Construction is everywhere in India
Reflections of India
Nearly six months ago, when I first crossed into India, I wrote about the country’s oddities leaving many hardened travellers with a melody of jaded contradictions. I am now officially one of those, accepting the bitter truth that I will never understand India; and will never try to. How and why does India function when every aspect defies logic? How can absolute wealth coexist with absolute poverty and be so symbiotic? How can a peaceful, predominantly Hindu nation passively accept the caste system; one of the most inhumane practises I have ever witnessed? I admit defeat. And in truth…I never really stood a chance.
Cycling through a country of 1.2 billion people was never going to end well, and I’m sure my experiences would have differed if I were a regular tourist. I didn’t see the majestic Taj Mahal, or the burning Ghats of Varanasi. Not once did I practise yoga or partake in trekking. The most touristy cities I visited were Leh and Amritsar – both out of necessity. And thankfully I never got Delhi belly, despite eating out of the most horrendous, cockroach infested, hole-in-the-wall eateries that I’m sure were an affliction to human rights. 24 years of Mum’s cooking served as the perfect entrée for an iron-clad stomach.
This country is simply too diverse, too large, and too random to gauge any general impression. I only visited eight states, but that being said, I could live in Nagaland, go on honeymoon in Himachal Pradesh, and not even send my future mother-in-law to Assam. Rather than write a generic ‘assault on the scenes’, type travel blog, I thought I’d share an Indian oddity, which pushed me like pins into a voodoo doll. I turned into a rude, apathetic island that purposely tried to cut short any human interaction. My usually calm demeanour was replaced with that of an abrasive wanker, and at times I honestly couldn’t care.
I found the sheer audacity of Indians interacting with me to be immature, annoying, tiresome and sometimes even frightening. I’ve been deliberately run off the road for the purpose of a selfie. I’ve been woken at 2am from hotel staff wanting a selfie. I’ve had cars slow down on a main highway just to film me cycling for five minutes and nearly cause major accidents. The novelty of seeing a first real life foreigner seemed to forgo any shred of decency, respect and compassion.
Momentarily stopping would cause ensuing pandemonium, creating crowds of 100+ people who would watch my every move. My bike would be touched and gear leavers would be shifted. I once ran out of a restaurant as someone was trying to cycle off with by bike. “Don’t worry sir, I just wanted to try”. I would try to be polite and smile, say “Namaste”, and interact with the locals, but the cold, hard, expressionless stares I got in return froze any chance of temporary friendship. My transformation into Frankenstein had begun in earnest when I blatantly started ignoring everyone. What’s the point? There were genuine people, but most encounters led to a sales pitch, want of a selfie, or a deathly stare. This was perhaps the biggest dampener with India; and it really got to me.
Couple that with the never-ending car horns, my enjoyment of cycling around the world almost ceased to exist. Being away from the tourist cities usually gives me an escape, which I usually relish. But here, in the “real” India, the only escape I got was when I closed my eyes each night drifting off to another shit sleep surrounded by bugs. I guess my own tiredness and ignorance overshadowed the truly endearing nature of India people.
I think this is why I’m glad to leave. India was so fucking draining. I was always completely devoid of energy and left highly strung, with the severity of an addict coming off heroin. I turned into something I’m not, and it wasn’t for the better. I know this is ghastly unfair, and I know deep down it’s only cultural difference. But at the moment I’m too worn out for rational.
Will I ever come back to India? Absolutely. This country deserves so much more than an emotional rant contrived from cycling the plains of India. I’ve always thought that travelling in the 21st century has become all too easy, with any problem being solved by Trip Advisor, Google and Lonely Planet rather than pragmatism. But there is no such thing as pragmatism whilst cycling in India. Contrary to above, India has everything I look for in travelling. Incredible food. Incredible culture and history. And incredible people.
I’d love to come back and see.
Just not by bicycle