7 random things I didn’t know before going to India

(and that you probably don’t need to know either)

India truly was an orgy of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Not all pleasant, but it felt like all my senses were on overdrive at all times. So far I have not had such experiences in other countries. Before I went to India, I read as much as I could from other people’s trips to India in order to prepare myself. But oh boy oh boy, there was just so many other things that I saw in the country that I didn’t know beforehand…and wouldn’t have helped with my travels either.

These are the 7 things that left a deep impression on me that might be useful for others? …just maybe?

1. Tattoos

For a conservative country, there was no lack of tattoos. I saw people of all ages tatted up, and since I can see them, they weren’t exactly trying to hide them. I saw them on professionals in the office, I saw them on young girls in their swimming classes, I saw them on fruit sellers sitting on the street. And I must say – kudos to the tattoo artists, the tattoos all looked quite good.

2. Do not trust distances in India 

In Google Maps we trust…but shouldn’t when you’re in India. Google Maps is such a handy tool and what I like about it the most is that gives an estimate of how long it will take from Point A to Point B. The problem with India is that you will never know the traffic situation or road conditions. On average, I’m able to walk 4-5 km per hour. However, I found that in India, it often took me 30 – 45 mins to walk 1 km. Same thing for cars – yes, I might be 30 km away from the city center, but that does not mean you’ll reach your destination within 20 – 30 mins – you’re better off estimating 1 hr for 40 km when you’re just outside the city center depending on the time of the day and 1 hr for 20 km within a city. It’s only on highways that cars (and other vehicles) can travel up to 80 km/h. My coworker/friend who offered to pick me up even said that it would potentially take him 4 hr to travel 20 km from outside Bangalore to Majestic.

3. Men in Tamil Nadu adjusting their dhotis all the time

If I could get 10 rupees for every time I saw men adjust their dhotis, I would probably have enough money to buy a silk scarf from FabIndia. But I love this fashion piece. Why do we not have this in Western countries? Or more parts of Asia? It’s so flexible and I love the patterns!

4. Pee on every wall

Don’t pee here, pee there!

That seemed like the goal of many men in India. I even have a haiku dedicated to it:

I see a wall here,

Who cares who will see me pee,

I must whip it out

5. The police beatings

Police brutality is unfortunately a visible thing in India. On three occasions I actually saw the police take their sticks and strike people with it and it shocked me from head to toe. They’re not even trying to hide it and people seem to be used to it. I thought the Russian militzia was a group to be avoided, but I would really not want to cross paths with Indian police.

6. The Naga people

I was not aware about the Naga people before. I thought all Indians more or less looked like SRK or Priyanka. So when I saw the first Naga person around Brigade Rd. my first thought was – “MAI PPL [ANOTHER CHINESE TOURIST!]”. But then I realized that they didn’t exactly look like the Chinese Han, but more like Thai or Nepalese because of their cheek structure…and then it hit me – Nepal is a bordering country and the people around there must look like that. Man, seeing these people also made me want to go to NE India in the future. At one point, I even got asked by a North Eastener in Chennai if I was a NE-er. Cool stuff!

7. Walking on the street instead of sidewalk

Protip – walk on the street instead of the sidewalk! It definitely is more even than the sidewalk, which might have missing tiles, open sewage, tree branches, etc. Plus, with the cars and other modes of transportation honking to let you know that they’re approaching or behind you, you will manage just fine on the street.

I don’t really think that any of these things I listed above will help anyone with their travels (except for #2 or #7), but I found these random facts amazing. It’s truly these small things that made India India for me.

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