Sunday, November 27, 2011

India Summary...

India Summary
Words learned:
I am very weak at learning words from different languages Forgive me, as the spelling will not be correct. It will be written as it phonetically sounds to me.

Soo Korea- Thank you.
Rrokoe- STOP!
Chello- Let’s go
On safari, you use the word rookoe ( you roll the 'r's backwards if that makes sense) any time you see something that you want to photograph and Chello when you are done. And of course, Soo Korea is used a lot as I am always grateful when people help me with something. After all, Canadians are polite right?

One of the photographers in our group kept on saying “no problem” in Hindu to every stranger that he met. Kind of drove me batty to be honest, but it was also futile, as no one ever knew what he was saying. I think there must be a lot of different dialects from one area to the next as he would be told that he wasn't saying it correctly, so they would correct him, then the next place we went, they didn't understand what he was saying either and they would correct him too. This happened every time we arrived at another pit stop or another village, city or resort. 

Favorite Foods:
Bada- A traditional deep-fried appetizer. It has bread, potato, and onion and is rolled in peanut crumbs. It reminds me of a really really good tater tot.
Naan- a bread that is served with lunch and dinner. 
Tikka Chicken- As either a kabob or part of a meal with rice.
Aloo parathas- is a potato/bread pancake that is served at breakfast and is delicious! The recipe is in the link.

Indians truly are masters of spice. It’s lke they have access to about 100x the spices that we have access to. I hadn’t even heard of 90% of the spices that they mentioned that they cooked with. At the same time, it was my experience that of the typical six dishes served in each buffet; at least three of them each would have a curry base. According to my taste buds, regardless of how many spices you add to something when the base spice is curry, the end result flavors don’t change much. Of course, this may just be my experience and maybe my palate isn’t sensitive to different flavors. I don’t know, but honestly to me one curry dish tastes just like the next.

I found the food to be very high in fat. The curry dishes were quite rich with what I would imagine must have been cream. Also any time meat was served, it was swimming with grease. Our fast food restaurants have nothing on the way they serve their meat dishes.

From a health perspective, I loved the way they presented rice. I find in Canada I don’t eat much rice because I don’t like consuming a lot of sodium and every time I eat rice, the sauce that comes with it is almost always drenched in soya sauce. In India, it would be a healthy chick pea/curry sauce, which I thought was a much healthier alternative.

My favorite foods of the trip were the aloo parathas, bada, a chicken sausage (I have no idea what the chicken sausage is called. If it is a traditional dish and anyone out there knows, I would be delighted to find out.) and tikka chicken.

India is a different and amazing place. I can understand how people love India. I can also understand how people hate India. I really have a love/hate view of my experience with India. I love the beauty and cleanliness of their national parks, the kindness of the people, the colourful clothing, the wildlife; specifically the spotted deer, leopards, peacocks and of course the Bengal tigers. I loved the Taj Mahal. Honestly, I could spend at least two full days photographing the Taj Mahal before I got all of the sunrise and sunset views that I would have liked to have captured. I would also have to plan to be there during the full moon as the views of the Taj Mahal during that time are supposed to be amazing! I loved some of the food and the cooperativeness of the people amongst the absurd traffic. Most of all, I really loved the people. The people I met were all so kind and accommodating and incredibly hospitable. The wildlife and Taj Mahal were the highlights of my trip, but I will never forget the beautiful people.

I have a few “hates” too and I very rarely use the word “hate” in my vocabulary, but in this case I will make some exceptions. I hate that while we have snow banks in the streets in the Canadian winter, they literally have garbage banks in the streets all year! And if it isn’t in a pile, it is plastic and paper waste strewn everywhere! Their sacred cows aren’t fenced. Unfortunately it means that they wander loose in the streets where there is no food, so they eat the garbage and die what I can only imagine would be an excruciatingly painful death. They then lay there decomposing in the street. It disturbed me seeing people relieving themselves in public everywhere and anywhere without even trying to go around a corner or at least turn their back to traffic. In cities and villages I literally don’t think I went ten minutes without seeing someone going to the bathroom..not in the bathroom!

It bothered me that men always tried to open doors for me and always offered to get my bags while ignoring my roommate who is a foot shorter than me, 80 pounds lighter than I am and a woman. I don’t need help with my camera gear. It is light to me. It is not light to a woman who is 5’1 and 115 pounds. Because she is a woman, they would always try to help me and talk to me when it was her who organized the trip for our group and had all of the information that they required. They knew she had the information too, but still wanted to talk to me.

I hate the fact that it is very difficult to even get an Indian visa because their system is so incredibly flawed that many people have to go to the visa centre four times before they are finally accepted and you can only book one visit per week unless they make an exception.

I of course hated the traffic, but was thoroughly entertained at the same time. I hated that they don’t seem to care about their animals and would just assume throw rocks at a dog as pet it. I love animals. I love pets and I had a difficult time not petting all the dogs and even the cattle that roamed without any interest, expression or enthusiasm. I realize this sounds strange, but our cattle look healthy and even though they are destined to end up on our plates, they look full of life. The cattle in India are just lifeless. As strange as this sounds, it took all I had not to reach out and pet the cattle and show them some affection. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to risk being bitten or diseased somehow so I refrained from touching any animal other than 'Pumpkin', my temporarily adopted dog. I felt especially badly for the dogs. In North America they are loved and treasured. They love people and are more often than not very exited to see their owners and many love to get a pat and some affection from any stranger who likes dogs. In India, the dogs are lifeless. They don’t even lift their heads when people walk by. It is even difficult to determine whether they are alive or dead sometimes. No one shows them affection and I didn’t see one dog that appeared to be loved or cared for. It was killing me not to permanently adopt "pumpin" from India and do what ever it takes to bring her home with me.

In summary, I loved India; the culture, the people, the history and I hated their filth, disorganization and abandoned, weak, “skin and bone” animals.

The thing that I had to/have to constantly remind myself of is that I have no business imposing my values on the way that other people live their lives. I don’t know what it is like to live on a couple dollars a day alongside 1.2 billion people, many of whom are struggling just to survive. We only have 33 million people in a country that is three times the size of India. From my observation, Canadians on social assistance without any employment who may or may not work even an hour a week have a better standard of living than most hard working Indians who have full time employment.

The big question is will I return to India? And my answer? Yes, in a heartbeat! I will definitely be back; possibly more than once. Clearly my love for India is much stronger than my hate.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed following your journey. I am so glad you had this incredible opportunity. Thanks for all the great posts along the way.


  2. Thanks for following Dana. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. thankyou is SHUKRIYA not SOO KOREA

  4. Thanks. I was just sounding out the words as they were spoken to me. I knew I was going to butcher the spelling. Thank you for the correction.

  5. Thanks for sharing your journey and experiences.