In Western society we are spoiled, as most things in our lives are considered perfect or damn well close to it. We have experienced India not to be too consumed about being perfect, but rather lean towards just being functional. We coined this concept “Indian good”, in that for other people (and tourists) it might not be good enough, but for them, it is good. In Jodhpur, we stayed at the Pal Haveli Hotel. A stately old townhouse with intricate architecture, how is it then that our towel rail in the bathroom is noticeably skew? Most probably because the guy who installed it, was tasked with putting a railing up and did just that. Hell, he even probably walked off afterwards reaffirming to himself that he did a good job. Another hotel we stayed in, during our tour, had a shower floor with no slope for the water to drain. Come to think of it, this might have been deliberate, to shower for a shorter time and thus in the process conserve water? Yet another hotel had a handheld telephone shower head with no hook to hang it on. You will find this concept (of ‘Indian good’) everywhere, it doesn’t distract from your experience of the country, but is worth a smile occasionally.
There are only a few festivals celebrated nationally, as for the most part it is restricted to regions or provinces. We have spent a lot of our time in the Rajasthan province and for a whole week they had a kite festival. It had something to do with the sun (could be the moon as well … probably worth a google) moving into a new constellation. Not sure how this involve kites, but reasoning eludes, as you find yourself gawking at the skyline from early afternoon, as it is dotted with beautiful dancing kites. You drift slowly into a peaceful state of mind, watching this inexpensive pastime as if the show is being put up exclusively for your viewing pleasure. Until it hits you and you witness it right in front of you. This is a game. The bright purple kite that was rhythmic dancing above you just now, disappeared for a moment and is now being controlled from a rooftop two blocks away. At closer inspection, you notice that the kites change location (read: ownership) frequently. The rules are as follows, each kite is in a fight for the sky with the one closest to it. You must try to get it out of your airspace. A favourite tactic is to use a special abrasive type of string, which if stroked for a long period against another kite’s string, it will eventually cut through it. The defeated kite will fall from the sky and moments later it will be victoriously back in the sky, but with a new owner. Serene on the one hand, yet competitively fueled on the other hand. Cheap entertainment for the neighbourhood’s children – remember you need scouts on ground level for collection and retrieval purposes as well. Lesson learned: one doesn’t need loads of money to have clean innocent fun.
Additional bits and bobs, not worthy of many words:
- In Delhi, there is an official market selling stolen goods
- In Ranthambore, we were booked on an evening safari ride, in hope of spotting a wild Bengal tiger. The ride started at 14h30. Our guide greeted us with a friendly “good evening” … the sun was still shining.
- You constantly need to double check the change given back to you (remember my earlier reference to opportunism and entrepreneurship?)
- Paved sidewalks are rare. If you find one, it is usually much higher than what you are used to in your own country. This is to ensure that it doesn’t accidentally form part of the drivable road surface
The sequence of places we overnight at: Chennai, Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Chennai.
Despite my cynical comments, I have no regrets visiting India. No wait. This is not true. I regret not buying more fabric and curio. Apart from it being ridiculously cheap, it is beautiful.
As all good things need to come to an end, I am glad to be back home. My weight needs attention and I am happy to be in touch with water/milk/food without the need to worry about a potentially expensive international medical evacuation.
OK, this concludes India. Why not check out Thailand?