Monthly Archives: January 2013

So…how did you like India?

Sorry for the delayed post, I have been sick since I got home and have not been able to muster up the energy to post. So my apologies for the long-winding sentences and possible incoherence.

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As we went around visiting many of S’s relatives, there were a couple of questions that were routinely asked of me:

  1. What do you do?
  2. Where do you work?
  3. Questions about my family, what my parents do and if I have any siblings
  4. How do you like India?

The first three questions were always easy to answer because they were things that have been constants in my life. The last question was something that I wasn’t quite ready to reply to because I realized that I hadn’t seen enough of India to make a good assessment of the country as a whole.

My answer always revolved around aspects that I had the pleasure of enjoying, such as the food and people I had met as well as the different places that I had been to. I always ended the response with “I’d like to come and visit different places” because I felt that even having only been to a couple of the major cities in India, there was a different feel for each of them.

The response would most certainly be along the lines of: ” India is so big that many people come and stay for months or years and have not been able to form a whole opinion about India.” I completely agree with that. There are so many things to experience and everyone goes to India for different reasons: some to seek spirituality, for the shopping, for the food, to volunteer, etc – whatever the reason maybe, it will help to define one’s opinion of India and whether it was a positive or negative experience.

I went to India because I wanted to cross two things off my bucket list: attend an Indian wedding in India (I was very lucky to have gone to two) and to see the Taj Mahal. However, both of these were achieved within the first two weeks of my visit so with the remaining two weeks, there wasn’t a purpose/goal that I wanted to achieve. However, what I found was that there are many beautiful temples in Southern India that are still well maintained and used regularly by locals, as well as an opportunity to feel as if I was living in India.

In Chennai, we stayed with S’s aunt and family for the full two weeks. It was very much a luxury – sleeping in until 10am every morning, three home-cooked meals a day and went about our planned activities. In retrospect, it felt more like I was living in India rather than being a tourist because we lived with family and went through the daily routines of life with them. I got to know the neighbourhood and could walk back if I ever got lost (I wasn’t really allowed to go anywhere by myself so this didn’t apply – but if I ever did get lost, I could find my way back).  I recognized landmarks and different parts of the city as we were travelling. The two weeks went by very quickly and before we knew it, it was time to go home.

All in all, my thoughts on India are as follows:

  • The food, shopping and sights were all amazing! Regardless of which city I was in, each one had their specialties, tourist attractions and local cuisine to offer.
  • I love the people I’ve met along the way, aside from S’s family members. Everyone is always willing to help out, especially if they know you’ve already been sick once and will always inquire about your health
  • The modes of transportation are abundant, cheap and super accessible. I will forever want to have auto rickshaws at home because they are a way to travel short distances and cheaper to take than taxis. You can bargain for how much you want to pay.
  • There is definitely a lack of privacy/personal space. All family members live in close quarters and often share bedrooms with one another. Also, no questions go unasked regardless of how personal they may be. I’m very glad to be back in my own bedroom, sleeping in my own bed.
  • Political events and issues are discussed and on television all the time. There are shows that have a devoted hour for current issue debates where different people within the community are featured as guest speakers on the show. Very interesting comments are made, especially in light of the gang-raped victim and the general treatment and attitudes towards women. I wish we had more of this at home because it would help inform the general public on which policies and issues the government needs to work on/working on.
  • Home-cooked foods are made differently depending on the cook. Many people cook the same foods but have their own spice blends that are added to the food so it’s always slightly different when you try it. There are no recipes, they are just ingrained and learned from parents and grandparents. This has inspired to cook more at home and to revisit old recipes that I can add my own twist to.
  • Traffic lights, pedestrian walkways and lanes are all used as guidelines. At times when walking through markets and streets, vehicles and pedestrians fight for the road. The sidewalks are not often used for walking but more for vendors to display their goods so people just walk on the side of the road in between parked and moving vehicles. Kind of scary at first but you get used to it. The traffic is very congested, especially during rush hour! All vehicles on the road fight for space, you honk to signal you want to pass and you don’t have to stay in your lane when waiting to cross an intersection, smaller vehicles will just fit into any space they can find. Something that I got used to but don’t miss.
  • There are a lot of wild animals wandering everywhere! I have seen the following animals just walking around: cows, dogs, buffaloes, camels, pigeons, crows, peacocks, goats, pigs, horses, elephants, Indian squirrels (they look like North American chipmunks), chickens, roosters and parrots.

I definitely want to go back to India and experience more of the nature/outdoor adventures it has to offer. Also, wouldn’t mind seeing more beaches 🙂

G

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Chennai – home away from home

I was very fortunate to call Chennai home for two weeks. We stayed with S’s family and I’m so grateful that put up with all our antics and disrupting their daily routine. I found the best thing about Chennai were the people. Everywhere we went and everyone we met was very polite and helpful. To me, I could see a fundamental change in S’s personality and attitudes – she truly felt at home. I was very lucky to meet a lot of her family members – many took me in as an extension of her.

The city itself is big yet super walkable. Shops usually surround neighborhoods so you can walk out and grab groceries or take a short auto ride to where your destination. Street shopping in Chennai is best found in Pondy Bazaar and T. Nagar. There are a lot of stalls and a lot of people so you need to keep on moving and looking at the same time. The pricing is a little higher than Bombay and Delhi because they don’t have as much competition.  Also, the variety is not as good as the other two cities but you’ll be able to find most of what you’re looking for. Spencers plaza is a mall that was built in three phases and has a combination of retail shops and offices. We managed to find some north Indian souvenirs there.

Do not eat street food there because there isn’t much, but what is there is not that great. You’re better off going to a nearby restaurant.

I really felt like I was living in India rather than just visiting because we fell into a daily routine of getting up, bathing, eating breakfast and moving on with the day’s activities and then coming home for dinner. It felt nice to live with a routine for a bit compared to the constant on the go schedule.

We’re currently on our way back home, so I’ll post more when I’m settled in.

G

 

 

 

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