Friday, January 22, 2010

5 Things that shocked me about India

You would think this would be a long list.  Especially if you are not Indian.  Especially if you are like my redneck workmates (old job, not new thank goodness) who would say things like: 'why are you going to India', 'do they have proper buildings there' (this guy thought there were just huts...funny...funnier because he is half Indian but with parents born here...he is not a redneck at least...just a dumbo sometimes...and reasonably likely to read this because I am going to tell him to :D), 'nothing will prepare you...' (referring to poverty, crowds, beggars, food), 'you won't be able to eat the think you know hot food but you don't if you haven't been to India'.  (It should be noted, by the way, that none of the people giving these warnings had ever actually been to India). But...while I encountered all these things, none of them shocked me.  The only food I found hot (but could still eat), my Indian dining companion also found hot enough to give him nightmares.  A few things did shock me though:

1) Orange hair.  On my very first day I noticed that a number of people I saw had bright orange hair.  I thought this was an unusual colour to dye your hair, especially if your natural colour is black.  Thought 'oh, maybe it has some religious meaning that I just don't know because I am a dumb tourist'.  Then, looking at my friend's hair, I noticed that he no longer had any grey hairs.  Instead, they!  So I discovered the reason for the orange hair.  Yes, henna.  Duh. (photo from

2)  People everywhere.  Now, I had known that the cities would be crowded, so this didn't come as a shock.  But I had not realised that even out 'in the country' there would be people everywhere - in fields working, talking by the side of the road, walking.  In Australia once you leave the cities you very rarely see anyone walking or cycling on the side of the road.  In fact, on many roads you will go 10 minutes to an hour without even seeing another car.  I actually really liked this aspect, and idea that you were never too far from another person.

3)  Actually seeing those 'only in India' sights.  You know, the elephants, cows by cars, Rajasthani men in turbans talking by the side of the road, overloaded autos, people on top of buses, women in beautiful saris carrying water on their heads.  This shocked and delighted me.  In so many places you never see what you expect to (for example, women in kimono in Japan) India gave me a lot more than I had dared hope.  And I loved it all.

4)  Just how pretty and pristine much of Delhi was.  How nice the painted kerbs were.  How litter free the streets.  How green and serene (well apart from peak hour traffic).  I had not expected to like Delhi.  Had not much wanted to go there (influenced of course by my Mumbai friends who were full of dire warnings and dismissal of the charms of Delhi).  But I loved it.  Wish my city was so pretty.  (and yes, Harsh, if you read this, you did a fabulous job of showing me just the good side of Delhi...but of course next time I will not be deterred from Pahar Ganj) :D

5)  Washing/laundry drying.  A few things shocked me about this.  Firstly, I saw no pegs in use - not even when outside on a line.  How do the clothes stay there?  Is there no wind in India?  Are the clothes well-disciplined?  I don't understand.  Please explain.  Secondly, they were everywhere - whether hanging on the posts on the middle of a median strip,  over a fence in the middle of Mumbai, or on a line by the road in Goa, they were frequently in places that were accessible to a lot of people.  Don't people steal clothes in India?  From my own experiences of a communal line in a small complex of 8 units here, I can assure you that Australians do.  And yet even is a busy city where most passersby will not know the owners of the clothes, they apparently remain safe.  Amazing!


  1. Thanks for this post, truely delighted me!!

    When i started reading I hair????.yes henna is very popular as dye, because of economics and it is harmless also.

    That is the reason when I go abroad I find it too quiet everywhere:)

    Due to our tropical climate we need to wash clothes very frequently and washing machines with drier are still not in place evrywhere:)

  2. Lol at you My Bald exaggerator :D

    Thank you Renu :) And yes, even my very first hair dye(ish) attempt was just using henna shampoo...but I had never seen the effect on grey or white hair before (for some reason here when I was younger older women often had blue hair...) Would not be willing to admit how dumb I was to not realise except that I think anyone who has read a few will already know :D

    Totally the same here with the clothes washing often...and while I had known that washers weren't so common (and of course being so very stereotypical tourist mystelf had the Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai as one of of my 'must see'attractions) and here too we line dry our clothes (in winter too for most of us 'older' ones...I was 31 before I inherited by first clothes drier when I purchased a house from an American...and still regard them as horribly wasteful). But how do they stay put without pegs (as they all did?). Even with pegs here sometimes I find the odd one on the ground in windy weather.

  3. heheehhe..."are teh clothes self disciplined" nice one kathy...yeah..and the best thing is if your clothes fly down on the neighbours terrace and you go down to fetch it..its a different story every will see the man of the house shaving and coming to open the door..or the woman wiping her hands on the apron to come and open the door..all things are understood..some day their clothes too shall express free will n decide to drop down :)

  4. OMG!!! you found a picture too :) :)

  5. You know you are so right, I had clothes stolen from my line in Perth.
    We used to blame it on the Aboriginals across the street in Karawara...

  6. Interesting the comment abt "self disciplined" cloths. I never noticed that pegs are not used..really? I guess they do use peg of some type but don't peg the cloths to the cloths line - i think they peg one part of the cloth to another part of the cloth thus making an inescapable (?) / unescapable (?) closed loop?

    I'm tempted to start blogging....what are your tips for a potential starter? My blog is likely to be a reactive blog rather than an inspired one.

  7. ROFLMAO!!
    thats what we call the Great Indian Thamasha!

  8. U didnt see Delhi's underbelly but it is still far cleaner than ur fav city Mumbai :) I can expect a response here from Mumbai Manus now..
    As for population, India adds one Australian population every year. You missed the kumbh mela in Haridwar to recalibrate your sense of crowd.
    Clothes are made from Indian bred cotton so they are calmer and contended. Didnt u see Indian marriages last longer too.. a contended breed after all. :D

  9. lol these r the onli things that shocked u ...!!!??
    n bout the clothes ,,,
    if u noticed the one tat wer hanging n e wher wer the filthy ones ..
    they r actually hung ther purposely so tat they get stolen so tat we get an excuse to buy new ones but who the hell wud steal those filthy clothes the thives in our country have a high standard of living u see , they onli have ghotalas of lakhs n lakhs of croores ,

    Great post!

  11. hahaha...yeah the orange henna topped my list as well :-) I loved this.

  12. Wow... i expected u 2 write sumthing fancy, but this was different. You noticed a lot of common things which a tourist in India usually does not observe. Loved it :)

  13. God,did I mention I LOVE YOUR BLOG?!

  14. Oh bugger, had almost finished response post, when overcome by curiosity went off to check a profile and lost it...grrr...will respond 'properly' by tomorrow...

  15. On the 25th of January...geez what planet do you live on? :P