Sunday 15th January 2017
‘I’d never do it again’, a phrase I came across along my journey, of the travellers who visit the land of sari’s and spices. However, I couldn’t feel any more different than this. As soon as I touched down in this country, I knew it wouldn’t be the last time. I’ve never had that feeling so strongly before. On the other hand, I have been spat on, pooed on, stared down, tugged at, and stroked. I’ve watched animals caught under the wheels of bikes, stood in open sewers, been charged at by cows, and faced the hardest hurdle of all, corruption and lies. Nevertheless, this all seems such a small price to pay when you are able to experience the most vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes. Like an artist’s paint palette of lemon, gold, tangerine, ruby reds, peacock blues, emerald greens, sunsets pinks, and royal purples, you are immersed in a world where beauty is celebrated in such an honest way. India is a country built on love. You may not realise this amongst what feels like a backwards society, however without this strong love that everyone has for each other, their animals, their religions and their tradition, a country like this would crumble before our eyes. Somehow amongst the craziness there is unity. With such an overcrowded population you begin to realise that there are not many other cultures that would, or could, deal with the pushing and the shoving and the beeping and the complete lack of courtesy that ironically becomes common courtesy. That’s what makes this place magical and like non other I have experienced before. With day to day lives so far from our own, and such dramatic class divisions that are frustrating in this socially developed world, you do appreciate the value and power of love, just like they do. In our consumerist world of money and fame, it put it all in perspective for me seeing some of the happiest souls alive, and with what? Nothing.
Presuming I would enjoy the Indian culture, with a fascination since I was young, I completely under-estimated just how much this place would take me in and leave a long-lasting impression and desire for more. And I do think a lot of other people underestimate India, or at least my parent’s definitely did. So I now have this duty to tell the world about how they could also see the aesthetic and spiritual beauty of India, because believe me you will be blown away. Like any adventure, it was not all rainbows and flowers however. I don’t want to paint a picture of a problem free trip in a flawless country because of course it was far from that. However, that is always the excitement and challenge of visiting a new place and the bizarre charm of India. The hardest yet most enriching aspect of India for me, was the people. Shamefully when I first arrived in India I was a little more standoffish towards the locals than normal, because of having had numerous friends and family telling me to have my wits about me in such a dangerous place, especially being on my own as a female. It did appear easier for me to not get into unnecessary situations, however I realised that as my trip went on, I hated being shut off from the wonderful people. Granted, the men in shops and markets only want your money, but when you rise above that angst they are beautiful people and have a genuine curiosity. I eventually built up my confidence and trust in the country and culture, which I can understand a lot of people don’t do. I did struggle with an overwhelming feeling of guilt at times, that my instinct told me not to trust someone, however you still have to keep your guard up. By the end of my trip, the sleeper class carriages on the trains that began as something so daunting, became a friendly and exciting environment that I always looked forward to. From the words of Gregory David Roberts, “The simple and astonishing truth about India and Indian people is that when you go there, and deal with them, your heart always guides you more wisely then your head. There’s nowhere else in the world where that’s quite so true.”
Although there were frustrations of being ripped off everywhere you went, I began to care less about it and decided that I was more than happy to spend my hard earned money in this amazing country, after all our trade keeps their livelihood going. I also realised after a while, that there is no ‘standard’ in India; prices can be rocket high and very close to what you would pay at home, or completely rock bottom. It’s also the same with the people; in the same town you would be stared at by uneducated locals that are gobsmacked by your presence, but then talk to a bright well spoken youth. India wants to develop to be like western societies but is frustratingly trying to cut corners to get there; taxes are avoided so inevitably there is no development. Another huge problem is all of the refugees from surrounding poor countries that come into an already overpopulated country that has of much poverty itself. What a frustrating country! That is the only way I can describe my feelings. This being said the streets of India are like the pages of novels coming to life, it is exactly what you imagine and so much more.
For me, India is the adventure of luck where you end up in the right place at the right time, and your head abandons plans and ambitions and purpose, and you follow your heart, living in the now. An adventure for the mind as well as the body. I knew from the word go that I would be back to this completely incredible country. There is so much more to discover across its vast land and diverse states. I cannot wait for what the future holds and can only urge everyone to give India a chance. Till next time incredible India.
DURATION: 1 MONTH in northern India, 10 DAYS in Sri Lanka, and 1 MONTH in southern India
BUDGET: approx £2,000 including internal and outbound flights