Recovery

#1 Nov 16th, 2006, 04:38
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  • proxyindian is offline
#1
Hello everybody,
You may remember me as the guy who asked a million dumb questions about Indian culture. Well, I did go to India. I don't think any amount of warning and reading could prepare me for how hard the trip was. It was in September so there were some days that were very, very hot. The heat was a problem but it wasn't as bad as the people of India.

I'm know there are good people in India because we met some, and a driver we hired for a few days through the hotel was an angel, but way too many people were horrible. I'll tell you the truth. Going to India was one of the toughest experiences of my life. It was one constant assault. And I don't want to go back. Not ever. I've hardly been able to talk about it to anyone because the experience of going to India was vastly deminished by the people of India.

1. Those tuktuk drivers can go to hell. Every half block we were bothered. One of them refused to take us to Connaught Place but insisted he was. We finally got into another rickshaw. However feeble, I'd call that kidnapping? And the cycle rickshaws were worse. We set a fee with one guy and he immediately doubled it once we got away from the herd of drivers who had been haggling over us. We got out and found another guy who only tried to double it when he was finished. We didn't pay any extra. In Mathura, one driver pulled the money right out of our hand. I call that robbery.

2. And the shop keepers were impossible. We didn't get half of what we wanted because its such a turn off to have fabrics unfurled in your face one after the other.

3. At the sites we had so many men wanting to be our guides. In one temple in Brindivan, a pack of young men followed us making fun of us after we told them we didn't want to have a guide. In other places, like Humayun's Tomb, we had a guy not leave us alone and then insist we pay him.

4. And the beggars. Good grief. Running after us. Putting their hands on us. And none of them were grateful - in fact, they were dissappointed and only wanted more. We learned not to give. Especially to the sick who had well-creased and wrinkled perscriptions they never intended to fill. Even a sadhu with huge swollen foot tried to pull this scam.

5. Speaking of scams. Our first morning there we were lured to a shop by a very friendly guy (actually, we guessed what was going on before getting there, but we had the energy and optimism at that time on the trip AND I have to admit it but he was very cute). Actually, this one wasn't so bad because this "expensive" place he took us to wasn't that expensive by American standards and the quality was very high. I'd go back there again. And now we regret not getting this one brass statue they had because no where else did we see anything of that quality for that price ($200, which isn't that bad because here we'd pay $500). So I guess even though this guy was dishonest with us, we were willing to go along with him, and the results weren't bad.

6. I met some guys visiting from Mumbai up on the hotel roof in Delhi. They were nice but drank quite a bit of hard liquor. They were very friendly and wanted us to come visit them in the morning and have breakfast together. Later different members of the hotel staff told us those were bad men, and they actually told the guys they weren't to associate with us. What kind of guys were they? Had I actually fallen in with drug smugglers or kdinappers or robbers or what? I mean, my imagination has only run wild with this one.

And then there were the minor but continual annoyances of being asked over and over who we are, what's our name, where did we come from, where are we going. The experience was so continual that I finally shut down. I didn't want to meet anyone.

However, on the very last day we did meet a troup of actors in the park next to the hotel in Delhi. They saw me on the balcony taking pictures and called me down. This was the start of Dusshera so I recognized them from the night before because we watched them perform. They were so nice and offered us tea, and then sent a kid out to get some from a street vendor. They showed us pictures from previous years, and they posed for photos. I promised to send them pictures, and I did. However the email address they gave me wasn't accurate and it was returned.

Another good thing was this boy who offered to shine our shoes. He did it on two consecutive Sundays, and he was so pleasant and tried to get us to give him enough rupees so he could afford a proper shoe shine box. I told him I knew he wouldn't buy one but still gave him almost what he asked for. Anyway, this was sad too because I'd be surprised if he saw ten percent of it. I mean, my shoes looked wonderful and he deserved it. However, it was kind of creepy because there was this man who kept circling us and looking mean, like Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist. Was he the kid's boss?

