It takes time to get used to Asian lifestyle and start enjoying it for what it is. In India we finally we started to appreciate it and perhaps that’s why our stay here was much more fulfilling. We ended the stage of impatience, irritation and complains and slowly understood why we are travelling- to see that the world is not just Europe, to understand the people of different nations and cultures and learn from them. We are not travelling for 5-star hotels, posh restaurants, order and perfection that we can see every day in Europe. It’s the lack of any schedule, luxuries and the people smiling to you on the street that make the difference. Even if sometimes it’s hard, only your attitude and smile can make your journey and people’s faces happy or not. People are everything. And the ones in India were absolutely the best.
I’m always careful with paying for anything but in India we didn’t have a single situation when someone was dishonest. Obviously you have to bargain like everywhere but the locals never took lack of our experience for granted. Wherever we went, people always welcomed us with a smile and were ready to help, even if they didn’t know how. Although being asked for a photo can be sometimes annoying, pure curiosity, respect and gratitude of Indians teach you to take example from them. The local people are incredibly united. While in Europe there is a widespread callousness to each other, here people usually know the whole street and chatting for 4 hours with a stranger is completely normal. Paradoxically, the people from poorer areas appear more happy than the rich ones. So as you see, money doesn’t bring happiness and India quickly made us understand it.
No doubt, there were few things that bothered me. Even if you try, you can’t get used to lack of hygiene and omnipresent trash. Dirty streets and polluted rivers break probably all Greenpeace rules but the worst is that some people bath/swim there without any hesitation. Animals, cows especially, can be annoying as well, especially when they poo a lot or stop in the middle of the road causing traffic. Dogs have probably the worst life in this country and I simply couldn’t look at these poor creatures eating trash and dying of diseases. Constant noise plus horrible traffic reminds you how many people inhabit this country. The music is probably the only thing I wouldn’t mind to be influenced by Western world. Traditional, howling, absolutely impossible to listen Indian songs were the worst nightmare for me in the buses, especially at 5am when you enjoy your sleep more than ever. Although you can call India the capital of hippies, it’s not as free as you may think. Government controls lots of things, including availability of vehicles (bikes in Munnar), camera restrictions and …. policies regarding tourist fees or even the TV (kitshy tv shows and TV series, cutting out the movie scenes) that make it the shittest TV I’ve seen in my life. Traditional cast system visible especially in the rural areas is not my favourite either. Unhealthy lifestyle seem to appear all over the country. Although I absolutely adore Indian food it doesn’t mean it’s not bad for health and make Indians simply… fat. It’s difficult to find 40-years old woman who is not obese and a man who doesn’t smoke. And the last thing- the trains. Never on time, always late. Sometimes overcrowded, sometimes not but always slow. At least they’re cheap which compensate all journey’s discomforts.
As I said, all these things become a piece of cake when you get used to them, accept the reality and simply always look on a bright side. There are so many beautiful things about India that you easily forget about your frustration. The first thing are obviously the prices. While in Europe you would spend about 50-70 euros per day, in India you can survive for the whole week with all comforts. The cheapest accommodation starts from Rs 200 (don’t expect too much though), average meal vary from 50 (street food) to 200 rupees. Transportation is really cheap and hitchhiking also works quite well. So if you’re not 1 dollar traveller you can live here like a king. Every state is like a different country and each one is absolutely beautiful. Kerala is probably my favourite due to its greenery and untouched nature. There’s a lot of European influence, especially in the south while the north is more conservative and the northeastern states are the Asian mix. Religion plays a key role in society and it really doesn’t matter if it’s Hinduism, Christianity or Islam. Pride and full devotion to it includes Hindu posters in the restaurants or advertising Jesus on rikshaw windows. Hinduism is the craziest one for me and I still can’t understand what this religion is about. Hindu ceremonies are incredibly beautiful though, colourful and full of joy. As Indians love to celebrate, their weddings are absolute madness. At least 3 times bigger and longer than European, remind of small festivals rather than family gatherings. Although Western influence is visible, culture and tradition are still major source of every day life. Traditional sarees, golden jewellery and people (or animals) wearing tika are the first thing you can see in India. Despite all warnings, we weren’t too strict about food but, luckily, we avoided any stomach problems. The food, although a bit too spicy for me, is delicious. I only regret I didn’t learn how to eat rice with hands like most people do. Maybe one day, when I get rid of my Western inhibitions.
India is definitely not perfect. But it has something that made me fall in love with this country- genuine kindness, honesty, big hearts and positive energy of the people living here. Some say they hate India, they just can’t understand it’s a different world. But I say that if you get rid of your Western conditioning and frustration you will see the beauty of this country which is one of the best places on Earth. The day we left I already started to miss India and I will definitely come back here. Hopefully it won’t be overcrowded by tourists and will stay the same- beautiful, joyful and pure.