Afterwords (the bits that didn't fit anywhere else!!)
New Delhi Travel Blog› entry 23 of 23 › view all entries
Less than 24 hours to go before we leave India. We cannot believe the three months has gone by so quickly, and so enjoyably, and so trouble-free. It's been a great experience in a great country, and we're already thinking about which areas we'll visit next time. So - ending with a few thoughts that just didn't seem to fit in elsewhere.
Army aphorisms. India has a huge army, with a regiment in almost every town we've visited. It's got some superb barracks areas here in Delhi travel guide">New Delhi, including the grand Jaipur Polo Ground. The regiments often advertise their nicknames on the depot walls, or have exhortations like Death or Glory. The most striking we saw was in huge lettering on a Ladakh Scouts barracks near Leh - a quote from Macauley's Horatius at the Bridge: "How can man die better than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers and the Temples of his Gods"
Two-wheeled terrors. Motorbikes and scooters are ubiquitous. It's not unusual to see dad driving a scooter, boy in front helping steer the handlebars, daughter immediately behind, and mum sidesaddle behind again. Sometimes mum holds a baby or maybe a large package. On occasions, gradma fits on too. No-one wears a helmet, except in Delhi, where presumably the police are stricter. But there, while the (usually) male driver is helmeted, his female pillion passenger is not. Maybe 1% or less of the drivers are female - slightly more in Delhi. The two-wheeled drivers zigzag through the traffic with little concern for others on the road. Worst are the young men on large motorbikes who take pleasure at swerving past at 40+ on narrow streets. No-one seems to mind.
Dodgy driving. Driving is not for the faint hearted. Cars and lorries play chicken on narrow roads - who'll pull over left last. In towns, while cars and lorries generally keep left, bikes, scooters, rickshaws, motorbikes and animal hauled carts often use the wrong side or go the wrong way round a roundabout. Traffic is slowed up by cows, cycle rickshaws, push carts, pack animals (often used even in towns to carry builders materials), bullock carts, camel carts or tongas. There are few pavements, and those that exist often have street traders all over them, so pedestrians mingle too. Oh - and often the car engine is left running while the tank is being filled, and the use of lights at night seems optional, at least in country areas. It's all very exciting! Yet we've only seen one collision in all our travels.
Busy builders. There's a lot of building work going on wherever we've been. Scaffolding is bamboo poling held together with rope. Ladders are also bamboo, and are carried along the streets between 2 bicycles. The builders are teams of men and women, with the men turning cement and laying bricks, and the women bringing the cement to the bricklayers in bowls on their heads, in a constant stream. The Health and Safety Exec just wouldn't know where to start!
People on pilgrimage. There are Hindu shrines and temples all over the areas we've travelled apart from Ladakh. Some are huge, some are newly under construction, some are just small wayside buildings. Our drivers often stopped early in a journey to pray at a shrine for a safe journey - some really needed to!! We came across a couple of major pilgrimages, which are a feature of Hindu life. One was to Mt Kailash, a mountain trek. The other, much more popular, was to Ramdevra in remote western Rajasthan, to the shrine of Ramdev. He's popular with the poor and landless, apparently, because in his time he opposed caste distinctions. It's said he's worshipped by both Hindus and Moslems.
Along the road to the shrine, the pilgrims came in their thousands. They walked in groups in the hot dusty sunshine, often carrying large flags or pictures of Ramdev on his white horse. Along the road were hundreds of discarded cheap sandals, left by those who were going to walk the last few miles barefoot, though many were just barefoot anyway. At little junctions, makeshift camps were erected where the pilgrims rested, ate, sheltered from the sun or slept at night. The women were in typical colourful Rajasthani saris and heavy jewellery, the men in more ordinary dress. They all looked pleased to be there, excited at the break from normal routine. Many seem to have been days on the the pilgrimage and would need days to return home. We felt the scene, apart from the clothing, resembled a medieval European pilgrimage - a popular religious outing that was fun too.
Throughout tourist-trail India, you get "propositioned". "Come into my shop..just to look..feast your eyes.." Rickshaw wallahs ask "Where do you want to go..cheap price.." Mostly it's all good natured. We say politely in our well-mannered English way, "No thank you," smile and walk on. It was different in Agra.
Of course, Agra sees thousands of tourists, but most come in groups and individual tourists are a rarer breed than might be imagined. So the shopkeepers, traders, touts, hustlers and rickshaw wallahs descend. You begin to get annoyed at their insistence. How many ways can you say no until someone gives up? No, nein, non, nyet..nahi..even the attempt at Hindi doesn't work. You get attacked as soon as you leave the hotel. The rickshaw wallah you used yesterday demands to know where you're going today. The bangle seller, who's been spurned ten times already, tries once more and follows you up the street waving his bangles. You insist to three cycle rickshaw drivers that you are only walking. The internet cafe is actually in a carpet shop. When you've paid your 30rps to check emails, he's quite offended when you don't look at his carpets. At sights, "guides" proffer unwanted services. "You will learn much more, good sir." "No thank you, I just want to look, not listen." "Oh my god, you'll miss it all." Even in the mosque, you discover your "I am just working here, sir, and want no tip..." owns a gem shop he expects you to visit. His pained expression as you decline must take some considerable practice. As does the look on the rickshaw driver's face as you insist (7 times) that you do not want to go to the shop where he gets commission to take you.
OK - in the end these guys are just trying to make a living, and in the grand scheme of life and good holidays, these are really small irritations. But can anyone tell me the best Hindi word for "No"?