The Unexpected First Impressions of India

I’ve been here under a week, but a few things have become readily apparent about travel through northern India so far.

I’ll admit, this leg of my trip has been a little swanky. This part is mostly dedicated to my friend’s wedding, and sometimes I feel more like a foreign dignitary than a visiting Ohio girl.

The second half of my trip will feature a stronger contrast — basic lodgings, time in ashrams, spiritual endeavors, etc — so I’m sure more observations will stem from that.

But for now? Here are a few things I’ve seen along the way:

Traffic is a Free-For-All: Of all the countries I’ve visited, capital cities are always a stunning example of the worst congestion, smog, chaos and more. And while no city has yet vested Cairo of its Worst City Driving Title, New Delhi (and India in general) is running a close second. Cars, rickshaws, motorcycles, and meandering humans create a cacophony of chaos in the streets, and ‘lane lines’ are mere suggestions at best. Some cars don’t even use the side mirrors, and instead tuck them in while driving. I’m not sure most people look before merging, and I haven’t seen one blinker in use yet. (Honking is the established replacement!)

Stray Dogs? More like Stray Cows: Cows are sacred in India, and killing them is technically illegal. However, there are plenty of cows that are left to wander and otherwise survive on their own. I’ve seen more stray cows here than dogs. As a new friend here explained to me, “It’s India–you have to fend for yourself. Even the cows.” And, to be clear, this is the FIRST time I’ve ever seen stray cows…ANYWHERE!

Stray Cows in India [Photo Credit:]

Stray Cows in India [Photo Credit:]

Luxury is Extra Luxurious: I don’t travel in luxury almost ever. But here, our accommodations are being provided by the groom’s family — part of the Indian tradition of hosting all of your guests and loved ones for the duration of the wedding. This has been an amazing, and very rare, experience for me. And I’ve noticed that what our fellow Indians request of the hotel staff tend to include nearly anything you could imagine — from washing the car while it’s in storage, to tending to random dietary needs, to organizing local tours and more. I’m not sure if this is how it’s done in the States, but I feel exceptionally pampered and cared for. And I’m not complaining!

Curry is Dangerous: As in, I could eat enough curry to kill a human being. And I almost killed myself via curry on the night of the friend party here in Agra. I literally didn’t EAT ANYTHING the next day because I had stuffed so much paneer down my throat. I couldn’t help it — I’m in India! God help me if I ever live here someday. I might explode!


Buffet of curries + Indian flat bread = 200% more sustenance than you really need.


Winter in Northern India is way better than Summer in Cusco: They warned us about the cold climes here in northern India. But all I’ve felt are perfect breezes and neutral air temps that make me want to writhe in the grass and bask in the glow of the weird decorative kale plants. Maybe it’s a fluke — or maybe it’s just an Ohio girl arriving via Midwestern Winter appreciating a totally fair climate and the chance to wear short sleeves finally (unlike a certain CUSCO *clears throat*).

We can wander around in loose-fitting shirts because it's winter in India!

We can wander around in loose-fitting shirts because it’s winter in India!

Tomorrow Kelli and I will be traveling to Jaipur, a city about 3 hours away, for a few days, where we hope to buy saris and purses and crazy pants and gifts, visit touristy stuff, and eat more curry. After that, we’ll be back to Agra, where the wedding celebrations will be in full swing!


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