But if there seems to be too little hassle and aggrevation, a quick visit to any large big, polluted Indian city will soon set that right. Salman Rushdie has apparently said in an interview that the thing that strikes him every time he returns to his native country is, that there are just so many people in India! This is indeed true, but there are also loads of people, heat and pollution in many big South-East Asian cities I have visited. What sets Indian big cities apart and makes them especially taxing is the elbows out, push and shove mentality of both pedestrians and motorists. Another difference is the amount of filth on the streets, since people really do NOT understand garbage disposal - and what's to understand, since in many places, it doesn't seem to exist. So in India, the smaller towns and villages are definitely easier to handle. Though I am, strangely, developing a kind for fondness to Delhi.
It has been nice not to have to look at weather forecasts this past two months, since the forecast is always sunny and warm. At times sunny and hot. I've had one cloudy day with a slight drizzle in the afternoon during the whole trip. It's a miracle how any plants can survive here with so little water! I should get some of these species as my house plants.
I come back from this trip, as from all my trips, wiser than I left. Below is a near exhaustive list of things that I have learned:
Also the image at the start of this post of a hair extension specialist confirms this. Though there are exceptions to the rule. I do like these painted wall adds!
This comes in especially handy in India, where bananas are sold everywhere and cost nothing, but most cities have absolutely no rubbish bins. I could do it the Indian way and just chuck my rubbish on the street, but it just goes against the grain. I believe the yellow tone of the cow in the image is not due to eating too many banana skins, but once again something holy and hindu.
I have been travelling mainly in Southern India, which is more wealthy on the whole than the North. In the South, most people are doing relatively well and an increasing number are doing quite nicely - and this is clearly visible around the waistline. A pot-belly on men seems to be a kind of beauty standard for some (possibly in tribute to the pot bellied Ganesha?). Generally speaking, it would appear that here, as in many poorer countries, having a bit of flesh on your bones is a mark of affluence. Any Indian woman about my age who is flashing gold jewellery i.e. has some wealth, is usually quite well fleshed. Extremely thin people are not fashion models here, but extremely poor people - so that is not really the beauty ideal for most. Also the children of wealthy families are often distinctly overweight. What it boils down to - well, rather fries down to - is that people love greasy foods here! And there's enough cubes of sugar in a small cup of tea to keep your blood sugar elevated for several hours. India is still a long way from Texas, but it seems to be doing all it can to catch up!
This trip got off to an auspicious start then, since on my first night of the trip in Delhi, the soul of a monk was roosting on top of my air conditionin unit and hooting all night. Blessed trip.
In India if you eat local, you eat by hand. By right hand that is, as the left hand is the toilet hand (no toilet paper here, just jugs of water and a left hand) and deemed too dirty to touch food. Now you try tearing a tough naan or parotta bread - or the masala dosa in the image above - my favourite breakfast/brunch in India - into suitable pieces using only your right hand and NOT using your left hand to keep the damned thing in place. It's not easy, I tell you. Even the locals seem to struggle with it. Also, most foods here consist of rice or some form or some type of flat bread and a sauce (masala) or four. These masalas tend to be runny - at times they're basically just soup. Ladling rice soaked with a runny sauce into your mouth with your fingers is messy, inefficient and it makes you look even sillier than usual when eating. Not a pretty sight. The exception to the rule is eating a small fish fried whole. It's really handy to debone the fish by hand. You can feel those little bones and pluck them out before you put fish in your mouth.
You don't need to go to Taj Mahal to see spectacular palaces. As a totally personal preference, I didn't want to go there, since by all accounts Agra, where T.M resides, is the mother of all tourist hell holes and T.M. itself not entirely empty of tourists. However lovely a place is, the experience is largely spoilt for me if the place is hyper-touristy, with touts, aggressive sales pitches, outragious scam prices and loads of clueless and loud tour groups bumbling around. I'm just really Finnish that way.
Though temples have far outnumbered palaces on this trip, the palace at Mysore makes up for this shortage nicely. The interior is pretty stunning (I took the OPPOrtunity to take some forbidden photos of the inner rooms). Note the total absence of the milling masses.
Weddings are the biggest day in most Indian's lives. And every girl wants her dream wedding. Funds are pooled and money is saved, but it's still not always enough to rent a real palace for the occasion. Ever inventive, there is a brilliant solution to this: festival halls camouflaged as palaces! Tinsel castles in the sky.
All good things come to and end, and having shared my travel wisdom and my trip with you, it's time to bid adieu. No doubt there'll be other trips to follow and more wisdom to be learned. These feet are made for walking.