Its my last week in India so i thought i would cobble together some thoughts about the country. I've had a wonderful time here. The people are incredibly warm and friendly, and helpful beyond belief. They have a genuine fascination about us, where we are from and what we are doing here. They will go absolutely out of their way to help us, without us asking or anything. Its so different from the western world.
Theres so many people here, its amost overwhelming. The streets are just teeming with a mass of humanity. Mostly men, there seems to be about 12 men to every one female. The fashions here are obviously very different to home, the ladies in their saris are elaborately bejewelled and resemble colourful birds of paradise and the men are stuck in some sort of 1970s timewarp. Brown nylon flares and extra shiny spiv suits are much favoured, and moustaches are the order of the day. The vast majority sport a luxurious growth on their upper lip, a moustache of supreme bushiness and virility, with coconut oil liberally smeared on to give it that porn star sheen.
The Indian head waggle is something i had heard much about but had not seen til we got here. It is a side to side motion of the head, but fluid, not stiff at all. It can mean, i'm friendly, yes, no, I dont know, or sod off. The best waggles in my mind are very fast, and are accompanied by excessive eyebrow waggling and an epic moustache twitch. I have been practising my waggle (for women do it too) but i fear its too stiff. Unfortunately, it has become compulsive and unstoppable, a permanent twitch.
Theres no concept of personal space here, or privacy. They want to know EVERYTHING about you, even things we would consider tabboo to ask a stranger. They push and shove and stand so close that you are almost having intercourse with them, and thats just the women. The men are just hilarious. Despite dressing like a nun I get stared at so much, and they wont be stared down or shamed into looking away. Im quite used to it now but some times, especially when im eating, it gets irritating. Im tempted to flash them just to make them blink. Most of our experience with locals has been terrific. A rickshaw driver struck up a half hour conversation with me while i was waiting for a bus, told me all about his family and his hobbies, wanted to know all about me and Reubs and our travels, took me to a chai stand and bought me a drink, and then put me and reuben on a bus and ensured we got the best seats. He refused to accept money for chai, and hadnt even taken us anywhere or tried to flog us a ride. He said he just enjoyed talking to new people. That seems to be the overall mindset out here.
We have focused our travels on a very small section of the south of India and have been travelling by overnight trains where possible. These are a grand experience (and ridiculously cheap for such distances) with lie-down, made up bunks, food and drink wallahs parading the corridors every minute offering all sorts of refreshments imaginable. Reubs and I ate constantly for a journey of 12 hours, no wonder ive put on weight! Theres lots of people and always someone to stare at you or chat with you and want to know intimate details of your life too. The buses, on the other hand are crazy, or at least the driving is. They overtake on blind bends on mountain passes, hoot the horn constantly, drive down the centre line, swerve perilously close to the edge of cliffs or by pedestrians or livestock, and dont believe in traffic signs of any sort. The drivers should get danger pay but at least you get there quickly, if you dont run off the road first, as we have seen plenty of times. The buses dont really stop either, just pause for you to leap on. One time we saw a bloke leap on who wasnt dressed, wearing only a nappy, and carrying a giant dead fish. Vwery funny to watch but the bus reeked! Being a pedestrian here is horrible though, unlike the traffic in SE Asia it doesnt flow around you, but just keeps on going and doesnt stop.
Theres a vast divide between rich and poor here, or even poor and middle class. The begging is not as bad as we had anticipated, especially compared to Cambodia, but there is a lot of poverty, and the hygiene in some places is very very bad. Unlike Singapore, the spitting and hawking and coughing is nonstop, and because of the animal and human waste littering the streets, the dreadful state of the roads, the constant swarm of flies and the massive amounts of litter, its no wonder that people get so sick here. We have been very very lucky, both of us suffering from slight tummy troubles when we were on the Andaman Islands. We have met people who have had dysentery though so we have lots to be grateful for! The food, incidentally, has been incredible and delicious.
Right, this has turned into a huge essay so i'll sign off now. I cant believe our epic 9 month adventure has come to an end!