I'm full of contradictions - I know it! I like to travel to discover new places, but really there's no place like home. I love to wonder and enter my own world but I love to be surrounded by people and entertain. I'd like to make a simple life but I make it more complex. I like to get up early but I love my bed!
So really India should have felt like home - instead it mirrored the realities of my own contradictions and the challenges they bring.
Poor - rich
India is one of the BRIC countries, growing faster than most with huge investment. New areas of cities are owned by the rich ad powerful building huge complexes. The middle class enjoys Shopping Malls, cinemas and international cuisine. Side by side leaving among the poor, manual laborers, homeless, people living in shantytowns; One earning a couple of dollars an hour, another struggling to earn that in a day - let alone the mega wealthy.
Apparent in every part of the world, but here it's even evident in the social classes and interaction between these groups. It accentuates the split, the gap and the distance that is seen at home - it makes you shudder. Not even the homeless have access to clean water or toilets.
Trust is misplaced here. Someone you know talks of trust, and someone you meet on the street talks of trust. The word is miss-used and potentially misunderstood – especially for a British traveler. It is thrown around like it’s a commodity, and it does soon become a monetary factor. Trust is rarely used in Britain, it’s a term that’s implied by conclusion not as a matter of fact.
It makes the world go round. But in India it is a factor that’s essential but loses it’s value with every word you utter. Haggling is the norm, and frustration becomes the cause. The contradiction is – you can buy products cheaper in the UK than you can in India if your haggling skills are not up to scratch. I can assure you that many items I bought could have been purchased at the same or less than in the UK, especially small trinkets like magnets, postcards and posters.
The world is your oyster in India, you can take a train, a car, a taxi, a helicopter taxi, an auto-rickshaw or a poor man can pull you along like you are the cart and he is the horse. But you get nowhere fast. You spend more time negotiating the fare for the journey than you do actually travelling.
India is renowned for its food, either you will end up with Delhi Belly/Kolkata Splutter or you will dine in the finest of restaurants (actually even then there’s no guarantee) but try actually spotting restaurants, or at least somewhere you’re will to allow your stomach to be abused by. Unfortuantely I found I was eating the same thing day in day out, and only if I had travelled with someone else could I have had diversity!
These are just a few areas I can refer to – but it gives you an idea of the epic differences between Europe and India.
Enjoy your trip as best as possible. But I can certainly say, India is interesting, even if it is not my cup of Green Tea!