20 October 2013

Things I love or hate about India!

Mumbai, India

India is such a melting pot of experiences that many will return to my memory at odd times - here are just some of them:

Industry is alive and well in India - from the latest technology to the humble shoe repairer, umbrella repairer, the seamstress on an old fashioned sewing machine, the hardware store that is so small yet has just about everything, the Fisher folk with their nets cast just offshore,  the tuk-tuk drivers, the men on bicycles that still have those old-fashioned racks on the back, last seen in the 60's!, the hand-drawn carts carrying goods, these  Indian people are all entrepreneurs, each in their own small way. It's wonderful to see and takes one back into an era that has been forgotten, such is the pace of modern life in many Western countries where many of these skills have long been forgotten in favour of modernization.
Beach Meditation:
If you spot an Indian man squatting on the beach, gazing at the Arabian Sea, please don't go up to him, thinking that this is a meditating guru.
It works like this:
Make a little hole in the sand close to the high tide water mark
Squat down and expose the buttocks
Gaze longingly at the ocean in front of you
Once you have completed your ablutions, get up and walk away, leaving a little pile for the waves to wash away at next high tide.
We grew up with LONG DROPS as kids at our beach house long before flush toilets happened. These work well - all you need is a spade and some effort to make a very deep hole! Not rocket science? To be fair, these folk are fishermen and live and exist near the sea so their outlook is most probably more in tune with nature than mine is!
Umbrella Romance:
The Indian population has no chance despite the government pleading to keep the family at one or two kids.
Little black umbrellas dotted along the shore mean that these are courting couples - snogging or groping, they all look young enough to still be at school!
It's so funny to see them huddled together under these tiny umbrellas.
Horn Please:
Most vehicles have this painted on the back - Sound Horn -  it's a way of life in India - the HORN.
Perhaps a thorn in the side of those worried about sound pollution?
Beach Clean-ups:
Alleppey needed beach clean ups quite often due to the very large crowds that descend on the beach. The next day, the ladies were out in force picking up litter. With red and white striped umbrella's over their heads, they made a pretty early morning sight.
Is America next to Africa?
We had this question posed to us from a family outside of Kerala. Our driver (with a degree) was most shocked and hastily explained some geography to this chap. Apparently, most "white" visitors are deemed to be either from America or Britain. Yet South Africa features in cricket and most Indians LOVE their cricket!
The majority of those who asked where we were from, seemed to know about South Africa, mainly through sport.
Friendly, so friendly:
The favourite question from most folk who asked where we were from, was also "What is your name" I really did not grasp the significance of this - perhaps they are looking for some different names for their kids one day?
Caste System:
The caste system is still very in place but nobody really wanted to explain this to us. The closest we came was the explanation that the "name" suggests the caste. We did see an article on cricket where the "backward" caste was mentioned. What an awful name and rather sad in this age of democracy.
School Uniforms:
The school children in Alleppey all wear very smart uniforms and always look extremely neat. As mentioned previously, literacy is alive and well in this province with many English Speaking schools. These children are most polite and friendly - it's says much for their upbringing.

I loved the total mayhem of traffic in India - it's organised chaos at its very best.
I loved the vibrant colours of India
I loved the little boy who we helped to swim in the pool at Panoramic Sea Resort, Alleppey. He  came to thank us, chatted about the India cricket against Australia and shook hands when his family were leaving. Making sure that he found us on two separate occasions. Beautiful English and wonderful manners.
I loved the smell of spices in Munnar, the Hill Station where the weather is cooler and not humid.
I loved the natural forests of Kerala and the beautiful waterfalls
I loved the wide open beaches of South Goa
I loved the many fishing boats dotted on the shores of Kerala
I loved the fact that so many Indians ASK to have their photograph taken
I loved the fact that Indians ask which country we come from
I loved the service from the staff at Panoramic Beach Resort, Alleppey
I loved the crazy, bumpy rides in the well-worn tuk-tuks
I loved the South Indian food and especially the buffet dinners at Holiday Inn, Goa
I loved the casual dining experience at Dreamers, Beach Road, Alleppey
I loved the ride on an Indian Elephant
I loved our time and conversations with Aneesh, our graduate driver in Kerela
I was grateful that I did not have to endure Delhi Belly
I loved the reporting in the "Times of India"

I loved the friendly smiles of the Indian people and the children who wanted "photo please"

I did not enjoy:
Mumbai International Airport - its horrid, totally horrid with virtually no seating or restaurant if one is too early for check-in.
The fact that foreigners cannot drive in India (mind you, it's a wise move on their part!)
The humidity at all coastal places that we visited - Mumbai, Goa, Alleppey.
The garbage littering some places
The stares from some Indian males in Mumbai
The fact that water is not drinkable

The men using the beach as a toilet

Whist we were very sceptical about visiting a country so very different to everywhere we have travelled to date, it was an incredibly interesting journey.

Don't rush around from place to place, stop and experience the people and their way of life - it will be well worth your while.

© Judelle Drake

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