But as I said, there were too many issues with the people. Except for our stay in Rishikesh, the assault was unending. We spent one wonderful night there in a nice resort and even went to the temple area by that one bridge (sorry I forget the name) but hardly anyone bothered us. And in the afternoon our driver took us to Haridwar, but after 45 minutes of renewed badgering, we had him drive us back to Rishikesh for another nice evening. And the arti was very nice.

Thank you all for your advice early on.
P.I.
#2 Nov 16th, 2006, 05:44
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#2
proxy...sorry about your experience.

you should send a copy of your post here to the tourism minister and her incredible india campaign. her name is ambika soni..will see if i can dig up her address.

wish you had taken off the tourist trail...hope you had known some locals or some relatives of indians back from states......

never say never


----------------------
editing here. i would be careful in generalizing 'people of india'...... the touts are not people..they are worse than animals.......
#3 Nov 16th, 2006, 06:01
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  • ddevadatta is offline
#3

Lightbulb Welcome

Welcome to the real India. Thanks for your honest post.
Ayurvedic cure for an Indian headache
#4 Nov 16th, 2006, 06:09
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#4
It's a good post, maybe it should be a sticky one.

Don't take this the wrong way, but had you written this as a parody you'd have done a good job of it

I guess India isn't for everyone, that's for sure. Hope your next destination will suit you better! Hey, don't let the b*stards get you down.
#5 Nov 16th, 2006, 06:44
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#5
It seems like very typical Indian encounters. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Enjoying India and returning again and again is mainly about how you perceive, empathize, and deal/cope with the micro-encounters - good, bad, or ugly.

Sage advice is to immediately forget the occassional ugly, learn from the few bad, and remember and cherish the many good.

Some travellers get this a little backwards.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
T. S. Eliot

http://www.derekgrantdigital.com
#6 Nov 16th, 2006, 06:46
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#6
Excellent article, proxyindian.

I met a woman who had had a similar experience in India while I was visiting there. She was actually worse off than you, and almost had a nervous breakdown. The irony was that she was a "seasoned" traveler, having been to Thailand, Malaysia, etc.

It just goes to show that India, inspite of her beauty and history, can be overwhelming and may not be suitable for everyone.

I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy your trip, and your well-written post is a good one. I'd actually like to make it an "article" in the Community section, with your approval.
It's always darkest before it goes completely black.
#7 Nov 16th, 2006, 07:04
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#7
Found this off a website....
http://www.sarkaritel.com/ministries/tourism/index.htm

PI..if you have time, please feel free to fax a copy of your post to this number....and maybe send a copy to her department secretary's email. not that anything is going to change, but atleast she can put some of this in the incredible india campaign brochure...

Smt. Ambika Soni,
Minister
23718310 (Phone)
---
Private Secretary
23717969 (Phone)
23731506 (Fax)
---
Shri Ashok Kumar Mishra
Secretary
E-mail : sectour@nic.in
23711792 (Phone)
23717890 (Fax)

or the tourism ministry website is here and they have more contact numbers and email addresses there..
http://tourism.gov.in/

Click 'About Us' in the above link from the left navigation and then click 'Minister of Tourism'
#8 Nov 16th, 2006, 07:09
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#8
Hmmm. That's pretty much EXACTLY what I'm expecting. I don't know how I'll respond to it, but I'm going with full knowledge that if I respond to it badly it'll be an ordeal. But I think it would be pretty difficult not to expect India to be pretty much exactly as you describe, if not worse (with respect to the confrontational nature of some of the people).
#9 Nov 16th, 2006, 07:19
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#9
Thanks everyone for being sympathetic. You know, and John and I looked through some of the pictures we took. It was a trip of beauty and drama and pain. I sort of zeroed in on it for that post, so it's all condensed into a bitter pill.

