India, you’re incredible!

Out of all the places I have travelled to, India has been my favorite. Trying to explain the country to people that haven’t been is like explaining astrophysics to a 5 year old or social skills to Sheldon Cooper. Just impossible.

India is organized chaos to the absolute extreme. Regardless of whether you go north, south or somewhere in the middle you’ll be surrounded by people, cows and maddening traffic. The holy mantra written on the back of each vehicle is what keeps the system going: HORN PLEASE. Everyone seems to drive with one hand on the horn and the other on their mobile. The roads of India make up most of it’s soundtrack. A chaotic symphony of deep blasts, staccato honks, high-pitched beeps, Bollywood music booming from radios and verbal abuse being yelled at anyone and everyone on the roads. It’s as though Indians drive by sound, but many are deaf.

There is also a strict pecking order on the roads: pedestrians are on the bottom and must dodge everything, bicycles give way to cycle-rickshaws, with make way for auto-rickshaws, which stop for small cars, which give way to big cars, who are subservient to trucks. Buses only stop for one thing (and no, it’s not customers – who jump on whist they’re still moving). The only thing that will stop a bus is the king of the road and lord of all this maddness: a cow.
Cows know they are in charge and enjoy messing with the system. They’ll step off median strips just as cars are approaching, stand in the middle of busy intersections and turn up their noses as they pass elephants and camels.

All this goes on as people are curled up on the sidewalk asleep, slum dwellers find places to squat for their daily ‘ablutions’, whole families fight over who sits where as they all fit on a single motorcycle and food gets cooked in stalls along the footpath. There’s color everywhere, spices get sold by the kilo and stunning patchworks come together on the sidewalk. Women roam the streets in beautiful saris and wear as many plastic bangles as can possibly fit onto their arms. They carry baskets of food on their heads and get followed by stray dogs and monkeys. Kids play on the streets, the Gods are worshipped but cricket stars are worshipped more. Stalls selling fruits I’d never even seen before pop up on every corner, the most basic of slum houses all have satellite TV’s, Bollywood soaps are watched religiously and most importantly, despite the incredible and widespread poverty, everyone always has a huge smile on their face.

After a while, you get used to the bizarre noises, smells and traffic vibrations and can’t help but join in on the madness. As a tourist, you soon learn to accept that you will never be able to understand how the organized chaos works so you just have to embrace it. You learn to enjoy the food, learn how to communicate with the people (ambiguous head-shake anyone?) and even learn to tolerate the diarrhea explosions. It’s all just part of the adventure. Not having a plan is the best plan.
The south is much more relaxed than the north. The ‘suits’ in the north (mainly in the bigger cities) are replaced by 70 year old hippies in the south. Nothing makes sense, but everything works. Every city is different and even if you spend a lifetime exploring every corner of the country you still won’t see it all.

I spent an absolutely incredible month in India traveling from Delhi to Goa. One post can’t even begin to do my experience justice so watch this space. In the meantime, here are a few snaps I took that might better explain the unexplainable. I can’t wait to go back.

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139 thoughts on “India, you’re incredible!

  1. great pics,although way you describe it almost seems as if there is no order.actually there is order it just looks that way becoz of huge population and becoz tourists cannot understand the order.

    • I have no doubt that is true. My post is merely my observations as a tourist. Obviously there is order and organization, but given the size of the country, it’s population and history, India’s ‘order’ would be vastly different to what is conventional (for a westerner). As a tourist I found it absolutely fascinating. ‘Beautiful organized chaos’ is the best way I can describe it.
      Thank-you for reading and commenting! =)

  2. lovely pics..thanks for sharing πŸ™‚ captured the essence of India to a large degree..the vastness of our country bewilders me…i backpacked for a year but realized that I had covered not even half of the country…there is so much to see..India is more than a country…its a continent in itself.

  3. Awesome post πŸ™‚ Ya know, I am of this country, and yet I haven’t started to find myself in it, nor have I started to fully embrace it. I think I’ll find that window, that “aha!” moment soon. But I’m happy you did. πŸ™‚ πŸ˜› Hope you have greater travels ahead. If you do come by India again, do check out Chennai too. It’s the most underrated city of India. -_- And good luck going through all these comments, you’ll be having a field day being Freshly PRessed. πŸ˜€

  4. India for me is also one of the mysterious and magnificent places on Earth. I really like the simplicity and contentment of the Indian people. Buddhism originated in India, one of the most admired religion.

    • I don’t know a lot about Buddhism, but I’m certainly very keen to learn more. All the Indian people I met were truly wonderful and inspirational. Really made the trip for me. I feel we can learn a lot from their beliefs and happiness.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. =)

      • It originated in Nepal. Buddha was born in Lumbini which UNESCO has acknowledged in Nepal, but the next time you’re in that way I suggest you visit Nepal as well. I love that region in general super great! I’m glad you loved India, congrats on being FP’d

  5. A refreshing post! Superb photo’s also. Can’t choose a favorite but I do like the clean laundry and the Henna shots. So glad you had a month to spend there. Thank you for sharing your adventure and experience.

