As a traveller you rarely settle anywhere for long by definition, there is a constant hunger to explore and feel new emotions. So many places in the world can fulfil this desire, but for how long? Of the countries we’ve visited there is only one that gets our heart racing with excitement and happiness but at the same time causes us so much anger and frustration.
The most wonderful thing about India is its diversity, from the food and music to climate and culture, no two places are the same and each day completely differs to the next with an adventure (good or bad) around every corner. How is it possible to adore a country so much and constantly have such a strong desire to return but at the same time feel such a resentment towards it and some days want to leave?
We get asked this all the time when talking about India, and although it sounds crazy, it’s normal to have a love/hate relationship with this country and here’s why …
The culture – There is no right or wrong way to live and each country adopts its own culture and for us, India is like no other place on Earth. There is no option but to immerse yourself, embracing the good and bad. There are parts that will make you want to lock yourself in your hotel and never leave; the spitting, urination in the streets, littering, pushing, people staring and taking photos of you and finally the queuing, or lack of! There is no such thing as a queue in India, it’s not that people are rude they just don’t understand the concept of it. But get used to it and you’ll expose yourself to what makes India magical. You’ll soon be invited into a random family’s home to share a cup of chai, witness the rainbow of colour everywhere you look, listen to the over-the-top singing and bizarre dancing that can’t help but make you laugh. A complete assault to the senses but in the most extraordinary way.
The religion – There more religions than you could imagine in India; a variety of rituals, beliefs, clothes and even food. The customs are so varied and the people are so devoted, could this be the religious capital of the world? Potentially so. Despite not being religious ourselves we can’t help but be drawn into finding out more about each new faith we come across. We find a mixture of responses when entering the various temples, especially as a mixed race couple. Some couldn’t be been more disapproving while others are so warm and welcoming, greeting us with food and showing us the ropes of how to follow their rituals, giving us a yearning to learn their ways and spend time with them. No one religion is better than another and we find it is the people that define our views when encountering new beliefs.
The food – Food plays a huge part of your life whilst in India, and it certainly isn’t like living off your favourite take-away restaurant. The lamb madras and garlic naan is in short supply but instead you are spoilt with an array of curries that will hit every taste bud in your mouth. No matter where in India you are you’ll never find the same meal twice, even if you go to the same restaurant (trust us we tried!). Although wonderful you can always have too much of something, just try having curry for breakfast for more than a week! If you do travel India make sure to pack a few digestives for some home comforts. Despite how good it looks, smells or even tastes, avoid any back-street restaurants late at night and be cautious with street food, even ordering the veggie dishes could strike you down with the most lethal case of Delhi belly known to man.
The places – India Gate, Munnar tea plantations, Amber Fort, the Ganges, The Golden Temple, Gateway of India and that’s not even mentioning the world wonder. There are so many places to explore and too many to list, you will always be planning your next adventure. However, as always with India there’s a hassle and sometimes the effort it takes makes you wonder if it’s all worth it. Tuc Tuc drivers ripping you off, hours of queuing (Indian style) for tickets, restricted items (including cameras), early starts and the unbearable heat. We hear you asking, is it worth it? Yes, always yes. Most places in India leave us speechless and give you an overwhelming sense of emotion, remember; the harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.
The transport – India accounts for almost 18% of the world’s population so you can imagine how horrendous it is trying to get around in rush hour on public transport. Furthermore, driving in India is also a sure way of dicing with death. Driving at the absolute maximum speed of the vehicle whether you are in a tuk tuk who has decided to take the pavement as a shortcut or on a 50 year old bus doing 80mph along the edge of a cliff edge, you are almost looking for trouble. Everybody is always in a rush yet nobody is ever on time. However… Thrill seeker? Then ignore this and do it! Get on a public bus in the Indian mountains, risk your life and you will probably thank us for it. You will witness some of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see whilst experiencing an adrenalin rush like no other, literally living life on the edge.
The cities – India has so many cities and all are so different. We eased ourselves in with Chennai being our port of entry but it was a still a big culture shock at first but also a bit boring! We suggest you go hard or go home and kick off in Bollywood. Mumbai is our favourite city with a strong Indian culture mixed with English heritage. The architecture of the buildings are wonderful and none more so than the Taj Palace Hotel. Delhi is also a city to be adored but be prepared for anything and everything and don’t judge it on your first day there. Spend some time getting to know it and it will suck you in, you don’t even have to go anywhere to be gobsmacked. Jaipur, Amritsar and Mysore are other great cities to visit, each offering something different.
The Poverty – With over a billion people in India there is almost an inevitability that there are going to be stark contrasts between the rich and the poor but we had no idea just how big this gap would be. When walking through the streets and visiting some of the most iconic sites in the country you will almost always be greeted with an abundance of people in need. We are great believers in helping as a collective but that just doesn’t seem to be the case in India. Those wealthy enough to come out of the malls with bags worth thousands walk dismissively to their cars and along the streets turning a blind eye to the people they are stepping over. We know this is not the case for everyone and there are many people that do a lot of incredible charitable work across the country, but this is what we’ve noticed on a day to day basis whilst travelling the country. We are all responsible for everything around us and this dismissive mindset was depressing to witness and without a doubt what we hated most about India.
The Taj Mahal – One of the 7 Wonders of the World, are there really any more superlatives we can use to describe this icon? If you visit India for this alone it would have been a worthwhile trip. The majestic feeling you get as you walk through the entrance is something we’ve never experienced before. It literally sends a shiver through us to reminisce of somewhere so perfect, a world away from the hustle and bustle, honking traffic and litter just outside, the Taj Mahal is our favourite place. EVER.
So, India is a place that at times we hate, but does the good outweigh the bad? Definitely. When we’re at home, we can’t help but miss it and even look at pictures of dirty Delhi wishing we were back. Not knowing what the next day is going to throw at us, whether anyone would speak English and what type of food we would be eating. Despite all the flaws, to us India is an imperfect perfection and that is why we will continue to return for the rest of our lives.