India Part 1

India Itinererary

As you can see this was a pretty hectic itinerary and I’m well aware that we only skimmed over the top of the country. Some of the journeys between cities took far longer than anticipated. The short flight from Delhi to Udaipur took all day rather than a morning because of flight delays and a ‘seven’ hour road journey took 13 hours to complete – mainly because the road was still under construction. But then most of the major highways seemed to be ‘under construction’ with high flyovers that stood in isolated splendour but didn’t come from or go anywhere.

Traffic was heavy on these highways – and then there were the cows.  Certainly I expected cows in the cities (and there were plenty around along with stray dogs and pigs that looked like small boars) but I didn’t expect to see single cows or herds on the main highways.  With docile arrogance, seemingly aware of their privileged position, they wander across the road, and onto the central reservation and everyone slows down to give them space.

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Where do they all come from? Seemingly when they no longer provide milk cows are simply let loose to be fed on charity – and they were – we saw many examples of people feeding them. We also passed a number of huge cow ‘refuges’.

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Cow Refuge – taken from the coach

 

But back to the beginning. This was a supervised tour with just ten of us. The tour guide was with us all the way with local guides at the various stopping points. And they were all excellent.

We, that is my daughter and I arrived early in the morning, and spent the day wandering around the area near the hotel in New Delhi. New being that it is the area that was developed outside of the old city by the British and now houses Consulates from around the world. It also has hundreds of trees – all numbered.

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Why? Delhi is well aware of its pollution problem – the last day we were there the pollution level was the equivalent of smoking 30 cigarettes a day – all around the city are huge advertisements proclaiming how the city was trying to improve the air. These trees are part of that effort: if anyone notices that they are in poor condition they are required to notify whichever department is responsible for looking after them.

What struck me as we drove through India was just how much of the land was populated and how tiny many plots of land were compared to the miles upon miles of huge fields in Europe and here. They are family plots, which are subdivided between all the sons. 

On our last evening we were all asked what were our outstanding impressions of India. Mine had nothing to do with the magnificent palaces, mosques, and temples we saw – splendid as they were.

It was the colour, the vitality and the people. It was wonderful to see women of all ages dressed in vivid colours. 

It is a nation of workers: yes, there were beggars but very, very few – mostly we were hassled to buy trinkets at ridiculously low prices – but not often very badly. 

Everywhere, but everywhere people smiled and waved: people in buses smiled and waved and got their babies to wave; people asked us to share their selfies; young boys stopped their games of cricket to smile and wave; women in the fields waved; young and old alike surrounded by a handful of vegetables for sale in markets or by the side of the streets looked up and smiled although it was clear we were only sight-seeing or indeed sitting on a coach. We were invited to see the newborn baby goats in one village we walked through. And no matter how crowded it was I always felt that my personal space was not intruded upon.

I will be able to cross the road anywhere in the world from hereon and will never, ever complain about traffic jams again. It might seem that there are no road rules – but there are. If your vehicle can get its nose into a space – you just press the horn and go for it and move as fast as you can. And I never saw one instance of anyone getting annoyed. 

I’m not going to go into long discussions of all the places we went. But I would like to share some of my photos – and comments in Part 2.

8 thoughts on “India Part 1”

  1. Thanks for this Boadicea.
    It always strikes me how difficult the UK find it to share the space they have. Anger is the first reaction towards bikes in pedestrian areas, pedestrians on roads etc. Most countries just share and get on with it. Or at least that was my experience from Germany, France, Spain, Malaysia or Thailand.
    It sounds as though India also have a way of sharing the space, without getting into a road rage.
    I look forward to the next installment.

  2. Gazoopi: It’s very scary sitting in a tuk-tuk with motorcycles or scooters whizzing past with only a couple of inches to spare. The roads aren’t exactly flat and there is the constant fear that one might get thrown out. – because when a space opens it’s full steam ahead.

  3. Boadicea: The rule, of course, is to try to cross in groups as much as possible and make eye contact with drivers when necessary. It’s a rule that holds true in most of Asia. Thank you for writing this. I have been looking forward to it.
    I have a couple questions for you. Were you often hassled? Were you often scammed? That is what has put me off going. I don’t take kindly to that. Also, was independent travel difficult?

  4. Hi Christopher – I know that worked for me in Beijing – however, India is a little different.

    In China I found, generally, that the Chinese were sufficiently ‘well trained’ to use traffic lights, etc to gather together to cross roads. No problem.

    However in Delhi and other cities we never found any such place. Traffic lights and other such designated crossing places were far and few between and it rapidly became clear that we were on our own. It really was a case of waiting until the traffic had stopped or slowed down to a walking place, marching confidently into the road (eye contact certainly helped) sticking out a hand, palm out towards the traffic, and hoping to be treated just like any other road user – we’d got our nose in a space and would be allowed to continue. Generally it worked, although occasionally a vehicle would whizz behind far too close for comfort!

