I’ve been back for a week and during that time I’ve been reflecting on my experiences in India. Here are some of the best things about India:
1. Friendly people: People are genuinely curious and interested in hearing about your life, so it’s easy to find someone to talk to. Unlike some nationalities, they are happy to talk about sensitive things like religion and politics, which suits me fine! It’s led to some really enlightening conversations.
2. The colour: Someone told me before I went out there that India is a really colourful place. They were spot on. It’s like a walking, talking, singing, dancing rainbow. Instead of seeing billboard ads, you have advertisements painted onto walls in primary colours. Ladies’ saris cover the whole spectrum, though I doubt a white sari would survive the dust for long!
3. The diversity of the people: In Chennai, I’ve met all sorts. There are people from all parts of India living in the city. In our office alone there were four people from Kerala, a girl from Uttar Pradesh and someone who was from a part of India that borders on Burma. The religious diversity is also refreshing: Hindus, Christians and Muslims like to celebrate their identity, but at the end of the day most people seem to get on.
4. The food: From the buffet at the five star hotel I dined at on my final night in India, to the sugar cane and coconut water I sampled in the streets and on the beach, there was always something to whet your palette. I also enjoyed the juice bars and cool bars where you could find tasty alternatives to alcohol.
5. The prices: £1.80 for a pedicure, £1.20 for a dress, 60p for a four hour coach trip… You could probably save the price of your airfare if you stayed long enough.
And some less positive things…
1. The pavements: Or lack of them. Chennai is not a walkable city. The pavements are virtually non existent and where you have them, they are often blockaded by a peddler, some dumped rubbish or even someone sleeping!
2. The traffic: It takes absolutely ages to cross a road. There are no rules – I’ve seen drivers driving on the wrong side of the road, people driving the wrong way down a one way street. You name it!
3. Auto drivers: They’re not all bad, just the vast majority of them. Hiking the price for foreigners is one thing. Hiking the price and dropping you off in completely the wrong place is another. It saddens me that they can do that to a lone female in an unfamiliar city.
4. Aggressive salesman: The guy with necklaces who hovered for about ten minutes (no joke) over me on Auroville beach, despite my obvious lack of interest in his wares, was the worst.
5. Poverty: The Indian economy may be booming, but some people fall further and further behind.