Today is our last day in India. I woke up at 9am and lay listening to my MP3 player, I do feel really sad as it brings it home to me how quickly the time has flown by. Over the past 2 months we have travelled around 3500 miles, through seven states and 13 cities.
We have learnt about the Hindu religion and the caste system and I have found, with a very few exceptions the Indian people to be helpful, kind and friendly.
There are fewer differences between England and India than I initially thought. India is a place of huge contrasts, although poverty is obvious wherever we have been, there is also great wealth here. Some of the people have habits that are difficult to like, for example the chewing of paan. This is a mixture of herbs, spices, sugar and tobacco wrapped up in a betel nut leaf. It is chewed and eventually spat out. It can be addictive and stains the mouth and teeth red, eventually rotting the teeth away. In north India the streets are covered with red spit and the ability of some people to hawk snot still amazes us.
I have seen lots of things which I would like to see adopted in England, for example women only carriages on trains and separate waiting areas for women and children in stations. It has been interesting to see the Indian government’s response to HIV infection and there is a mass polio vaccination programme taking place here at the moment.
It is simple and cheap to buy any medications over the counter and although I feel that this must lead to a lot of dangerous self diagnosis it does make the prescription charges in England even harder to stomach. Our experience of healthcare here although brief was excellent.
Although many children go to school and education is very valued in a lot of states, child labour is still a huge problem here and I think we all could have cried at times seeing tiny kids begging on the streets, dressed in filthy rags with no shoes. This isn’t just confined to children though and many old and disabled people seem to have an equally tough life here.
The climate is great, for someone who loves the heat the temperature is perfect and has never been too hot although occasionally too cold. Although bearing in mind it is winter here, I’m sure cities like Chennai and Delhi must become quite unbearable in the summer.
Everywhere smells, the food stalls are amazing this is something else I would love to see at home, although they would of course be governed by lots of health and safety legislation consequently driving prices up. We have eaten for less than a pound and had some amazing snacks and fruit juices very cheaply. The smell of frying food is often tempered by stinking drains and in some places the streets and pavements seem to serve as good toilets. After all why use a loo when you can piss up a perfectly good wall.
We have been lucky enough to see some fantastic sights, The Taj Mahal was as beautiful as I expected and visiting Varanasi and the Ganges River was one of the best experiences of my life. India has an interesting and varied history and Ali and Maisie have learnt so many things here that would have been out of their reach if we had decided on a new kitchen and a better car instead of this trip.
I wonder if I will ever come back here. You could, I’m sure spend years here and still not experience everything India has to offer. As I had read before we came away that it is one of the harder places to negotiate your way around, I am encouraged on to visit other places and already thinking of future trips perhaps to places like South America, Canada and Africa.
There could never be a last thing to say about India as it is so overwhelming in so many ways but finally we have met some inspirational people here and I think I can safely say we have all had the most fantastic time and loved every minute of our travels so far.