    Scamming? You have to remember that I went with an organised group. The places we were were taken to all had to have been vetted by that company – so when I arranged for silk, etc to be sent back to Oz I could be confident that it would be dispatched. Some even arrived home before I did. We were all pretty annoyed at one Mosque site where we paid extra for the right to take photos (I don’t have a problem with that) but once we got inside were told we couldn’t actually go in the Mosque – but that was the only incident that bugged me. On the last day, which my daughter and I organised separately, we went around the Delhi markets more or less on our own. I had no sense of being taken for a ride. Hard bargaining yes – and maybe I’m a bit of a pushover – because what I eventually paid was so utterly ridiculously cheap compared to Oz that I just said yes. Both my daughter and I have said we would go back independently.

    Hassling is another matter.

    As far as I can see begging is really frowned upon. One of our group was constantly digging in her purse to give both men and women with small children money – until she was told that children are kidnapped or bought by gangs to tweak money out of tourists.

    I saw far fewer beggars on the streets of India than I have encountered on the streets of London. Which I found quite significant considering that Western societies have welfare programs whereas India’s provision for the poor is in an infant stage and very, very limited.

    As I said earlier there is a lot of hassling. It certainly was not as bad as I experienced in Egypt some while back: no one actually grabbed me and tried to drag me into their shop. It was no worse than I encountered in Paris with ‘hustlers’ trying to get me into their restaurants.

    However, at most tourist attractions there were many people trying to sell trinkets. I, personally, do not have a major problem with that. These people are trying to survive. That’s not to say I bought very much – but I understand where they are coming from. In general a few, firm ‘Nos’ (in a variety of languages and you can do better than I can!) is enough to stop them. However, I have to admit some were very persistent and it took the combined efforts of my daughter and me to drive them off.

    As to travelling independently, I can’t really advise you properly because I didn’t do it that way. But, both my daughter and I would go back independently again.

  5. It is really good to hear that you enjoyed it and would go back. I think that is a common reaction for about 75% of the people that I come across who have been there. The remaining 25% seem to hate it. I think I would love it, though I am not a fan of their food. I have never understood the British passion for Indian curries. Thai, Chinese (bats excluded) and Japanese food is delicious. Not so Indian, as far as I am concerned.

  6. Sipu: I think you would love it.

    It is seemingly chaotic – but I felt there was a certain order behind all the chaos. Maybe it’s down to Hinduism – I can’t say.

    As to the British passion for Indian food – you must remember that the British were in India for a very long time, and, initially, were not as racially prejudiced as they later became. My theory (and this is very tongue-in-cheek) is that, compared to most of the rest of Europe, the British people did not have to stretch out their meat with sauces and vegetables.* Consequently (in my opinion) a traditional British meal of ‘meat and veg’ was pretty darn boring so when Indian and Chinese restaurants opened they made a huge impact – but Indian cuisine became more popular because it was already established.

    Mulligatawny soup was a great favourite in the UK in my childhood. It is derived from an Indian recipe. I found it quite amusing that our guide had never heard of it.

    I rather suspect that the food we were given in India was ‘modified’ so that it wasn’t too spicy. And I have to be honest that, as much as I love Indian food (UK style), I got a bit bored with the same rather bland offerings. The best meal I had was in ‘cafe’ in a market where we taken after the tour ended. It had all the ‘bite’ that I enjoy.

    It’s my opinion that vendors of ‘foreign’ foods modify their recipes to suit their host country. Chinese food in China was so different from Chinese food in the UK and different again from the Chinese food we get here in Oz. And it was certainly the same with Indian food.

    * In the late 1400s a Venetian visitor to England wrote that the English Peasantry were ungovernable because of the quantities of meat they ate.

  7. Boadicea: You mentioned bargaining. I am also terrible at it. In many poorer countries there is just that — a hard bargain. Locals pay a much lower rate. More often than not, that lower rate is all they can afford. The seller knows full well that the buyer can well afford even the inflated tourist prices. It would be much cheaper than it was at home and, is thus, still a relative bargain. To be fair, as you said, they’re trying to survive and what for us is still a very reasonable price might well be enough to pay for schooling for their children and help for elderly relatives. At a lot of famous sites, the higher entrance fee for foreigners is what helps to maintain buildings. The equivalent of A$22 to visit one of the grandest structures in the world is not unreasonable by international standards. Visiting St Paul’s in London, Westminster Abbey, Versailles, etc. would all cost considerable more. At least in China, when unable to purchase things at fixed-price shops, I simply delegated that task to a Chinese friend.

    The worst things to happen to me in Paris were getting surrounded by Senegalese con artists and harangued by a prostitute who wouldn’t accept my refusal gracefully. They all gave up because I can be bloody impossible when I wish to be. It was one of the things that turned me off Europe. Some people are only trying to survive and learnt to be inventive. Others are just insufferable and greedy.

    I am looking forward to seeing part 2!

  8. Christopher: the art of bargaining is not to want something too much and thus be able to walk away. I did that in a couple of shops in India and the price was dramatically reduced by the time I’d moved a short distance away. In the markets – that wasn’t really necessary because their prices were already pretty low anyway.

    It’s sad when one has to be ‘bloody impossible’ – I found a few good Anglo-Saxon words in Florence worked pretty well – but apart from one or two instances in India I did find saying ‘no’ in my very best school ma’am voice a couple of times worked pretty well.

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