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India » A sum up : )
2011-10-07 ( Friday ) 21:07:24 GMT+1
Since the first part of our trip is over, meaning we have left India, we would like to do a sum up (from some different points of view) for those of you who are interested and maybe will go to India some day :) Some fast facts and information, some cultural aspects we experienced, what we enjoyed and what we would try to forget :)
To make the theoretical part short:
Republic of India
Population: 1.2 billion people (!!!) Second most populous country in the world
It is the 7th largest country by geographical area
Official language: Standard Hindi, and second is English
Currency: Indian Rupies (see pic)
National sport: Field hockey (but cricket is also very popular)
And now, when we have visited Wikipedia, we will turn to the encyclopedia of our own experience - our “travelpedia” :)
Red Dot in the forehead
The red dot, or “bindi”, that people are having in their forehead, between the eyebrows, has a lot of different meanings… depending on point of view. We were told that from the traditional point of view it symbolizes that a woman is married, but while reading more about it, it occurs to be a myth. The red color symbolize honor, love, and prosperity which the women represented. From the meditational point of view, it helps concentration, since the spot is where one focuses ones sight. There are a lot more viewpoints for sure, but we will leave this topic by saying that nowadays, it can be considered “a cosmetic mark to enhance beauty” and a decorative item used by everyone (both genders) and even in different colors.
The rikshaws, or autos as they also call them, is very popular all over India. This vehicle, with 3 wheels and a little roof, driven by a motor is very small but fits a lot! Whole families are getting inside, and after a while we managed to get inside all the three of us together with our big backpacks – that is talent ! Or just crazy… Depends on point of view again! ;)
Traffic – another cultural aspect
While going through some interesting aspects of culture, it is worth to mention the driving culture… or lack of it – depends on point of view :) It is actually amazing how it works. For our European minds, it is hard to take it in, and hiring a car is something that we strongly recommend…. to AVOID! It will probably get you killed on the first crossing… or at least get some saint cows injured… don’t know what is worse! Being there for so many days and so many places (from small villages to big cities) the traffic is the same everywhere… the distance between the vehicles, pedestrians, cows, buildings, and any other items equals zeeero. It is simply MINIMAL. And the sound level (due to horning) is extremely high. But if one would be able to turn off the sound and manage to relax a bit while sitting in a Rikshaw, one would notice that it actually plays together in some weird way…it works..and it goes with the flow.. We didn’t see any accidents between two vehicles which proves a lot.
The festival lasts for 10 days and the streets are full of people dancing and one can feel the joy in the air. Usually, they are dancing behind a car that is playing loud music, and there is an Ganesha idle placed inside with flowers and incenses around it. The car is eventually heading the seaside where the people put the idle in the sea... in the previous posts from Goa, we are describing it and we also have some pictures from the festivals days. There are several versions of the legend behind Ganesha, but basically Ganesha’s father chopped his head off and after realizing it was his son and in search for a new head, he fixed an elephant head… The reason why the father did as he did is different in every story. We got as many explanations as people we asked, from that Ganesha was disturbing his father while meditating to that Ganesha was guarding the house and his mother and didn’t recognize his father, therefore didn’t let him in and lost his head… The stories are different, but the result is one…
Lord Ganesha came to be known as the elephant headed God (see pic below) and is known as the god of wisdom, prosperity, and good fortune…
As you all probably know, the cows in India are saint. And the saying that you act as a saint cow (in Polish) makes sense after our visit. They are everywhere and they are everything but stressed! It is funny how a traffic jam is getting bigger and bigger due to a cow in the middle of the road. Or when walking on the small streets, a cows head just standing out from nowhere. Touching or even a small push is not accepted. We even had this test on one little street – “are our bags gonna fit” kind of test. There was a gap between the wall of a building and the bum of cow and we had to pass (one of these situations where you have no more points of view than ONE) – luckily we passed the test, with some struggle but we still passed ! :) Our backpacks survived and the cow is still saint!
“Nodding/shaking kinda’ thing”
Something we noticed in the very beginning when arriving in India, was how they move their heads while talking. We got confused because it was neither a “no” shaking, nor a “yes” nodding… it was something in between, where they actually move their head to the sides, but more like the ear to the shoulder move..left right, left right… but in a pretty discrete way. It is hard to describe, but as soon as anyone of you will see it, you will know what we are talking about straight away. In the beginning – confusing, after a while – the best! Typical Indian! We love it!
At times, we had some trouble understanding the menu, since they are using all this names.. like Roti, Naan, Tikka, Paneer etc. AND, the people where not always able to explain in English even though they tried. On the pic from the menu, you can see an example of both southern and northern Indian cuisine. Paneer, which is cottage cheese, was one of our favorites. You can have it with loads of different gravies, and you have it with either rice or chapatti (bread). Very good! During our whole stay, we avoided meat. We tried a little piece twice in a fancy place and with a local assuring us that it is fine. We were vegetarians due to our sensitive stomachs, but firstly due to the views and extreme smells we experienced from the meat hanging on the streets… we all love meat, and we missed it a lot since all of us are used to eating it on a regular basis… but staying away from meat after what we saw on the streets was not hard at all. Someone would have to pay us to order meat rather than the other way around :) We do not recommend any travelers to eat meet in the streets what so ever.
The Indian Cuisine offers a lot of different dishes, flavors, and spices… although for us, it all tasted the same after a while…the viewpoints kind of got fewer and fewer… all the spices used killed us..and it wasn’t spicy, but the taste of the spices… We can imagine that the European kitchen is very blur for Indian travelers and we are sure that the cultural border at the “kitchen field” is visible both sides :)
What we enjoyed during our stay:
- The people we met on our way and had a chance to talk to for a while
- English at most public places – appreciated!
- Strangers… showing up from nowhere…offering help without expecting anything back. Looking at our little piece of paper with an address and not being able to explain in English, grabbing our hand and saying “come come, shoooow youuuu” :)
- T H E K I D S . . . dirty, poor, naked… but with a smile on their face… amazing children! Not scared to stare at you with curiosity and look into your eyes
- Taj Mahal and the history behind it – incredible architecture that one is able to watch all day long
- India is a country with real love for music – it is a big part of the culture we would say. There is loud music playing everywhere – on the street, on the local bus, on the market… even on a 15 hours bus ride ! :) Explains the Bollywood production :)
- The head shaking/nodding (see explanation above)
- In comparison to the prices we have at home.. it is really cheap…
What we would like to forget:
- Smells, noise and general mess on the street that is really hard to stand
- The extreme bargaining one has to go through on EVERY step, even to buy a bottle of water… made us crazy… The fact that EVERYONE is trying to rip you off on EVERYTHING..
- Horning (which is only necessary in 10 % of the cases)
- Traveling with local buses is getting rough after a couple of 15-hour-rides …
The famous slogan for this country is INCREDIBLE INDIA – do we agree?
Well, it depends on the point of view… :) :) :)