While for Andrew, arriving in Bombay was revisiting old turf and rediscovering once-familiar ways, for me landing in India just over a month ago was like stepping into a new world – a vibrant, colourful, noisy, crowded and generally chaotic world! Luckily, living in Ranong for six months was, I think, good preparation for a lot of the day-to-day quirks of India – our TIA mantra applies here in equal measure.

An everyday street sceneIndia assaults the senses every time you step out the door. Silence is a foreign concept, and even I have learnt to tune out the constant hum of traffic, wallahs plying their trade, children shouting, hindu wedding processions, trains rattling past, car horns, truck horns, rickshaw horns and on it goes…

I love the amazing technicolour fabrics of the women’s saris and salwar kameezes, with their vibrant maroons, golds, reds, yellows, greens and purples – every colour under the sun.

I love the hustle and bustle of the market place, with its array of fresh fruit. I love the delicious smells wafting from every restaurant or roadside stall (when they aren’t blocked out by the fumes of a million auto rickshaws, taxis, buses, cars and other vehicles – that’s not so cool). Dinner with family and friends in Mangalore - I'm a pro at eating without cutlery now.I love the tastes of India too – whether it’s pani puri or bombil in Bombay, chicken xacuti, kingfish with prawn balchao or bebik in Goa, tea with samosas in Fort Cochin, biryani in Bangalore or paper masala dosa in Aurangabad, every meal is fantastic. And in between meals (if you can possibly find any space left) there are a myriad of delectable sweets, or mithai, to snack on. Meeting many of Andrew’s relatives and old friends, and seeing the places he grew up, has been really special, and a definite highlight of our time so far.

Apart from the pollution, the main thing I’m finding difficult in India is what I call the “push” mentality, most apparent when travelling by public transport. Public transport here is pretty good in that it’s fast, it goes almost everywhere, and to date it’s always got us there on time. However, it is often packed to the gunnels, particularly the Bombay train system (apparently a Bombay train compartment is usually filled with over three times the passengers it was meant for at peak hours). As you can imagine, when there are several hundred people trying to get off a train and equal numbers trying to get on, all during the 30 seconds the train is stopped at a station, there’s a lot of pushing and shoving going on – if you don’t push your way through you get left behind, so you do what you have to do and don’t worry too much about those around you. To some extent, I can accept that this is the inevitable consequence of having so many people occupying the same space – but what bothers me is the way this mentality seems to continue, even when there’s no need for it. It’s the destination station, so obviously everyone in front of you is getting off the train here, and once they do, there will be an empty carriage for those waiting on the platform to enter. Or there are, amazingly, only 50 people waiting to get on the Ernakalum ferry, and plenty of room for all. This seems to be irrelevant – the moment the doors are opened, the mad rush to get ahead first begins, despite the fact that if everyone waited their turn they would all get where they wanted to go much faster and more comfortably.

And this mentality seems to pervade all areas of life– there are always so many people either going the same way you are, or getting in your way. If you want to get the last seat, the first rickshaw, a place at the front of the queue before the counter closes, acceptance into that course, the best job offer – you’d better look out for number one, because no one else is going to care if you get left behind. Mostly, I guess, I don’t like that I can feel myself starting to act the same way here – but that’s more about me than about India.

2 thoughts on “

  1. Liebe Nuala, lieber Andrew

    Herzlichen Dank für eure Karte aus Bagan und die Weihnachtswünsche aus Indien. Beides ist diese Woche angekommen.
    Gespannt habe ich eure Reiseberichte gelesen. Finde es wirklich toll so etwas zu unternehmen.
    Habe vorhin eine Sorte Weihnachtsguetzli gebacken und morgen wird Muriel noch eine weitere ausstechen.
    Weisst du, wir haben wieder eine Austauschschülerin bei uns nämlich aus Chile und am 21. Januar reist sie bereits nach Hause. Sie besucht die Kanti in Wil. So ein Jahr ist im Nu vorbei. Nächste Woche besuchen uns Marios Eltern (Austauschschüler aus Honduras). Sie reisen durch Europa und besuchen ihren jüngsten Sohn im Austausch in Berlin. In der Schweiz werden sie nur 2 Tage bleiben und eine Nacht dann bei uns.
    Bin im Moment mit Mariana alleine zu Hause. Papi hat Banksitzung und Muriel ist im Kino mit einer Freundin. Muriel arbeitet nun im Spital in Münsterlingen auf der Pädiatrie, wohnt aber noch zu Hause. Renato arbeitet seit 1. August in Zürich.
    Wie sehen eure Pläne für Europa aus, welche Länder wollt ihr bereisen und wie lange möchtet ihr unterwegs sein? Kommt ihr auch in die Schweiz?

    Wir wünschen euch ein besinnliches Weihnachtsfest. Für euch ist ja die Wärme an Weihnachten nichts Spezielles, Indien aber sicher ganz besonders. Fürs kommende Jahr senden wir euch die besten Wünsche vor allem aber gute Gesundheit.

    Eure Schweizer-Familie

  2. Very cool Nu…I liked that one 🙂
    God bless you both going into our Lords birthday, may you have a wonderful time during this holiday season (at least in the western world it is!).
    My life amounts very much to work with the paramedics and full-time work in-between, sadly not much time to catch up with friends and family, but there is light at the end of the tunnel as I prepare to give up work and study full-time at the end of Jan. The thought of giving up a job and security doesn’t scare me at all surprisingly, it makes me feel more alive than ever, and more determined to follow my path…much the same and you and Andrew are hopefully finding.
    Much love to you both.
    Simon.

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