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India: Day 4

An American's View of India

One's first impression of India is literally a shock to your senses. All five are jolted almost the second you land in the country. As a way to convey what my colleague Frank and I experienced we put together a list of a few of our observations in order of the five senses:

Sight

  • Stray animals are everywhere. We saw cats, dogs, chickens, goats, cows, and animals I forget the names of. I even saw a camel walking along the road.
  • Here in the states when you agree with something you shake your head up and down. In India people will shake their heads from left to right. Think Katharine Hepburn in her final years and that's what the left to right shake looks like.
  • At almost every turn one will see a piles of garbage, trash, and construction debris on the sides of roads, in streams, up against buildings and homes, and in fields. This trash is either burned or left where is was dumped indefinitely.
  • On a few occasions I saw mothers and their children picking through the garbage for food.
  • Poverty is rampage. People are forced to live in communities of aluminum structures and tent cities. Someone told me he once looked inside one of the tents and saw roughly ten people living in one. Interesting to note, we saw a few homes that looked like they were plucked right out of Beverly Hills. Less than three hundred yards away we saw a tent city
  • India is in a constant state of construction. Everywhere you turn you can see buildings being built, torn down, or gutted. You could tell what building have been renovated because piled in the front is construction debris.

Smell

  • Combine smog, traffic exhaust, garbage, body order, animal and human waste, and you have a recipe for what Bangalore smells like. It was horrific. I saw people walking around with masks and others actually holding their noses. Let me put it this way - there is a certain odor associated with New York City on a hot August day. Take that smell and times it by ten and that equals the stench of Bangalore.

Touch

  • Many of the streets we traveled on were lined with long ditches on either side. The overturned dirt would get picked up by the wind and coat everything with a layer of dust. Combine that with the film of pollution and you have a sticky dirty mess that covers cars, buildings, windows, and your skin.
  • We found that every public restroom we went in (including, airport, restaurants, offices, hotels) would have electric hand dryers (blowers) instead of paper towels. I have no problem with this at all except for the fact that many times the dryers did not work or they’d only dry you hands for a few seconds at a time. Inevitably, you’d walk out of the restroom with wet hands. Interesting to note – the “Men’s Room” is referred to as the “Gents Room.”

Taste

  • Indians add curry to many of their dishes. Now, I can’t fault them for that. Its what they do and what they like. Italians do the same thing with garlic. But for the first time American in India and amount and intensity of the curry is overwhelming. My very first meal in India was some combination of chicken, curry, and Krishna knows what on white bread with no crust. My first bite sent a shock to my system that made my stomach scream. I immediately wanted to spit out my bite into my napkin but I did not want to offend my host. I did, however, only eat one half of my sandwich. Frank, on the other hand, ate the whole sandwich and paid the price for the next twenty four hours.
  • We were told over and over again NOT TO DRINK THE WATER AND NO ICE IN YOUR DRINKS. As such, we drank a lot of bottled water and warm soda.

Sound

  • In my last post I wrote how many drivers continuously honk their horns. Combine that the sound of cars, auto rickshaws, motor cycles and you have a noise so loud I could hear it from the 27th floor of my hotel in Hyderabad.

Now, combine the above with the 24 hour long trip and 10.5 hour time difference and you’re setting your body up for quite a jolt. Its times like this when its okay to say YES to drugs. Take along sleeping pills, aspirin, Claritin, Pepto Bismol, eye drops, and anything else your body can withstand because India is unlike anything you’ve ever known in your entire life...except for, perhaps, New York City.

Paul Altobelli

Home Office, 1219 Martin Ave, Cherry Hill, NJ, 08002, United States