Friday, March 30, 2007

Overall impression of India

To be honest, I am glad to be back in Thailand. India is very in your face. There are a billion people and at least half of them tried to lure me into their shop to buy generic souvenirs that I didn’t want, or were trying to take me somewhere in their taxi or cycle rickshaw. There was lot of beggars too where apparently they are like an organised crime gang and there are turf wars between the beggars. Women use their babies as a tool for begging, it is really depressing. Two girls were clearly at the edge of their territory when they stopped following us and headed back the way they came, I watched them for a while, playing and laughing until another westerner came along and then they were all sad and hungry all of a sudden.

The countryside that we saw was beautiful, from the mountains to the desert. The forts were impressive and they have restored them well and tourism is an important part of the economy there. The food was great too, but I haven’t been able to look at a curry since I left.

There was a very funny incident in Agra at a shopping centre. It is a new one, and I mean new, only half the shops were open, and very western looking. We went there for lunch and to catch a Bollywood movie. The movie was a romantic comedy and though in Hinglish (a mix of Hindi and English) it was easy enough to follow 6 couples on a Honeymoon organised bus tour!

That is not the funny bit though. The locals were all there to check out this new shopping experience, and clearly some of them had never seen an escalator before. They were crowded around the top and the bottom giggling but no-onw daring to actually take the step onto the escalator. The security guards were doing their best to keep people moving, but there was a bottle-neck. So being me, I pushed to the front, offered my hand to a young girl standing there and helped her on to the escalator. I held her hand all the way and practically had to pull her off at the bottom. She stood there with her hand on her mouth in a fit of giggles.

When I turned around, I saw our Indian leader with an older woman clinging to his arm and apparently she was saying all the way down 'don't let me go, don't let me go'. I was beside myself in a fit of laughter, one of the few times I have to say in India.

The saving grace was of course the cricket. There is even a TV channel dedicated to cricket. One day we were watching Australia vs England in an Ashes Test match – 1972 style! Talk about a cricket mad nation.

Then there is the yes factor. Yes I know, yes it is fixed, yes I understand...when clearly the answer is a resounding no. Like the time we told the hotel we had no hot water, for 2 days they insisted that we did, finally we got some on day 3. Then there was the time we had to convince them we had no water, hot or cold, the look of disbelief was amazing. What about the taxi ride for 20 mins in the same location because he can't find the hotel despite ensuring us he knew where it was and the constant people waiting for a tip, for doing things like bringing toilet paper that should have been there in the first place or fixing something broken.

You have to laugh in India, or you will cry.


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