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 were....orange! So I discovered the reason for the orange hair. Yes, henna. Duh. (photo from downwithtyranny.com)
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)...so 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!