Reflections about India
I had many preconceived notions before my trip to India. From what I had seen in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil movies, India was dirty and chaotic and there were animals everywhere. Everyone who had been to India also had bad diarrhea and no one I know actually told me they loved India. Hence, it was with trepidation that I went. I was expecting to be seeing the toilet a lot and to be jumping around trying to avoid stepping on any kinda crap, the literal kind. I was also told that it was not safe for a girl to visit India alone as the men would stare and grope and basically harass me to no end.
Imagine my surprise when I didn’t see a single cow on the streets. The streets were not clean like what it is in Singapore, but there wasn’t sewage on the streets nor shit of any kind. Kerala actually prohibits cows roaming on the streets and I didn’t get to read about this in any guide book or website. The streets didn’t stink and though there was litter around, there were no cigarette butts as smoking is prohibited on the streets too.
Initially, I was really really careful about what I ate. I tried to go vegetarian but really wanted to try more local food that had some meat. I became more adventurous after a few days as my stomach didn’t give me any problems and even ate at a local biryani place with no foreigners! I only brushed my teeth with mineral water too and spent 9 days diarrhea free.
As for travelling alone, I think more people at home were shocked that I did that. The locals never really harassed me and I never felt like anyone was looking at me with sexual intentions. I always kept my shoulders covered and wore long pants whenever I had to travel between cities. No one paid me any extra attention when I wore shorts nor did I feel like I should be covering my legs up.
People are very shocked when I returned home telling them how much I enjoyed India and would like to go back. My experience was great and except for auto drivers who tried to rip me off in Cochin, everyone was kind and helpful to me. In the mall, whenever I saw people staring at me, I would just smile and they reciprocated. Maybe it was weird for them to see a Chinese girl in the local mall and they were curious. But once I smiled at them, they would definitely always return the smile.
The kindness and big heartedness of Keralans touched me to no end. My auto driver in Trivandrum is a chauffeur in the day and he drives his auto before and after work during the week day and all weekend. He does this just so he can send his son to private school. His house is small and very very simple but he was so proud of it. He invited me to his house just so I could say hi to his wife and son.
In Alleppey, everyone was happy to let me take a photo of them. They welcomed it and never asked for any money in return. They all smiled and told me to take more pictures. Even the teens I met at the festival offered me the snack they were eating and all they wanted was for me to take a picture of them.
In Cochin, the auto driver that took me around for two days showed me that not everyone in Cochin saw me as a cash machine. I had bought him lunch twice and on my last day after we had biryani together, he stopped suddenly and asked me to wait. A few minutes later, he came back and gave me a cornetto ice cream as well as a small snickers bar. It might not seem like much but knowing how much he earns and that cornetto was really expensive for them, I was really really touched. These are the little things that touched my heart especially when I know he would not buy something like that for himself.
I am afraid that if I go back to India, i might hate it as everyone has said that Kerala is the safest and cleanest place in India. People literally stare at foreigners in the other states, especially in the North. However, I believe that I will be able to meet more Indians with hearts as big as the ones I’ve met. Cos I still believe in the kindness of people.