areas to give yourself a break from the pressure-cooker that is Indian salesmen… preferably before you go mad!!
POLLUTION – In India the world is your trash-can & toilet. The stench of pee is a common occurrence & litter is a huge problem across the country… & we’re not talking about a few crisp packets… we’re talking skip-size issues throughout the streets! & the worst part is that trash is fought over by kids & cows… the kids to sell plastic, the cows for a meal. You’ve gota see it to believe it!
Cows doing the job no man wants... a bin-man in India