India: The Land of Culture, Religion, Crowds, and Smells - My Family Travels

As soon as you walk off the 777 in New Delhi, India, you realize the place is different. Even after midnight, the air is hot and dry. There are no terminals in India; it is a mad rush full of pushing and shoving to get on the bus to take you to the airport.

Such began my trip, my voyage of my cultural heritage. It was an adventurous life changing experience that I will never forget. The four week voyage began in Delhi, split up into two weeks of touring and two weeks of visiting family that I had never met before.

The touring took us through five amazing cities and five amazing ex-palace hotels. In each hotel, my mother and I were pampered in a palace that once housed a maharaja (or still did). After Delhi, it was Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.

The Taj, the icon of India, cannot be described on paper. It is much bigger than the numerous pictures that exist and the true beauty lies with the inlay work that can only be seen up close. I am sure I would have enjoyed it more if it was not 125 degrees and every Indian there was staring at me because I was wearing shorts.

That is the other thing about India — the crowds and the heat are one thing — but if you are older than 10 and wearing shorts, you will be stared at. It is kind of ironic that no one wears shorts considering the extreme heat and lack of air conditioning, but I got used to the attention after the first week. From Agra, we went on to Jaipur and Jodhpur, touring the exotic palaces of the Rajput warrior dynasty all built on mountainous areas with protective fortresses.

The fortresses were designed to include narrow entrances so that the palace women could slice open Muslim invaders as they made their way around the palace. Our last stop of the state of Rajasthan was Udaipur, where the James Bond movie’Octopussy’ was filmed. We were across from the famous ‘water palace’ where all the action took place (we couldn’t afford to stay there) but we still stayed in a palace owned by the local maharaja.

Udaipur was probably my favorite place; less crowds, less heat (it was only 100 degrees), and more green. From Udaipur, the touring came to an end, and the more exiting part of the journey began. We were no longer to be pampered with American style showers and bathrooms — we were staying with family in Bombay, the dirtiest and most crowded city have ever been to.

I was told (once again) not wear my ‘half pants’ in Bombay as I ‘would not be taken seriously’. But, I did wear shorts and flip flops anyway (I am from Florida). There were about seven homes we had to stay at in the course of two weeks there.

In India, there is no such thing as suburban living. Either it is city life in flats (30% of the population) or village life (70%). My newfound family was amazing however; they were loving and cooked great food. There was AC in at least one room of each flat! The bathrooms were a different story. The sink, toilet, and shower are all one unit in one closet sized room. Basically, if you wanted to shower, the entire bathroom became soaking wet. There was no toilet paper so if you had to use that certain aspect of the bathroom, you would have to do it while showering.

The next biggest shock was the constant question of when I was coming to India to get married. As much as I loved the country filled with the lack of deodorant (yes they do not make deodorant in India, they make smelly ‘powder’ so everyone pretty much stinks), lack of modern ideals, the lack of football, and the lack of air conditioning, I hardly felt a return visit would be in order, let alone getting married.

As I kindly said I would consider it I wondered what I was doing in this country and found myself missing my home quite dearly. Yet now, as I look back, I did enjoy living among the Indians there; the different oddities sparked my interest-the availability of Hookahs and the pushing and shoving crowds of people that did not respond to American curse words among other things. I certainly think I would go back and relive the greatest adventure I ever had.

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