Thursday, March 17, 2011

Incredible India!

Oh India! My India!

How do I begin to describe you?  I guess it's undeniable that one must address the issue of smell first.  When I was presenting my passport to the immigration officer here in the Phils., I was caught off guard when the officer asked me if I brought a face mask with me.  The first thought on my mind was to ask why and I tried recalling whether India was affected by Bird Flu.  But I didn't have to probe my memory any further as the officer offered the answer right away quipping that I may need it to protect myself from the terrible odor.   

It is not uncommon that when Filipinos think of India they right away associate it with dirty surroundings and the horrible smell.  A lot actually don't want to go visit the place mainly because of these 2 factors.  As for the dirty surroundings, all I can say is, like any other country where poverty is prevalent, there are bound to be slum areas.  While as for the smell, I think it's a matter of personal hygiene!  I actually have more than a couple of Indian friends now and I've never smelled anything offensive.  In fact, on our recent visit to India, everyone smelled great.  Expect, of course, for some people in the plane who have probably been travelling for days already and for some people who have been walking and lining up all day in hot weather in Taj Mahal.  Those are actually very understandable.  It can happen to anyone of us.  In fact, the more prevailing scents are the aromatic scents of spices.  Understandably also, if you are not also used to smelling these then it can be offensive.   

Being a proud Filipino, the best compliment I can probably give to India is that almost everything there, both good and bad, is ten times more than what we have here in the Philippines.  And aside from the marvelous structures, what truly makes India incredible are the people!  Just see for yourself!

Poverty is ten times more than in the Philippines.  Squatters and slum areas are prevalent in the city and can be readily seen just by passing along the highways.  

There are also a lot of beggars.  This kid has taken begging another notch by becoming a street performer - dressed like a travelling gypsy, he does acrobatic tricks hoping to receive some money in return.

Traffic is also 10 times worst than in manila.  Bicycles, rickshaws (bicycle-drawn carriages), auto rickshaws (motor-drawn carriages), and horse-drawn carriages are allowed on almost all roads (even on some major roads).  Drivers seldom give way.  I bet Manila drivers will even have a hard time driving in this city.

FOOD is ten times more colorful, ten times more flavorful, and ten times more aromatic!  I know that Indian food takes a little getting used to and it's not for all.  But once you learn to appreciate the flavors, it can really be mind-blowing as well.  That's why in every major city, you're likely to find a restaurant serving Indian food. One of the people we met in India actually said that when she and her family went to Estonia, they saw an Indian restaurant in the city.  My companion who's not so fond of Indian food, actually found the food we ate at The Great Kebab Factory very palatable with no overpowering flavors.  Friends whom I've shared a pack of Bhujia also found it very delicious ^^

In addition, I'd say that Indian Food is ten times more HEALTHY as well!  Mostly veggies and not fatty at all!

While Filipinos are known for their hospitality, I bet Indian's are known for it as well.  Not only did our hosts treat us very well but a total stranger, who doesn't work at the airport but who happens to be just there while we were searching for the hotel service, was very kind to help us call the hotel and look for the one assigned to pick us up.  

Indians also have the same happy and hopeful smiles you get regularly from Filipinos!

Unlike most Chinese people in China, Indians know how to line up!

Religion is definitely ten times more extreme  And Indians are probably ten times more spiritual as well.  An individual's upbringing definitely shapes how a person turns out to be when he grows up.  And religion is a big part of that upbringing.  I believe Indians are the way they are because of their culture and beliefs.  

A major part of their belief is to respect all living creatures.  That's why it's not unusual to see cows, pigeons, squirrels, peacocks, and monkeys freely roaming in the gardens and parks.  A particular religion called Jainism even discourages their members from eating root crops like carrots and potatoes because they believe that these vegetables are "killed" in the process before they reach the end of their life cycle.    

Unfortunately, authority seems to be ten times more lax as well.  And people are as equally defiant of not-so-harmful rules. After all, laying, running, and playing on the lawn is not the same as "walking" on it as the sign suggests.  hehehe (^0^)/  Security at the mosques and mausoleums were very strict though.  

Their clothes are definitely ten times more COLORFUL!  Even the bath robe in the hotel is in bright RED!

They are also equally, if not more, expressive as Filipinos!  Add to that their love for music, singing, and dancing!  I'd have to say that Indians have ten times more appreciation for local entertainment - movies, music, songs, and dances!  I haven't yet seem a Bollywood film where in the actors didn't break out into a song and dance number!   

The TAJ MAHAL (Agra, India)

Ancient structures are ten times more grand and beautiful!  I learned that entrances to mausoleums (Taj Mahal and Humayun's Tomb) were built so that when we enter, our field of vision is treated to a scenic representation of what "paradise" is like as described in the Koran.  If you have a kit lens with a field of vision of around 30mm-50mm, this would mean that you can fit the whole thing in one frame, a frame supposedly depicting paradise.

Humayun's Tomb (New Delhi, India)

The RED FORT (Agra, India)

The PRESIDENT'S HOUSE (New Delhi, India)

I'd like to end with one Indian practice that I myself admittedly is not used to and probably will not be anytime soon.  The picture on the side is a picture of Golgappas, an Indian street food which is made of fried hollow doughs filled with chickpeas and spicy potatoes and drizzled with Tamarind and Yogurt sauce.  It's absolutely delicious and I can understand why it's part of Lonely Planet's list of 20 things to do in New Delhi. My only problem with it is how it is prepared.  The street vendor uses his own hands to pick the hollow doughs and break them in the middle to open up space for the filling!  As a Filipino, I'm totally accustomed to  eating with my hands.  Sharing food with  others using our own hands though is a different matter.  I don't think I'll ever get use to it even when the people involved are only my own family.  I am proud to say though that I finished my Golgappas!  Come to think of it, sharing of food using our hands is an ultimate expression of familiarity and togetherness, similar to the custom of sharing alcohol using only a single shot glass.  Just like when we were young, our mothers probably fed us with their bare hands in certain occasions as well.  Which brings me to say that when it comes to family relationships and togetherness, Indians are probably ten times more close-knit than Filipinos.  

For these reasons, I believe that India's charm is in its culture and people.  Both the good and the bad  makes India truly incredible!  It may not be for everyone but definitely it's worth a visit at least once in your lifetime.  Given the chance, I definitely would love to go back in a jiffy!

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  1. so true, your comment re- the absence of queues in china. it annoyed the heck out of me!

    and i have dear friends from india who are not 'garlic-stinkers', an offensive word spoken by a filipino. they go to such lengths as to open windows and doors when they cook so the kitchen smells don't stick to their clothes and walls--i bet filipino cooking smells stink (garlic and onion) as well...

    enjoyed reading this, step :)

  2. glad you enjoyed it Tes ^^

  3. This post makes me want to visit India, too... :D

  4. that's good to know shie ^^ you can start by visiting Little India in SG ^^ I had fun trying out Mumbai Masala ice cream there ^^ medyo mahal nga lang siya for an ice cream hehehe


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