A Taste of India

IMG_8784I haven’t so much visited India as I have lived in India. I arrived in mid-February in Bengaluru and just started working … boulot, dodo as the French say; work, sleep. I stayed a month (then on to Indonesia and Singapore; but that’s for another day). I had lots of business meetings and took two days at the end of my trip to go see the Taj Mahal; because how could you go to India and not see it. Here are some thoughts on living in India I’d like to share with you…

  • In the UK they drive on the left side of the road, in the US people drive on the right side of the road, in India people drive on the left, on the right and in the middle – it just depends which is going to get you to your destination fastest. They also go the wrong way if its shorter.
    o I don’t understand why the top ten Formula One drivers in the world aren’t all Indian. It certainly feels like a road race when you’re on the road here as everyone darts into any opening they see.
  • In India 81% of the vehicles on the road are motorcycles. Traffic is already pretty bad, I can only imagine how bad it’s going to get as more people can afford to buy cars.
  • The food they call Indian in Europe and the US has nothing to do with the food in India. The food in India is simply AWESOME. The flavors will mezmerize you. The tastes will transport you. Now it will be almost impossible for me to eat in an Indian restaurant in the west.
  • If you’re vegetarian you must move to India. It’s easy to be vegetarian here and everything tastes so good that even if you’re not you won’t even think about it. BTW: 40% of the country is vegetarian.
  • In New York I used to go out to Indian restaurants all the time. In India people go to Italian restaurants when they go out (at least my friends do) – and, of course, the Italian food tastes nothing like that in Italy. But I did go to an all vegetarian Italian restaurant.
  • Thank goodness for Uber (or the local equivalent). It really does make getting around a whole lot easier and dependable. And, in India it’s way cheaper than in the west. But, for the fun of your life, figure out how to negotiate a ride on a Auto Rick Shaw. Now, that’s a ride you won’t forget!
  • The street and the sidewalk are all one. There are no sidewalks or very few of them as we know them. Wear good shoes. The “sidewalks” have more potholes in them than the street.
  • Yes, it’s dusty. Most of it comes from the red soil that makes up half the sidewalk; the other half being concrete.
  • When you have business meetings, all the senior people you meet will speak or at least understand English. And, in many cases business is conducted in English even between Indians – with so many dialects it’s the one language that unifies India. Outside of a business meeting it just depends on where you are and whom your speaking with, but have no fear if they can’t understand you they’ll find someone who will.
  •  You will meet people who can not read. This happened several times with Auto Rich Shaw drivers. It made me incredibly sad and grateful for all the education I’ve had.
  • Many of the street signs and advertising is in English. Most of the billboards are trying to sell you a house or an apartment. And, I mean most of them!
  • You can’t always see the street signs so learn how locals refer to a street. In Bengaluru I would always tell them “Please go to KFC Signal”; that meant the street corner on which was located KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), if I told them 13th Main they’d just look at me funny.
  • The Internet was pretty good everywhere I went. Plus, you can get really cheap monthly cell phone plans.
  • US children play alot of sport. India children study all the time.
  • People gather around a TV set outside appliance stores to watch cricket matches.
  • When you take a plane in India make sure you put an extra luggage tag on your carry on bag – you get this at the counter when you get your boarding pass. They will stamp this luggage tag after you go through security. If you don’t have a stamped luggage tag before getting on the plane they will detain you and search your bags manually.
  • Security at the Airports is professional, courteous and speedy.
  • You better have a printout of your plane ticket or and eTicket on your phone or you won’t be allowed inside the terminal. I always had some electronic proof and wouldn’t want to test what happens if you don’t (I’ve been told they check it against the passenger list).

India works. It’s traditional. It’s modern. Part of it is in the past, the momentum is in the future, the food is awesome and the people are friendly and helpful. Just go!

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