a love hate relationship

India is one of the most fascinating countries I have ever set foot in. At times the whole nation feels like an entirely different world. It can be as infuriating as it can perplexing. I wrote the start of this entry in the grotty departure lounge in Chennai airport while surrounded by a bunch of half naked men getting changed into an entirely different outfit for their flight whilst trying not to look at the rather sickly sight of spilt curry all over the floor. It’s looked like it has been there all night, why bother cleaning anything up in an international airport?

Anyway, here’s some reasons why I love and hate this quite ridiculous country in equal proportions.

People watching. The new sights that you witness every time you step out of the door. Just watching the locals go about a daily chore is fascinating. Every journey through an Indian city throws at you the most crazy scenes imaginable. The colours, the people, the general chaos – I’ve lost count the amount of times I have shaken my head in disbelief during an average tuk tuk ride at the latest ‘is that really happening’ moment.

Cricket. The country is cricket mad which makes it a great place for me to visit. A simply mention of the words ‘Sachin’ or ‘Dhoni’ and you are instantaneously greeted with handshakes, head wobbles and excitable laughter. The easiest form of communication and the perfect topic to defuse any situation.

Friendly locals. Posing for pictures and signing autographs in Nagpur was hilarious. Walking down the streets and having people shout out hello and welcome for no other reason than you are a western visitor in their country is endearing. If you can keep your defensive guard (which is often on high alert in India) down to a minimum, then the majority of Indians are as friendly as anywhere else in the world. My personal highlight is whenever I receive a head wobble in return for a wave or a smile dished out. It seems the Chennai head wobble is spreading across India.

Diversity. Not just city to city, but state to state – India changes in attitude, appearance and likeability. You couldn’t get two more different places than the crazy, smelly, busy and dirty streets of Calcutta to the picturesque, tropical, peaceful countryside witnessed between Bangalore and Chennai. I’ve been to India three times and not even scratched the surface of the place.

Poverty. OK, it doesn’t have the same ‘shock’ effect that it used to have, but seeing people existing on the streets with no possessions, money or even shelter still sucks massively. To me it is a harsher poverty than other places in Asia that I have seen. Put simply, there are just far too many people to all live to a decent standard of life.

Bureaucracy. The issues with getting a visa (they don’t issue them to foreigners in Malaysia for some reason) plus having to pay extra for a double entry that I have ended up not using. Its just taken me nearly two hours to fill in more forms in regards to departing the country, check in for my flight, queue up through immigration, have about twelve people check my boarding pass and passport before finally clearing security. It really should not take that long. I wasn’t the only one – ex-England spinner Ashley Giles and ECB head honcho Hugh Morris had to do the same!

Hygiene. Things are getting slightly better; there’s even hand sanitizer in Mumbai airport now. The problem with food still exists as eating any form of meat or western food is like playing Russian Roulette with food poisoning. Luckily for me the vegetarian diet of curries, naans, chips and samosas ensured that all happenings ‘downstairs’ stayed reasonably solid. Not being able to eat meat safely for me is hard work – so much so that on arrival in Dubai airport I wolfed down a Burger King. Lovely.

Rip Off Merchants. OK, you get these all over the world as a tourist. But for some reason the ones in India are worse. Tuk tuk and taxi drivers are more often than not out to fleece you for as many rupees as humanly possible. I have a strong dislike for the ones that quote you several times more the price than what they would eventually agree with you. Please don’t treat me as any ATM just because I am white. As I’ve wrote about, I tip drivers heavily who don’t take the piss with their original offers, thanking them for treating me as if I am anyone else.


2 Responses to “a love hate relationship”

  1. 1 donna
    March 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Happy Birthday !

  2. 2 Gaurav
    March 8, 2011 at 11:39 am

    If it makes you feel any better, those tuk-tuk drivers (known as autorickshaw drivers in India), will try to rip off anyone they can, especially if they think the destination is unknown to the visitor regardless of them being white, black or brown.

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