India – Love It or Hate It

3 January 2013

They say that people who visit India will either love or hate it. Having spent three months travelling around the country, I have to say I did not meet one traveller who did not love it. This is for a very good reason and I will definitely be going back one day soon.

From spiritual ashrams to boating on the Keralan backwaters, camel safaris in the Thar Desert to the Burning Ghats of Varanasi – India really does have something for everyone. Having visited as much of the country as I could in 3 months, I cannot wait to go back and experience more.

The most remarkable thing about India, in my opinion, is the people! Out of everywhere I have travelled, I have never come across such friendly, helpful, hospitable and welcoming people. No matter if they were rich or living in one of the thousands of slums, they seemed to take real pride in their country and wanted to show it off.

India4My best experience was in Aurangabad when I visited a small tailor’s ‘shack’ to have some of my (many) new clothes amended. The tailor lived up a side street and was overwhelmingly happy to welcome me. Not only did he not accept money for the job, he insisted that I have a cup of Chai and meet his wife and children. I was then invited back for dinner the following evening. The parents did not have much English but the children made me promise I would return as I was the first ‘outsider’ that had ever been invited into their home. They were truly excited and could not sit still! The next day I was taken to their home – it was a tiny, cement, two roomed dwelling. The living room, with no furniture, was also the bedroom. The kitchen was a stove on the floor in the next room. The bathroom was a tiny drop toilet outside. The parents, grandparents and two children lived here.

On the night, their cousins, aunts and neighbours were packed into the tiny space – so happy to greet me. I then ate one of the most delicious meals of my trip – sitting cross legged on the floor and using only my right hand. The family showed me how to ‘smash’ the curry into the rice and scoop it up with my hand. I was pretty worried about the deadly ‘Delhi belly’ as I was about to embark on a 24 hour trip down to Goa, but the worry was without cause. The food was fresh and cooked perfectly. The family said that they treated themselves to meat once every month or so, but they had in fresh chicken and gave me plenty of servings – more than they gave themselves! I will never forget the warmth of the family; travelling on my own, I really cherished a home cooked meal and time with people who genuinely seemed to care.

I experienced this kind of hospitality for the full 3 months. Many of the Indian people seemed to assume responsibility for me for the short time I was with them and did everything they could to be helpful, respectful and friendly. I do believe that you need to go to India to understand this genuine hospitality.

India3I would love to give back to the people of India. Around 30% of the estimated 1.21 billion people living in India live below the poverty line. This poverty line is set at someone living on 28.65 rupees (35 pence) per day! Therefore, the number of people struggling to get by each day must be very much over 30% of India’s massive population. There are countless voluntary opportunities all over India. This varies from helping children to learn English, community development programmes, organic farming, conservation and many more.

I will definitely be going back to use my TEFL qualification. I would recommend this, or simply visiting India to anyone. Three months in India has helped me to gain real perspective and to understand how lucky I am.

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