But don't take that long post of mine the wrong way. This was the trip of a lifetime. I've dreamt about India on a weekly basis. We enjoyed the history, the Moti Mahal in Old Delhi, the Volga in Connaught Place, and the staff at the Hotel Ajanta are superb. Of course there were plenty of good people everywhere mixed in with the rest. And meeting the actors. Beautiful. Really, that event happening on the last day after all the hassle helped raise the grade a lot. It would have been nice to have more experiences like that. I think that I'm not a young person anymore. It would have been better for me to go twenty years ago.

And I expect that as time goes by I'll be able to see the good and the bad and take them for what they are.
#10 Nov 16th, 2006, 07:22
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#10
Quote:
Originally Posted by punchinello Hmmm. That's pretty much EXACTLY what I'm expecting. I don't know how I'll respond to it, but I'm going with full knowledge that if I respond to it badly it'll be an ordeal. But I think it would be pretty difficult not to expect India to be pretty much exactly as you describe, if not worse (with respect to the confrontational nature of some of the people).
You're right. I think if you respond to it better than I did, then it will go better for you. I think if I redid it, I would try to be more third-person about it, and laugh at the situations. Be more engaging than I was, and things should go better. I think I did too much running away.
#11 Nov 16th, 2006, 07:33
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#11
Thanks for your post, ProxyIndian, I think it was realistic about the hardships of traveling in India without being reactionary. I hope it's read by some of those who are coming to India thinking that the moment they step off the plane they'll be swept up in the great waves of euphoria and soul-cleansing spiritual enlightenment washing over us all. I'm always suprised by the people who have apparently only ever seen or believed the Incredible India-type photos, and missed completely the information about India being, in some places, crowded, hot, smelly, aggressive and and very difficult to handle as a traveler. I think most people have a very similar experience to yours when they visit India, and to some of them it feels like a great adventure and to others it feels like a real nightmare scenario.

Hope you can always keep with you, though, that if nothing else, traveling in India is a broadening and challenging experience!
#12 Nov 16th, 2006, 07:52
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#12
2 points: It looks like you hardly left Delhi, am I right? How long were you there for? If you ever get it in you to return, make sure you do (venture out). The city (any city of entry really) can be just really overpowering at first. (Plus you'll be walking around with a big neon sign on your head advertizing NEWBIE!!! & My will people be sure to pick up on it.) On return, you might just feel right at home! Anyway your post really spoke to me (and brought smiles of recognition), it just sounds like you never got past that initial clash stage. I'm sorry it worked that way. (And again, it's just not for everyone. Hey there must be a travel ticket with your name on it somewhere.)

2. Greenchutney: if it were to change, what would become of this board?
#13 Nov 16th, 2006, 08:20
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#13
Maybe this could be another thread, but on a broader note, would the india-lovers out there love it as much without all the touts/hassles etc. as experienced by Proxyindian? Somehow I doubt it, it's all part of the buzz, and for me anyway, sometimes it was fun. Obviously it can get anyone down after a time, but that's the time to head somewhere more relaxed and chill for a while. Doesn't look like PI got the chance to do that, which is a shame.
#14 Nov 16th, 2006, 08:21
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#14
I have no idea how I'll respond to it. I know, for instance, that I don't enjoy being hassled by the handfuls of beggars in my own city, but India is a different kettle of fish and I could be fine. I'm hoping I take my sense of humour with me, that's for sure. Regardless, if it really does get too much (and we're there for 2.5 months) we've arranged an escape clause as we're going to Cambodia and Vietnam afterwards anyway, so we could just make our flight out earlier. Or, there's always the mountains.
#15 Nov 16th, 2006, 09:02
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#15
I found that post hard. I've been to India 4 times (twice with a young child).We are going again in January. I don't really understand why those things don't happen to me...It's like a totally different place from what I know. I haven't had people try to rip me off and beggars no problem (obviously I am not wealthy). I have met very nice people.. Sometimes in the middle of Summer it can be a drag, crowded and I too get annoyed but really when people learn to know you they won't hassle. The worst country in the world for hassle is Morocco (I think)..
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