10. Where to go to…
Many people know this situation: You arrive in a foreign country, stand in the waiting hall of the airport, and just don’t know which bus to take to the hotel. The tourist information is completely crowded and nobody seems to move forward. Of course you can try to ask a local. But it is not always helpful, as I experienced in India. Because if you ask two different people, you will usually get two different answers. If the first person says that you have to take bus number 230, the second swears that the right one is the 111. And then you will be in trouble. I’ve always wondered in India why people tell wrong information. Is it just that they don’t wanna look stupid, don’t wanna embarrass themselves? Or is it simply a cultural thing? Answering ‘coz of decency. No matter what.
To get around this problem you should – especially on bus trips – always ask the driver if he will really stop at the bus stop where you wanna get off. Of course you can also get (almost) all information from the internet before the start – excepting bus times. They are never correct. Once we even had to wait one and a half hours for our bus to Mumbai. Near to the main road in Hyderabad on a Friday night. You can only imagine how noisy, crowded and stuffy it was. In India, therefore you should never rely on times, far less on information from strangers.
9. Always the right ear plugs
After the first few days it was undeniable: India is an incredibly loud country, much louder than any country in which I had been so far. Even at night the rattling motorbikes, the construction workers and the wailing mothers didn’t seem to find any rest. Whether in Hyderabad, New Delhi or in Mumbai – There was always something going on. And it was in those districts where poverty and violence are prevalent. Right next to my apartment in Hyderabad there was such a poor district. Or more precisely a semi-slum. One evening my roommate and I were even witnesses of a vociferous argument between spouses, which ended in a palpable dispute between several residents. Such escalations were very random. But every night you could hear voices or noises from these little shacks. A crying baby, a man who goes to work at 5 o’clock and a bawling drunk who drowns his sorrows in alcohol.
Just between one o’clock und four o’clock in the morning – when the last party-goers went home and the early workers had to depart – you could surmise such a thing as silence. But it was never really silent – somehow. Because of that I had got into the habit of taking my ear plugs with me every time I travel. They were an essential for survival for me. Quasi my lifebelt on the high seas. Especially when the builders worked on the construction site again – at 6 o’clock on Sunday mornings. Or it was unbearably hot and I had to sleep with an open window.
8. Don’t be afraid of bulls
There are many stereotypes about India and one thing is definitely true: Cows are really everywhere. I met them on the way to work, they greeted me in front of the shopping mall and – of course – many of them were living in the Hindu temples. Peaceful and painted with gold and red colours they slept there, ate the grass along the ways and consumed far too often the careless discarded garbage. Despite the peace that they radiated, I always gave them a wide berth. And rightly so as I have learned later. Because one day when we were on our way from Jaipur to New Delhi, a bull predated our taxi and almost rammed it. Just on the side, on which I sat. I was ossified.
In India there are even laws that protect cows as a sacred animal. The person who will intentionally steamroller or kill one, will be cursed with a draconian fine or a prison sentence of up to seven years. But I haven’t heard of any single accident involving a cow. Surprising when you see the daily traffic chaos in which cows jostle between motorcycles, rickshaws and cars on the too crowded streets. As if they would know the traffic rules, they open another track on the roadside, moving with the flow to the next feeding point.
For many Indian cows are not only essential regarding to the religion, but also because of their economic importance – and worthy of protection. They are a means of transport, an important source of revenue and a support for agriculture. Because most Indian farmers can’t afford expensive threshing or sowing machines. Likewise, their milk is considered an important staple food. Many poorer families also use dried cow dung for heating or insulating their huts. But one thing you should never forget: Cows are and they will remain – at all benefits and despite the domestication – wild animals, which shouldn’t be underestimated.