  6. Lovely description…! I agree it’s chaotic to the core but i bet u ll enjoy once u get use to it…! πŸ™‚
    And don’t forget to reach me at Bangalore next time around here!!!

  7. As an Indian, happy to know that foreigners too find India incredible. You rightly described it as “Organized Chaos”. But still India mesmerise outsiders with its diverse cultures, hospitality and glorious heritage.

  8. Hey, great post! I really enjoy reading people’s observations about India. They are so accurate, I wonder if I wasnt born there and been there so many times, would I be able to so accurately describe it in a single visit.

  9. I visited India a few years ago and experienced exactly the same thing. It was petrifying at first but once you got used to it, incredible! We saw a car crash between a cow and a car. No one cared about the car, everyone was crowding around the cow to check it was okay. Looking forward to going back soon!

  10. Wonderful photos. I visited India several years ago, and it has always been one of my favorite places. You’re right. That ambiguous headshake is hard to decode!

  11. Like the way you have described your experience!…Been a part of this country for 28 years…and I feel I am yet to understand and discover so many new places and facets in my own country…Incredible it surely is! πŸ™‚

  12. i’m not from india and never been to india before. but i know how it feels to dwell everyday with the madness on street and keep pressing the horn all the time that works out but doesn’t always make sense. my hometown has that kind of organized chaos, too. the only things we don’t have are cows, monkeys on street and banging bollywood music.
    i like the way you describe all those reality madness with some sense of humour and the animals make it more “colourful”. even though i know for sure that facing the madness 5 days a week as daily routines is actually stressful and a pain in the ass.
    it’s fun to see irregularities once in a while, a few days or weeks, especially for anyone coming from any countries with higher level of road disciplines. but for those who who have been living with daily madness since they were born have always been dreaming of disciplines and safety on street, but seems never comes true. so we are used to with tolerating the madness and just accept it as part of our life.
    your trips look adventurous, that’s interesting. i’m glad you see the madness as something entertaining, besides the beautiful taj mahal, the fortresses and food – seeing it otherwise will be very stressful. great post!

    • I have no doubt that what you say is true. I’ve only ever experienced it in small doses so still find it enthralling. It does make me appreciate the calmer more disciplined life at home.
      Out of curiosity, where are you from?
      Thank you for your comment! =)

      • that’s true. i’m from jakarta, indonesia. the traffic is one of the worst in the world. the lord of madness is not cows, but motorcycles. they ride recklessly endangering themselves and other vehicles around them.
        the worst part is that when they get hit by a car, bus or whatsoever, the one(s) who hit(s) them will be in court or jailed even though it’s the cyclists’ fault. it’s a dutch rule: those who hit are committed guilty no matter what. so those who drive need to be very careful to get rid of trouble, either in court, jailed or your car get smashed by anger mass.
        so, i think i still prefer cows as lord of madness πŸ˜‰
        keep writing and travelling…

  13. Great blog. I’ve been to India three times and absolutely loved it there. The thing about traffic that really shocked me was the view of traffic lights as recommendations and the way motorcycles snaked in between cars at any stop filling all available space. I enjoyed India so much that I am moving there later this year for work and will be living there for at least two years.

    David

    • Oh wow that’s amazing! It’ll be an absolutely incredible experience for you.
      What part are you moving to?
      Do you have any intentions on getting a license there and going for a drive?

      Thank you so much for your comment. I hope the moves serves you well.

      • I will be moving to Pune which is a couple of hours (or twice that) from Mumbai by car depending upon the traffic. No, I will not be getting a license. My company will be providing me with a driver. It’s my understanding, they will not let their employees from other parts of the world drive in India because, as you well know, it is more like controlled insanity than going out for a nice drive.

  14. Lovely post and photos! You’ve captured the organised chaos of India perfectly! And yes, it’s very true that each city is different. It’ll take a lifetime to explore.
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  15. Thanks a lot for showing India in such a beautiful way. It feels great to see and hear someone rating India so high. πŸ™‚ Great post and well deserved to be part of this freshly pressed list.

  16. This is a wonderful post! I spent a month in India last year, so it was nice to relive those memories through your blog. I laughed out loud when I read “horn please” because I had forgotten all about that! Beautiful pictures, too. India is so photogenic πŸ˜€

  17. Wow! A whole month. I don’t know how I would be able to handle that. I’m interested in going to India, but I’m not sure how I’d respond to the place and the madness. It appears that you had quite a good time though–thanks for sharing the adventure. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you for your comment. Don’t be scared, it’s such an amazing place that I have no doubt you’ll love it. The further south you go, the ‘calmer’ it is (and the beaches are just stunning). The country is so diverse that there’s something for everyone. I hope you go and have an incredible Indian adventure. =)

    • Thank you for your comment.
      Wow, 3.5 months would have been quite an experience. I read your blog, it’s unfortunate you had such bad luck at the start and particularly with your employment situation but I’m glad you saw the positives and made the most of it! Was a very informative and uplifting post!

