Saturday, September 26, 2020

Experiencing Incredible India

The traffic here consists of a smaller make of cars, bicycles, motorcycles, Vintage cars that resemble those used mostly in James Bond movies, which are mostly used as taxis, and the popular three wheeler, known as the tuk tuk.

Blowing the horn or hooting is the norm and no driver takes offence. In fact, there seems to be no road rage because blowing the horn is part and parcel of driving.

The trucks are written colourfully and boldly at the back ‘Blow Horn’ or ‘Horn Please’.
Welcome to New Dehli, the capital city of India.

The time one spends on the road to get to their destination depends on how much traffic is on the road and, mind you, it can get very hectic. That is quite understandable though in a country that is home to a population of over 1.21 billion people.

Everyone minds their business and goes on about to attend to it. However, as I was being driven to the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel where I was scheduled to stay, which is around 40 minutes from Indira Ghandi Airport, I experienced some rather shocking sites.

I observed a lot of homeless people, both adults and kids as young as three years old, dressed in torn and dirty clothes with some just sleeping by the road side. There are a lot of squatter camps along the highways, which are, literally, home for the homeless. Some even cook just alongside the highway in open spaces.

The streets are quite dirty with a lot of litter thrown everywhere with pools and puddles of stagnant water that smells horrible. Most of the buildings are old flats whose appearances, by the way, suggest they have been around for decades or even way more beyond that.

There are also cows and buffaloes roaming around town. The buffaloes are reared as domestic animals for their milk and ability to pull carriages. They are different from the ones available in Botswana.
The hotel was quite different though, a fancy place with tight security to protect the guests. The service here is well on point and Batswana could learn a thing or two here as far as hospitality goes. Although communication was a barrier because some of the hotel stuff know just a little bit of English, that still did not deter them from delivering service with a smile. It is obvious that a customer’s happiness and wellbeing while here matters a whole lot to them.

The food is not as bad as I expected but, obviously, I had one or two problems trying to relate to the dishes. The ‘mild’ in India is hot in Botswana. I discovered that after a recommendation from one of the kitchen staff suggesting I could eat the fish because it was mild only to find I could barely swallow the little that I wanted to taste.

Not all the food is hot though, just that Indians believe in the use of spices in almost all their dishes.

The people are religious and take it very seriously, which explains why they have a conservative society. The women are always covered up in outfits that do not expose the body. Only tourists can be the ones seen with a different dress code but they too respect the culture and try to dress within the standards set here. There is no verbal communication on that but an unspoken understanding.

Courtesy of India’s Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts, which had organized the trip to India, there was a visit to the famed Taj Mahal, one of India’s tourist attractions known worldwide for its beauty and history.

After a drive of around 6 hours to Agra, we eventually reached the Taj Mahal and there were a lot of people on the same mission to explore the heritage site, mostly locals and the tour guide explains that it is because of the spring season that they get many people coming in.

A tour through the Taj Mahal shows why it is very popular.

Built from white marble in honour of his late third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died when giving birth to their 14th child, Emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal, which took 22 years to complete, as a way of honouring his dear beloved wife. Both the tombs of the Emperor and his wife Mumtaz can be viewed inside the Taj Mahal next to each other.

The other two tombs of his other wives are found on the building surrounding the Taj Mahal.One thing to note here is that the Taj Mahal and its surrounding areas are very clean and that can not go unnoticed.

After the visit to the Taj Mahal the fun died because of the 6-hour drive from Agra back to town.

On the way back I witnessed what I never thought I would though I had learnt about it from my father who had stayed in India for two years in the mid 1990s. I saw a person taking a dump in a busy road just by the middle where pedestrians stop before they cross on to the other side of the road.

The people do not mind being photographed. In fact, they could just signal for you to come and photograph them.

Even when they are worshipping they do not seem bothered by flashlights from the cameras or the people taking the pictures. This I found a bit surprising because it is quite the opposite of what we have back home.

A visit to the mall the day after suggests that for one to make it around, they have to have very good haggling skills because negotiation is the key factor that facilitates the buying and selling of goods.

A buyer has to twist a sellers arm to reach a deal about the price of sale. Most of the traders do not have a fixed price on their goods, only one or two do have a fixed price. It is worth noting though that it is not simple to make a choice on what to get because the Indians are very gifted when it comes to handicrafts. Be it handbags, clothes, jewellery or household decorations, they always outdo themselves.

Much can be said about the trip to India but all in all it was a beautiful trip that had a new experience in store. Apart from the cultural shock, I had fun and, yes, I rode on a tuk tuk and that was very magical. I also had a few sips of the famous Indian beer Kingfisher.

On top of that I met new people and made new friends, most of whom are now connected through the social networking site Facebook and have been keeping in touch.

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