September 14, 2013 by Rob Gardiner
India. From the quiet and lazy life that I was living in Central Asia, I have been thrown into a hectic new existence amidst a whole new array of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Cycling is no longer a priority. In fact, in the week I have been in India, I have only cycled 20 kilometres. That was the distance between the hostel and the airport. From henceforth my bicycle is a form of transport and nothing more. In India, there is little enjoyment to be found on the roads.
Despite this, I had intended to leave Delhi by now. However, a couple of days of acclimatisation has quickly turned into a week and, for once, I have been doing the things that normal tourists do. Accompanied by a couple of friends, I have spent time enjoying the temples, palaces, museums, and most of all, the food that Delhi has to offer. After months of bland Central Asian cuisine, the wide variety of Indian dishes and the array of flavours has been a reawakening for my taste buds. Add to that the incredibly cheap prices, and I would come to India for the food alone.
Unfortunately, my impression of India has not been all positive so far. I have come to learn that when India is bad, it is very bad. Take, for example, Friday night. I was jostled whilst leaving the metro and discovered, only seconds later, that my wallet was gone. Thanks to this, I’m now £180 poorer and credit card-less. Obviously, this could happen in any country, but when added to the never-ending tourist scam attempts, constant harassment by vendors, and dishonest tuk-tuk drivers, it does colour your view of Indian society somewhat. In fact, so frequent are the approaches by con-artists, that I respond exclusively in Russian to any one who talks to me on the street.
The beautiful irony of my cash-less predicament is that now my only financial support is provided by Nichola; a girl who I have agreed to chaperone for a few days (Until her boyfriend arrives). Thus, the roles have been reversed, and I am now reliant on her, not the other way around. She, obviously, finds this hilarious!
However, this need to chaperone a Canadian girl travelling alone, highlights another of India’s problems: attitudes towards women. Obviously, the brutal Delhi rape case has been dominating headlines recently, but I was unaware how unsuitable India is for female travellers until only this week. The attitude of Indian men towards Western women ranges from the comical to the downright creepy. Staring is a given, but then I get stared at, too. However, the duration and intensity of the stares is unbelievable. Often, Indian men walk into each other because they aren’t looking where they are going! Furthermore, the creepy attempts to walk as close as possible to girls and the disgustingly lewd comments are just unpleasant. Fortunately, if accompanied by a man, much of this behaviour stops, but it is worrying how endemic it seems to be.
In conclusion, it is fair to say that India has definitely been a mixed bag so far. In spite of my current poverty, I do not regret coming here. However, I expect better things once outside Delhi and, hopefully, will be able to leave for Agra, and the Taj Mahal, in a few days.