After an overnight train ride to return us from Shimla to Delhi, we rolled back in to New Delhi train station (confusingly in Old Delhi by the way) at around 7am, early enough to allow us to walk through Paraganj without the attention of the touts and hawkers…they must have been waking themselves up with a chai somewhere.
With one full day before we flew from Delhi to Kathmandu, we decided (after a quick check in to a guest house) to walk the couple of miles from Paraganj into Old Delhi. This gave us a final blast of Delhi chaos in full glory (several bazaars and a walk around Jama Masjhid, India’s largest mosque) making absolutely certain that India would still be ringing in our ears as we arrived in Nepal.
As our India adventure has drawn to a close, we’ve thought a lot about our time here, and approach departure with mixed emotions…excitement certainly for our next destination (probably the most keenly anticipated of our whole trip, certainly by me), but real sadness to be leaving India behind.
India has definitely been as intense as we’d been warned, and it remains almost as confusing after a month as it was on day one. If there are any ‘rules’ to life in India, then we’ve failed to identify them. It’s amazing that the chaos of Indian life works at all, but every day it churns into action and delivers a full sensory hay-maker to the unprepared. India just doesn’t make sense, but this is exactly why it’s so great.
People tend to love or hate India (we’ve met plenty of both) but I think we fall somewhere in-between. We’ve found that when you’re on form, when you’re rested, fed, watered, well, and the sun is shining, it’s a fantastic place to be. But at soon as you slip from full readiness India can very quickly get on top of you, and in that moment you really would pay to be anywhere else.
To give you a quick idea of the good, the bad, and the ugly…
Starting with the bad / ugly, India’s touts & hawkers (mentioned a few times over the course of these posts) are the most intense, persistent, and frankly damn right annoying we’ve ever encountered. They can seriously affect your enjoyment of a place, and can quickly lead to a stance of automatic suspicion of anyone approaching you with “where you from”, “what’s your name”, “where are you going”, “do you need any help”, “nice beard” etc. And from the children, we very quickly learned to extract ourselves early doors from the “one photo…one pen….one chocolate….one English coin….ok, 10 rupees?” encounters.
However, it would have been a big mistake to judge the Indian people by these interactions alone, as those we’ve spoken to in non-street-hijack scenarios (on trains, in restaurants, as guides etc.) are genuinely interested, friendly, helpful, and generous…to which our stomachs can attest after being literally showered in fried goodies by a group of Indian ladies on a train to Shimla, each of whom produced a carrier bag full of crispy golden goodness and thrust a handful towards us….trust me they were not taking no for an answer!
The vibrancy of India, that potent combination of heat, noise, colour, odour, and dirt generated by a billion people is exactly what makes it such an exciting place to be. But any one of those elements can quickly become overwhelming, and the extreme poverty is, if not directly in front of you, always around the next corner. This can be really difficult to see, especially so as it’s often the most vulnerable, the young, the elderly, and the disabled (those in most need help) that appear forgotten by Indian society and left to a life of indescribable deprivation on the streets. The sense of guilt, and a degree of macabre voyeurism can be difficult to escape.
All this being said, what we’ve seen and experienced in India; the incredible history, the amazing landscapes, the people, the food, the chai, and the majestic forts and palaces of the Maharajahs has been awesome. We’ve had a fantastic time, and would recommend India in a flash. We’ll definitely be back.