I’ve been back from India for over a month and thought I’d share a few more observations from the trip to compliment my Bangalore Vernacular post from October.
- There are many road-side options to buy motorcycle helmets, and although drivers often wore them, passengers (which are very common), seldom do. – This lack of head gear includes children and women who often ride on the same bike with the helmeted man driving.
- Many women ride side-saddle in saris as passengers on motorcycles (usually without helmets – as noted above). – A very scary sight: I kept dreading seeing a woman’s dress get pulled into the spokes of the bike – yanking her hard onto the road and into the fast moving, chaotic traffic.
- Even though there is an over abundance of garbage piled along the roads, there is almost no graffiti to be seen.
- Although male-female Public Displays of Affection (PDA) are not to be seen, men platonically hold hands, hug, and walk with arms around each other in spite of the fact that there seems to be strong cultural currents of homophobia.
- Traffic speed is controlled by large speed bumps.
- Motorists drive the center of the road – apparently to maximize the options available to them in terms of lanes and passing.
- Given the very poor state of road maintenance, tire repair and replacement stands are common road-side sights.
- At night, the vast majority of people street-side are men. – Women go missing.
- People seen along the roads, squat as opposed to sit: this includes older people.
- The areas around the India airports of Bangalore, New Dehli and Jaipur (at least), are kept relatively tidy and are complimented with extensive gardens.
- There are swastika (svastikas in Sanskrit) – an ancient symbol of auspiciousness in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Of course, India had the symbol before the Nazis, but it still catches the eye and one realizes how deep and dark the Nazi symbolism is to the Western eye.
- In spite of the ever-present refuse, markets areas smell good with the scents of flowers and food – only occasionally punctured with something more pungent.
If I had to sum up my experience in India into a bumper-sticker, I’d say that it isn’t always pretty but it is always interesting. Poverty and pollution are realities of India and likely to shock those who have not previously visited a developing nation, (or ventured outside of their Caribbean vacation resort compounds). However, the open minded traveler is well rewarded with a country full of vitality, amazing sights, warm hospitality and countless pleasant surprises. Just don’t drink the water and you’ll be more than fine.