Ta-ra t’Raj

So my sojourn to India has come to an end. I’m currently writing this sat at a bus stop outside Mumbai airport – I’ve arrived a tad too early for my flight and the man with the machine gun at the door won’t let me into the terminal.

I have mixed feelings about my time here. I completely agree with the Indian tourist board’s slogan about the country being ‘incredible’. The history, the buildings, the people and the culture have all been fascinating to see and to attempt to get immersed in. Having said that, the people, the culture, the history and the poverty have also been incredibly frustrating, upsetting and often downright despairing.

I’m proud of myself for coming here and proving the helpful people back home who predicted I’d sustain some kind of horrific accident/illness wrong. I’d even go as far as to say I’d come back – but definitely not by myself, and I’d probably go to the more picturesque bits around Rajasthan rather than the middle-of-nowhere farming villages.

Anyway, I know a few of my other Nuffield chums are thinking about coming here, so to help prepare them for the experience ahead, I’ve come up with a few tips to survive a stay in the sub-continent:

1. Toilets tend to come in two categories. A hole in the floor, or a bit of scrub behind a bush next to the road. Actually, most people dont even bother trying to find a bush to hide behind. The world is their urinal.

In some of the smarter places, you might be lucky enough to find an actual toilet, which look something like this (you’ll just have to imagine the aroma coming from them):

Delightful Indian toilets
Toilet roll isn’t really used here, instead you are helpfully provided with a shower head, a bucket and a jug.

My tip? Well if you can’t get by without drinking anything all day, or trying to make yourself sweat so much that you never need to use the loo, I’d recommend always carrying an emergency face mask and a bottle of very strong alcohol (both for cleansing and for knocking back to try to remove the memory of the experience).

2. One for the ladies, perhaps.

In Indian culture, the done thing is to eat with your right hand (your left one is used for unspeakable business). You are given a fork at mealtimes, but hosts tend to prefer it – or rather, it provides them with some amusement – if you have a bash at eating as they do, sans cutlery.

I have two tips here. Firstly, until you get the knack of scooping up soupy curries with thin bits of bread, wear dark colours. Spillages are common.

Secondly, tumeric is used in most dishes, meaning your finger nails end up being dyed a delightful shade of yellow. Unless you want to look like a 20-a-day smoker, I’d recommend wearing nail varnish to cover it. Bourjois’ So Laque in ‘Rose Vamp’ should do the trick.

Nail varnish
3. Be prepared to eat some weird stuff.

I love spicy food. I’ve actually got by okay eating curries for breakfast, dinner and dinner (I’m from the Midlands, we eat dinner twice a day).

The problem arises when hotels attempt to cater for western diets. I didn’t have the heart to say anything when a proud waiter presented me with a breakfast of dry spaghetti and chips. I had to draw the line when he brought over a pot of jam to go with it though.

Armed with these pieces of information, I reckon Helen and Mike, or indeed anyone thinking of coming here, will be a-okay.

If I ever get into the terminal, I’m heading on to Singapore tonight for a few days of chillin’ before I fly to Australia to wrestle with crocodiles, run away from massive spiders and encounter other dangerous stuff (i.e. Aussie Nuffield chums).

Speaking of dangerous things, I’m off to try and get past the man with the gun. Catch you later.

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2 Responses to “Ta-ra t’Raj”

  1. Chrissie

    Loving your blog posts Caroline your so brave doing all this reckon I would have curled up in a ball cried and called my mum by now! Take care and can’t wait to read about Oz your doing all my secret travelling fantasies for me!

  2. Caroline Stocks

    Thanks Chrissie, I’m pretty sure I’m more stupid that brave though!