Come To India Prepared

July 25, 2012 India 5 Comments 17,960 Views

If You Want To Travel To India, You’d Better Be Prepared.

It’s the 6th time that we’re travelling through India and I will never ever forget my first two days there. It was only a stopover in Delhi, coming from Australia (must be at least 15 years ago). Back then stopovers often had accommodation included (at least for one night). Airlines used to give away very good deals on hotel rooms to keep their customers at bay. So anyway, we arrived in Delhi and were on our way to a a nice hotel (as far as I remember it was called “Centaur”). We got a beautiful room for almost nothing.

Since I had travelled through Africa many times already, nothing could really bother me any more. I was not particularly excited to see India. Back then I was more focused on Africa.

It was a windy January day and after checking into the hotel, Nisa and I took the free shuttle bus to Connaught Place. From there we hired a Tuk-Tuk. “Where do you want to go?” the driver asked. “Well just drive around for a while. I want to see the real life in India.” I replied.

Tuk Tuks waiting for customers at the train station in New Delhi, India.
Tuk Tuks waiting for customers at the train station in New Delhi, India.

Then the trip started; first of all, I didn’t feel all that comfy in this little 3 wheeler with all the traffic but no risk, no fun. Right and left were big buses and the driver had the nerves like a leading lion between his flock. He seemed to know what he was doing. With his driving skills, he squeezed through the smallest loopholes in this gigantic traffic-mesh. I held Nisa and just thought that if it has to happen, it has to happen. Anyway, it didn’t take long for me to get used to the fact that Tuk-Tuk drivers in India are drive the way they drive.

On the first roundabout with a concrete pedestal in the middle, a bunch of kids – not older than 6 years – were sleeping around a traffic sign post; dirty, filthy, wrapped in rags … this was one of those sights that I will never forget. I looked at Nisa (who was around 10 years old back then) and cold shivers went up and down my spine.

Estimated a quarter of the Indian population live in slum areas and nobody knows exactly how many people there actually are … But one should never forget that there is a very small minority of really (!) wealthy Indians too. Sometimes you’ll read about these in the news papers around the world. For example: “Richest Indian built multimillion dollar skyscraper in Mumbai!” When reading these headlines, I wonder what these “richies” actually think of their fellow citizens?! To build something gigantic like the most expensive home in the world (with a price over 1 billion US$) in a city that has hundreds of thousands of homeless people doesn’t seem appropriate at all! What a douche bag! I wouldn’t feel comfy in my billion dollar home when I saw what was going on right around the next street corner … but that’s just me. Oh and while we’re talking about millionaires … there’s absolutely no such thing as a real “Slumdog Millionaire”. It was a weird example, created by Hollywood screenwriters sitting in their luxury houses while writing such nonsense to just make more money. Some of the child actors still living in slums. Seriously?! Many years ago on a trip through California, we bought a fridge sticker which said “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich“. If you’ve ever been to India, you’ll know it’s true …

The next "Slumdog Millionaires"? If it's up to Hollywood, yes.
The next “Slumdog Millionaires”? If it’s up to Hollywood, yes.

Anyway, many years have passed now and we’ve been to India a few times and many very strange sights have crossed our path. For us Westerners, it’s not normal to see people dying in the streets, bodies being transported on roof racks, watching kids sniff glue which they found in the rubbish or even seeing corpses floating by while your eating breakfast – in India this is reality and part of the daily routine.

Carrying a dead body to the Ganges river in India.
Carrying a dead body to the Ganges river in India.

Usually the deceased are lowered from the roof of the car and carried to the cremation area by relatives or friends. Only holy people, pregnant women and children are not cremated – these bodies are “buried” directly in the Ganges river with the result, that a lot of them surface after a while and float down with the stream. People bathing right next to a body is not unusual, especially in the very holy cities like Varanasi or Hardwar along the Ganges river. And believe it or not, you can also have the … unexpected experience of seeing a dog gnawing on left over hands or feet of not fully cremated bodies (maybe because the rain interrupted the process).

Dead body floating by in Varanasi, India.
Dead body floating by in Varanasi, India.

Yes, you need to be a tough fella if you want to experience the real side of India …

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“If You Want To Travel To India, You’d Better Be Prepared.”

  1. Sonya

    Hi, I just love reading your website and all the places you have been. We are keen travelers who like to experience ‘the real life’ of people in these most interesting countries like yourselves. Many countries you have been, so have we. We returned from 7 weeks in South America a few months ago and are planning a trip to India and Bangladesh for 2 months next Sept/Oct. (only time we can get away). Enjoy reading your experiences and using them to plan where we would like to go. Traveling Independently takes a lot of planning and I’m sure you get more out of traveling by doing so. Please keep up the good work. If you don’t mind answering questions, train travel confuses me a bit. Do you have to book well in advance, we prefer not to as the best made plans come unstuck!! Especially in India!! We don’t get fussed about any of this, is all part of the adventure!!
    Keep up the great website and we will continue to follow you with interest.
    Sonya and Mike

  2. Nisa

    Hey Sonya!
    Thanks for your long comment.
    South America is something that’s still on our list. We’ve been to Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama, but countries like Chile and Colombia are still very high on our list. But one lifetime is simply not enough to see it all unfortunately…
    Planning independently does take up some time, but at the end of the day, you feel closer to your destination and the places you’re about to travel to.
    In India, booking your train ticket at the earliest possible is the best you can do, since trains are always pretty packed – especially during the high season. It’s not an easy process though. If you have the time, then you can also go with the flow and just let yourself drift through the country :)
    Have an amazing trip! I’m sure it’s going to be amazing!
    Best, Nisa

  3. Hi Nisa, Your images and words totally reflect my memories of India. To this day I believe Varanasi is one of the most fascinating and interesting cities i’ve visited. I long to return.

    Love the blog, kind regards, Si

  4. Nisa

    Hi Si!
    Thanks so much for your comment. We really appreciate it!
    Yes, Varanasi is am amazing city and we hope to return again soon as well.
    Take care!
    Best, Nisa

  5. Shoeb

    You have explained very beautifully various aspect of India. The thing that you mentioned about rich people who peoples who lives skyscraper and poor in slum, draw my attention. Unfortunately most of population lives like this only. Rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. This is the story here.

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