7. Not every rickshaw is the same
As the cows so are the rickshaws inseparable from the Indian culture. They crowd the streets of every city and they are just waiting for the next passenger. Tourists preferred. Because generally they don’t know the local prices and they are willing to pay a few extra rupees. Especially the Western – apparently rich – Tourists are favourite victims of the rickshaw drivers. Also of kidnappings.
Lately fake rickshaws and taxis aren’t so rare on Indian roads – if you believe in statistics. The drivers are usually members of an organized gang and make regularly hunt for potential victims. These get unwittingly on the wrong vehicle. Because from outside they don’t differ from other taxis and rickshaws. And their scam is very cunning: Other band members – partially dressed in faked police uniform – get on the rickshaw or taxi during the journey and threaten the passenger. They usually extort several hundred dollars. Enough money for living, but not enough for an extensive police investigation. There are certain cities and neighbourhoods in which such rickshaw kidnappings occur frequently. Especially in outlying and poorer areas you need to be careful – as well as at night and if you travel alone. Once I got the advice that – if you are insecure – you can ask for the car license and the driver’s license. Organized gangs usually don’t have such admissions.
I myself have never been a blackmail victims. Even so, I had enough fights with the rickshaw drivers. Like a bunch of lovable hungry youths they swarmed around me. Every time I was walking alone, they immediately stopped in front of me, scenting the big business. Even after several weeks in India, the situation didn’t change. With my blond hair and my porcelain skin I probably begged for attention. And of course, each time the ride was offered to me for four to six times the price Indians normally pay. And I experienced a lot of other things: Once a driver was so drunk that we almost fell over in a curve. Another time, the engine flooded on a hill and we had to push the auto rickshaw – at 30 ° C in sweltering heat.
6. Liking spicy and creamy?
Indian food is delicious – without any doubt. But you shouldn’t underestimate it. Because not just the hotness, but also the variety of spices can cause the average European an upset stomach. I even got used fast to the hot food and I was surprised how well I got along with it. Especially because of the lack of hygiene, which prevails in many Indian restaurants. A cockroach in the kitchen there is little short of bon ton. From street food I kept my hands off strictly – except one time when I was seduced too much. Many Indians warned me that those foods are real bacteria breeding grounds. Because there is neither cooling for the meat and the vegetables, nor the pots and pans are cleaned well.
I followed all the hygiene advices, but after three months my roots caught up with me. For ten days there was an absolute emergency situation in my stomach and intestinal flora. I couldn’t even keep water down initially. I went through hell and the Indian medicines had no effect at all. No surprise. Five tablets cost about 15 rupees, converted 22 cents. With oatmeal, yogurt and banana – all very low-priced in India – I nursed me somehow. And I learned that the hot food wasn’t responsible for my physical knock-out. The spices and lack of hygiene were crucial.
5. But not too short, please!
Sunshine all day, 32°Celsius, no wind is blowing – and what wears the Indian man? Long shirt and jeans, of course. Only now and again you can spot a differently dressed person between the compliant mass. For example, an old man in a lungi. The lungi is a traditional Indian garment, a cloth that is knotted like a skirt around the waist. Some young men even dare to leave the house with knee-length shorts. And it is immediately punished by older people with staring.
For women weigh also: You should cover your body as much as possible – no matter how warm it is. Saris and kurtis are good alternatives therefore. You are dressed traditionally, accordingly to the culture and they are not too warm. I myself bought a kurta in the firts weeks in India. I wear this garment often and with pleasure. And also long, airy cotton pants and t-shirts are great to endure the Indian heat.
Several times I fled from the compliance. Then I was walking down the street or I went to the disco with a knee-length skirt – such as in Germany. In nightlife, it is not uncommon for women to wear short clothes. But in everyday life, I was like an alien – people of both sexes were staring at me. And thereby I risked to become a victim of harassment and assaults. Especially when I went home again lately at dusk. Because for many Indian men showing skin is a sexual innuendo and a free ticket for “more”. Because that I was always aware not to dress too short and at night I was never travelling alone. And nevertheless I couldn’t completely shield me from all the evil.