  18. Its really cool that you enjoyed your stay in India. India is diverse and every region is unique. In someway its a new experience for ourselves as well. You have to visit the northeast part of India. Its a different entity overall. We have tourist coming over during the annual harvest and music festivals πŸ™‚

  19. Great post. I don’t think I could have captured the essence of this diverse and beguiling country myself despite being an Indian. Try visiting the North-east next time. That’s an entirely different world waiting to be discovered. It brings out a different portrait of India altogether that the rest of the world and even other regions within India haven’t learnt to associate with this country.I’m sure you’ll love it.
    Thanks for a great read πŸ™‚

  20. Absolutely love your post..you’ve captured our madness very well…in words and in pictures!! And yes, India is an addiction so enjoy the ride!..Also, if you can, travel to the extreme northeast corner..it’s an entirely different world.

  21. It was wonderful reading this post. How elegantly you placed the chaotic India in this amazing post…liked it.
    And yes, your snaps conveyed more than anything else of how beautiful is India. Happy to see that you wish to be here again..:)

  22. Great that you loved India.. One of the funniest things here is crossing roads.. It would seem humanly impossible to find your way through our roads.. Do visit Tamil Nadu next time πŸ™‚ You’d love it πŸ™‚

    • Oh yess! When we first arrived we honestly spent 10 minutes preparing ourselves every time we needed to cross a road. It was so scary. We learnt it’s best just to cross and let the traffic avoid you rather than the other way round.
      Thank you for your comment! =)

  23. I loved this post! Being a Indian, I could relate to your post so well. I loved your description for the ‘cow’ – King of the road and Lord of all madness. So wonderfully described. And yes, even I’ve felt that the noise is a reigning characteristic of Indian roads. But after a while, you get used to it and start going along with the madness. India certainly is a land of diversities and, like you said, even a whole lifetime of exploring might not help you understand or see it all! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    • Hahah yess! Good pick up. I’ve had a few people ask me where the blog name came from but you’re the first to make the connection. I’ve been addicted to ‘even though I’m a women’ for so so long.
      Thank you so much for reading my blog and for commenting. =)

  24. I seriously enjoyed reading this lovely piece of writing. I mean my grand father was indian so i could really relate your writing with his lifestyle. India itself is a diverse nation with a number of different mini-nations inside,
    I really LOVE your writing, please keep us updated with such kind of works.
    Secondly, i really like how you are maintaining a bond with your readers by replying to each and every contact.
    Im still new to blogging so please advice me on my blog: http://thetechnogeeks.wordpress.com
    Regards,
    Usman J.

    • Wow you write incredibly well for a 14 year old! It’s so great to see you have such a passion for ‘techy’ stuff. It really comes through in your posts. Keep it up!

      Thank you very much for your kind comment. I’m very glad you enjoyed my writing. =)

      • Thanks a lot. Those words of yours really motivated and instigated me to strive and write better. Your blog, the way you maintain it is a source of motivation for me. πŸ™‚
        Cheers.

  25. Even if you didn’t have those great photos, you’d still have painted an amazing picture of India with your written descriptions – the sights, sounds and smells. My favourite line: “Nothing makes sense, but everything works.” A great way to describe organized chaos. I want to go πŸ™‚

  26. I am an Indian and I loved this piece of writing. You have described every small detail in an amazingly funny way. It’s true that India is diverse in every possible way. If you ever get a chance, do attend an Indian wedding. You will be amazed by the colors and traditions.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate your comment.

      I really hope to one day attend an Indian wedding. I was lucky enough to meet a few people who shared their wedding experiences with me so I’ve be told about the incredible customs that go on. One of the ladies had a wedding that lasted 8 days! I couldn’t believe it. She showed me photos of all the ‘events’ that took place, it’s truly incredible.

  27. So well written! You, sir, are the definition of a traveler. There was absolutely no latent judgement, it was just facts and experiences of your journey. I wish I could be more like you while travelling .. πŸ™‚

    Btw, did you visit Mumbai on route to Goa?

    • Oh btw, its “Horn OK Please” .. I have lived in India for 23 years, and I am still not sure what that exactly means. Its somewhat similar to “give way” or an apparent acknowledgement to the tailgater’s honking!

      • P.S Yeah, I wasn’t sure whether it was “HORN PLEASE” or “HORN OK PLEASE”. I’d seen both. I asked one of the auto-rickshaw drivers in Delhi about it and he just said that they have that written to insure other drivers will press their horn if they’re passing so they avoid accidents. It’s interesting. Like I said, everyone seems to drive by sound.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words and for reading my post.
      Yes, I was in Mumbai for a couple of days. One of my friends parents live there so they graciously welcomed us into their home and I got to see more of a ‘middle class suburban’ life which was very interesting It’s a very hectic city, but I loved it.

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