The beautiful country of India is without a doubt a completely different place than any other country in the world. I have seen and experience more than my entire life in only 2 and a half weeks. It was a complete culture shock and sometimes emotional but I don’t regret it one bit. From the people, food, lifestyle to religion, India stands out as if it’s its own world.
I will never once again complain about the traffic in Los Angeles. From mopeds to cabs and even animals cruising through the streets, there is no slowing down. Either get out of the way or be run over. The only thing taking anyone to their destination is the aggressiveness and their car horns. There might be stoplights and crosswalks, but no one follows it. People casually walk across the roads when there is a full force of traffic coming their way. Most of the time every vehicle on the road is zigzagging its way through traffic. It took me two days to get used to the extravaganza. The cab drivers found it funny the times I would flinch thinking we were about to wreck. There were moments when vehicles would pull up next to my cab so close that I could simply knock on their window without a struggle.
Cows. Camels. Elephants. Dogs. Monkeys. You name it. One piece of the Indian culture is the respect they have towards animals. There are countless times where you would see some animal blocking traffic on the road but no one reacts negatively because of it. Most of the residents of India are vegetarians which coincide with seeing animals as one. Constantly, I would spot someone patting a cow, riding an elephant on the street, or feeding a sheep. No matter what, I never did see any harm done towards them. There are even temples that worship the precious creatures. Some of these include The Monkey Temple, The Rat Temple, and The Snake Temple.
I had the pleasure to attend The Monkey Temple. It’s a peaceful place located outside the city of Jaipur. The monkeys’ would roam around so freely without worry of someone trying to harm them. They were so friendly you could even feed them and they would jump on your shoulders. Within the temple was sectioned off buildings where you could enter, pray and meditate. Don’t be surprised if a monkey comes in and joins you while doing so.
Every single host I had made sure I didn’t lift a finger to do anything. From cooking my foods to carrying my things, I felt more pampered than ever. For every guest any Indian family takes in, they make sure that they’re treated well and feel at home. I always felt comfortable in any situation or setting I was in. I was never asked for something in return even though many times I offered to help. But it’s in their nature to treat you so well. It’s the best kind of hospitality anyone could ever provide. Part of their culture is to offer you anything they have to assure you feel right at home. It’s sometimes rude to say no and they might get offended if you do so. Even when you are so full from food, the mother or wife of the household will come back around and serve you more without asking. It was everywhere that I would receive this kind of treatment besides within a household. From restaurants and on the streets, something about being a foreigner urges them wanting to provide you the best kind of experience in their country.
I cannot stress enough of how much poverty I witnessed between cities and villages. My first real experience seeing some of it was when I visited the slums. It’s known to be an overcrowded territory for the very poor. The slums we visited was located outside of the city of Rohtak between abandoned buildings. Once we entered the neighborhood I immediately noticed the smell from the piles of trash that accumulated over the years. Animals like pigs and dogs roamed around the littered areas looking for something to eat. We parked the car waiting for a volunteer who was going to assist us in passing out food kits for the children. Meanwhile, I also noticed the residents’ homes were built with raggedy blankets and used clothes. The beds were made up of either straws or just blankets overlaid on the rough dirt ground. Once the children were gathered up and brought to us, their appearances were quite different.
You could clearly see poor hygiene and dirt on their faces. Their clothes appeared to be torn or overly used. But their smiles and honest small eyes said nothing more but love. It was an emotional experience while handing out food to the little ones but it felt amazing within to make them smile. Outside of that one hour on that day, there were multiple times I saw poverty whilst cruising through the streets walking or on the train. I saw how little many people had yet how much gratitude and pure happiness they conveyed.
I received more negative feedback about venturing to India alone as a solo traveler than positive. I completely understand it was mostly because of safety concerns. However, not once did I find myself in a situation that I felt endangered or concerned about my safety. Instead, because I was a solo woman traveler I received sometimes special treatment. Various situations when I was commuting by train or bus, I would simply ask specifically a couple for assistance to confirm I was at the right place. Every time anyone assisted, they would not only just answer my question but also would come back and let me know when it was time to depart. There were moments when tuk-tuk drivers (mini taxis) would overwhelm me by asking if I needed a ride and try to offer an outrageous fare. (Get used to that if you visit the country. An article about transportation will soon be published giving you more information about this.) Simply knowing a couple of words like ‘No, brother’ would help me a long way to get them to stop offering. Now don’t be surprised if you don’t say anything and they start to follow until you respond. However, it’s not to the point where it’s unsafe for you.
One instance, an Indian woman noticed I was trying to get a cab through my phone, but I wasn’t getting service. She also saw one of the tuk-tuk drivers literally standing right next to me because he was convinced I was going to hire him. At this point in my trip, I was already getting used to the drivers lurking when I didn’t answer them. She approached me kindly and asked where I was going. From there she took me to a government booth that was meant to order cabs and I got one half the price compared to what the other driver was trying to charge.
My point here is no matter how much the media tries to trash the country by saying it’s dangerous to visit, its wrong. Every place you go to will have a bad area you shouldn’t be in. It’s using your common sense and avoid areas you shouldn’t be in just like any other place in the world. Learn some of the locals’ language, be confident when venturing out and don’t look like a lost puppy. You are not alone when it comes to traveling to places like India. I came across many other foreigners when visiting touristy areas. It gave me a wave of relaxation and calmness seeing others exploring the beautiful country.
India is a major culture shock. It could be overwhelming to see and experience all that you will. But the aftermath of it is a transformational reality. You learn their practices when it comes to spirituality. You open a new door of skills when learning how to use a cup with a bucket versus a showerhead. People help each other out like holding each other’s luggage when it seems heavy to someone or allowing another person to borrow your charger for their telephone. Their kindness is the type of lifestyle the world needs to follow today.