Thoughts On Traveling in India #1

A Scene Set in Hyderabad. The back of the truck says "Justice Through Science"

Some random thoughts on traveling in India so far:

  • The Indian head-wobble is hilarious to me. Its basically an up and down and side to side head movement while listening or talking. It took me awhile to figure out what it means, and it means something along the lines of “Yes and No. Neither Yes nor No. Not Maybe. I’m listening to you. Whatever.” Something like that. Finally getting used to it, even do it a bit myself.
  • Cows are sacred in India, so you’ll see them wandering around everywhere. They’ll block the road, eat your grass, crap where they please.
  • Buy a roll of toilet paper and take it with you wherever. You’re absolutely not guaranteed to find some, and unless you want to use your hand and a bucket of water you’ll regret it if you don’t.
  • Mosquitoes galore. Get used to it.
  • I didn’t realize before I came that maybe 95% of Indian marriages are arranged. I’ve talked about this with a few people, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Love marriages fit more closely with my idea of what a marriage should be, obviously, but arranged marriages are more closely aligned with a sense of spousal duty and the Indian caste system. Many are glad for it, but its seems weird to me to never meet your spouse before your marriage. Sometimes there is “arranged dating”, which at least gives you some choice.
  • Indians are really tough on wait staff. Ordering is like an unfriendly negotiation with the orderer having the upper-hand. If you’re a waiter, expect to be harassed about every little thing: how spicy it is, what’s in it, how the waiter from last time messed up, etc. I actually enjoyed my time as a waiter at the Macaroni Grill (though I hated my boss, seriously she was b****), but there’s no way I’d enjoy it here.
  • “Monsoon” and “Monsoon Season” were abstract ideas that meant nothing to me before coming to Goa, even though I knew they both applied. No longer. It rains 22 hours/day here. As soon as it stops raining, I hop on my motorycle and take off to wander around. I’ve ridden around in the rain some as well, because the police here are fair weather police. And if they see a foreigner riding a motorcycle, they’ll pull you over on some BS and you’ll have to bribe them for $6. Hasn’t happened yet, and I’m trying to avoid it by taking the small roads and riding in the rain.
  • CouchSurfing is an awesome resource to meet locals, which is imperative when traveling. Locals know where to go to eat, where the party’s at, which sites to see, how to get from place to place, where to buy toilet paper, and how much to pay for things. Plus, “traveling alone” doesn’t mean being by yourself all the time. Run with the locals and you’re bound to meet some interesting people and make some friends.
  • You need to learn to bargain and how much things generally cost pretty quickly, otherwise you’ll be taken advantage of like whoa. Especially when riding in rickshaws, you want to get them to use the meter. The best way to do this is not to answer their question “Where are you going?”, but instead say first “Do you have a meter?” Insist on a positive response, and give them about three seconds to say “Yes”. Otherwise start walking away, and most of the time they’ll say OK, and if they don’t then you don’t want to use them anyways. Still, a tip of 20 Rupees ($.40) at the end of the ride means that you depart on good terms and the world is just a slightly better place.
  • The people you meet in a place make all the difference. For example, if I hadn’t met the friends I made in Hyderabad, I probably wouldn’t have liked it much. Instead, I had a great time and have some great memories of Hyderabad.
  • Its really easy to meet people, locals or foreigners, if you want. You just walk up to them, smile, and say “Hi”. Its that easy. I don’t remember this working so easily back home. We’re all so busy, we have enough friends already, and in some ways we’re social cowards. Our loss.
  • One night in Bangalore I decided to wander around outside my hotel at 3am. I was basically surrounded by a few people that threw some veiled threats at me, but I told them I only had 200Rs on me (~$4) and they left me alone. I’m not 100% sure they intended to rob me, but I’m 30% sure which is enough. I bought a silver rounded paperweight that I carry on me now. If I threw at someone, it would hurt really bad. Not planning on using it, and generally India is a really safe place and the people fantastically-nice, but like anywhere there are bad apples. Better safe than sorry that you’re laptop and wallet are now gone.

More thoughts to come, but these are some of the observations that I remember so far.

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  • Dad

    I just read the past two months worth of posts. They are a great read. TRY to be safe. I miss you and love you.

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