Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Final Thoughts on India

Ah, India! We knew going into the country that most people seem to love it or hate it. Despite having already been on the road for weeks by the time we arrived, Delhi was so frickin' hard. The way we remembered where our roach motel (with good reviews - thanks for nothing, tripadvisor) was located was because the alley always had a line of men waiting for the open urinal. Continuing around the Golden Triangle was not much better with the viciousness of touts and autorickshaw drivers. In all honesty, in that first week, we both separately considered getting a flight out to somewhere - anywhere else! - and just coming back to India in time to catch the one home. Grimly we stuck it out, and in our optimism, we could say it was, at least, always interesting. Things got better and better the further we got away from the tourist trail and the giant cities, and we really got to love our time in southern India. It was so redeeming that we half-started a list of places we would like to visit if we come back to India someday... even if we are washing our hands of Delhi, Agra, and Rajasthan (still, the Taj Mahal is worth visiting).

Below are some of other odds and ends on India.

The ubiquitous Indian head wobble is contagious. In practice, the gesture can range from slight to brain-shakingly vigorous, and its meaning seems to also vary from "yes," "no," "maybe," and "you must be crazy." Despite our diligent studying, we never managed to master the movement itself or, for that matter, the exact meaning in each situation.

Granite seems to be common in India. Slabs that your average homeowner would dream of putting in for kitchen counters casually rest in big piles by the side of the road in the Delhi construction. A greasy spoon restaurant in Munnar sported granite tables paired incongruously with their plastic chairs.

Moustaches are alive and celebrated in India! In Rajasthan in particular, we saw some magnificent specimens of the luxurious, bushy handlebar-style reddened by henna. We suspect it is an unwritten requirement for doormen of posh hotels.

India was the fattest country we have been to in this trip. Individuals with more to love were a frequent sight, probably in relation to their relative affluence [For instance, we saw no one in Vietnam with an extra ounce]. We also concluded that Muk is still skinny, even by Indian standards.

These were some of our favorite drinks in India:
- Masala chai (spiced tea with milk): Richard was frequently distracted by the cry of the chai-wallahs, "chai chai garam [hot] chai garam chai." Ten cents at the train station can buy you a tiny dixie cup.
- Lassi (yogurt drink) comes in sweet, salty, and fruit flavors. At times, it could be essential for calming the fire of chillies in your mouth.
- Smokey masala chas was prepared tableside at the Rajasthani thali place. A waiter dropped spices on a burning coal, covered it for a moment with a stainless steel cup, and finally poured a buttermilk concoction into the cup. The result was a sour drink with surprisingly intense smokey flavor.
- Limca soda is like Sprite but heavier on the lime and lighter on sugar. There is also a variation where it is prepared with fresh lime juice at streetside stalls.
-Pepsi gets an honorable mention just because India was the only country we visited where it made significant inroads into Coca-Cola's world dominance. Later I learned this was possibly due to some pro-Indian business policies 20 or so years ago, which weakened Coke's strangle hold in the region.

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