Travel Flashback: India, part 2

Yesterday I published the first part of my memoirs from five weeks spent in India in 2010. I’m assuming the fact you’re here means that you’ve already read part one and you’re not fed up of me yet, so nice one. Either that or you’ve just stumbled across this, in which case welcome aboard. You can find part one here, or just underneath this one if you’re not lazy.

Anyway, here are a few more things that spring to mind when I think back to that time spent in New Delhi.

It’s frustrating

I’ve already talked about the ordeal that is crossing the road, or getting a train journey ANYWHERE in the city. I think the 20 year old, slightly “stroppier” me summed it up quite nicely at the time:

“When we were told we were getting free metro travel to the stadium I thought “great, that’ll stop the mad queues and messing around at the station!”. Incorrect. Instead of just issuing us with a two week pass that allows free travel we are issued with strips of coupons. Once at the station, we have to gamble on one of the three possible options to get our coupon signed. It changes every day and sods law dictates that it’s always the last one we go to.

I know I’m pretty big headed at times, but I honestly think I could run this system better.

Totally necessary after a day of work in Delhi

Once you’re over the metro debacle and have haggled a tuk tuk down to its lowest price you’re eventually at the venue. First of all you have to go through security which is understandable for a global sporting event. However what isn’t normal is the fact that you feel you‘ve just gone to second base with the security guy when you pass through the checks. Seriously, I felt like telling him “calm down, we’ve only just met”.

After this I have my wallet thoroughly searched and have any coins confiscated from me. When you consider that the majority of the coins are given to me the previous day by the venue catering kiosks you can’t help but be a bit suspicious can you? They assure me that it’s going to charity, but I reckon the Kingfisher’s are on me when it comes to the staff Christmas do.

Just about all I was left with after security checks

Other confiscated items include pens, drinks, empty bottles and insect repellent. God knows why, I don’t even bother asking. One thing I’ve learnt out here is not to bother questioning locals, you never win. I guess it wouldn’t be India if things were simple.

Once you’re through security (stripped of dignity and possessions), you then have to negotiate the irritatingly efficient check-in desk. Here you are issued with numerous coupons, badges (which ironically, are sharper than the pen confiscated at security), and stickers which you don’t really have a clue what to do with, but they aren’t letting you leave without them! Good job there’s a bin straight outside.”

As you can probably tell, that was written towards the end of my stay and I was getting a little impatient, to say the least. Looking back, I do laugh at the groups moustachioed men who took great pride in confiscating the odd 20 rupees and ball point pen here and there. If you’d have told me that would be the case a few years ago I’d have told you to get out of town. I still maintain that I could run the show better though.

The poverty is heartbreaking

Let me start by saying that I know tha not all of India is affected by poverty. Of course it isn’t. But the fact of the matter is that the poor in India are indeed very poor.

Sorry to get all serious, but it’s true. I saw so many things in India that I hope I never have to see again, with the town of Agra perhaps being the main offender. I imagine the lure of the tourists visiting the Taj Mahal is what brings the beggars.
The fact that many of the local newspapers have pages dedicated to identifying random dead bodies found in the streets speaks volumes.

I saw mums encouraging their children to dislocate their joints to perform tricks for passing tourists. We got followed by a group of around 30 children upon leaving McDonald’s (classy) in Agra, all scrapping for any stray chips we may drop. However one incident really stuck out for me.

I found myself buying stuff like this out of sympathy

Myself and around three others were sat in a tuk tuk waiting for the traffic lights to turn green when the vehicle was approached by a young girl on her own. She couldn’t have been any older than seven or eight years old. She tapped me on the leg and showed me a collection of shoddy felt pens that she wanted me to buy. Of course, I wasn’t interested.

After her repeated attempts to thrust the pens on me (and my repeated attempts to tell her no) she eventually got fed up and poked me in the face before walking off. I’m not sure if that’s how Donald Trump made his millions, but it certainly didn’t work on me. I remember at the time being absolutely fuming, but looking back I guess they don’t know any better. I imagine my face was an absolute picture.

The booze ups

Let’s get back to the more lighthearted stuff. What do you get if you put 30 students in a country with cheap booze for five weeks?

Some of the nights out we had in Delhi and Jaipur will live long in the memory, despite the fact they’re extremely hazy and almost every night in our favoured haunt “Blues Bar” blends into one.

More alcohol-fuelled karaoke

My favourite nights however, had to be the ones at the British High Commission and the Defence Counsel. Both times we were specially invited by top brass to go for food, drinks and network in their huge gardens, a garden party of sorts I guess. I think it’s safe to say everyone’s eyes lit up when we saw the free bar which was duly drank dry.

One of my more obscure drunken acquisitions

Personal embarrassing highlights included asking the band’s guitarist if he gets told he looks like David Seaman often, and trying to chat up a member of the Welsh female ping pong team.

Safe to say neither were received particularly well. We were never invited back, surprisingly.

Verdict

I was asked by my mum when I got home if I’d miss the place. My response was “ask me again in six months” and I think that was right. Upon returning, I was glad to get back to Western ways; I even remember being visibly delighted at seeing the huge queue for immigration at Heathrow airport! Worryingly, I watched the India episode of “An Idiot Abroad” when I got back home and found myself agreeing with lots of the stuff Karl Pilkington said.

NOT my face throughout the entire trip…honest!

However looking back, I would absolutely love to return to India and see more of it. Due to work commitments we were rather shackled to Delhi, which after five weeks is enough to drive anyone mad. The trips out to Agra and Jaipur definitely made me want to see more, and it’s somewhere I’ll be looking to return to in the future.

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