I.N.D.I.A. – I’ll Never Do It Again

Posted by on Nov 10, 2012 in Blog, India | 12 comments

As I walked out of our hotel in New Delhi this morning the intense stench of rotten trash filled my nose and I had to hold my breath to suppress a gag reflex. Just a few steps further the smell of urine was so strong I felt close to suffocating. I saw an Indian woman walking next to me holding her robe against her nose to filter out the stink and the smog. To my left a tea vendor snorted up slime from the depths of his throat and spat it on the ground right next to my feet. A dog was rummaging through masses of trash, his tail tugged in, his life a miserable tale of garbage-picking and being kicked around by humans. The whole street was filled with smoke from burning piles of plastic waste and it hurt my eyes.

Cows eating their way through trash.

I was able to take five complete steps when the first travel agent came up talking to me. “Excuse me, Miss. Where are you from?” Since this was the five-hundred’s time in two weeks that I heard this question I just mumbled “California” and kept walking.  He went on to the next question “How do you like India?” I stopped when I heard him ask that so familiar question. In the past two weeks I used to respond with “good” or “fine” and sometime just “OK”, but today I needed to be honest and I said “You know what, I really don’t like it.“ The fact was, Eric and I were over it. We were over the stink, over rude people, over the lack of hygiene and over being sick. After travelling through large towns as well as small villages for 2.5 weeks, we were absolutely over INDIA.

Scared pup hiding in a corner. The stains on the wall are from tobacco (paan) that people keep spitting out.

In the last couple of weeks we had tried to like it, and there certainly were a few positive moments. The Taj Mahal was beautiful and its architecture certainly breathtaking as were a couple of temples we visited. We have also met a few genuinely nice people such as when we were invited to a home for dinner or taken care of by a family in Kashmir while being sick.

However, I’m sad to say that these good impressions were far and few in between. We had been lied to and spat on so many times and have so many emotions of disgust not just for the country but also a great number of its people, that it’s been difficult at best to keep our sanity. When we spend any time outside of our hotel room it is impossible to be by ourselves. We are constantly being interrogated. The questions are always the same (Where do you come from? Where are you going next? etc) but they are usually not sincere conversations but feel robotic and many times lead to someone trying to sell us something. A “No, thank you” doesn’t mean anything. We have to repeat ourselves over and over again before someone backs away just to make room for the next person trying to harass us. Almost everything we attempt to accomplish, may it be buying a train ticket or getting internet access, seems to be a big problem which ultimately leads to our desperation.

When it comes to hygiene and cleanliness, we have certainly been aware of India’s reputation, but nothing could have prepared us for what we have seen. The concept of trash collection just doesn’t exist. Everyone just throws their garbage all over the place. Cows, pigs, dogs and rats rummage through the piles of trash in every corner. While looking out of a bus window the other day, I saw an ice cream vendor pulling wax out of his ears with his fingers, looking at it and when a kid came up buying ice cream he just handed him the cone with his dirty hands.
Yes, many people here are very poor, but it doesn’t just come down to being underprivileged. We see middle class men spitting all over the place and peeing in the middle of the city against a wall even when there is a public bathroom down the road. I have also witnessed at least 50 different men scratching their balls in front me. The other day a mom was making her little boy poop on top of a piece of newspaper with crowds of people around them, even though she could have taken him to the public restroom inside the train station.

Constant sight. Center of Delhi. There was a public bathroom 100ft down the road.

With the lack of hygiene it is no surprise (and of course we had been warned many times) that Eric and I both got ill. We have spent numerous hours on toilets and/or bent over buckets feeling absolutely miserable for many days. Our diet now consists of bananas and plain toast but our digestive systems still haven’t fully recovered. Plus, to add insult to injury, it has been difficult for us to stomach the reeking smells that we are constantly surrounded with.

Streetside food preparation

While feeling physically ill, we have also been intensely homesick, missing our family, friends and familiarities. We picture ourselves spending Christmas at home either in Germany or California with all our relatives. We also reminisce about surfing, skiing, meeting up with friends at a bar, and all the fun things we have enjoyed so much back home.  And of course I am also day-dreaming about the moment when I can hold my dog Petey in my arms again. Now more than ever, we truly understand how blessed we are to have each other and our family and friends. Plus, we greatly appreciate that we are living in one of the nicest places on earth and having the opportunities we do.

Our plan was to spend at least 4 weeks in India until the end of November, but now after 2.5 weeks we have had enough and are excited to move on to Bangkok. The flight is booked; we are leaving tomorrow and honestly can’t wait. We are also considering ending our trip a bit early and seeing my family for the holidays in Germany before heading back home to the States sometime in January. We will make our final decision once we get to Bangkok.

While still in Nepal, Eric and I had shared a taxi with two guys from Germany. When we had told them that we were heading to India next, they smirked at us and said “ We’ve been to India. You know what I.N.D.I.A. stands for, right? It means – I‘ll  Never Do IAgain.” Back then we had just laughed and considered it a joke. But now we couldn’t agree more. India is definitely a place we will never go back to!

All-you-can-eat buffet for cows in the alley

 

All India posts:
Part 1 – A long day – Crossing the border into India
Part 2 – Cycling in India 
Part 3 – Feeling like Superstars
Part 4 – A super-cheap amusement park? Heck yes!
Part 5 – Dussehra Festival
Part 6 – Agra and the Taj Mahal
Part 7 – Delhi
Part 8 – Staying on a houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir
Part 9 – Yoga in Rishikesh   &   Leaving India
Final Part – I.N.D.I.A. – I will never do it again! 

12 Comments

  1. Wow. What an interesting time in India, guess I’ll cross it off my list of places I hope to visit. I have been jealous and happy to see photos and comments of your trip thus far, hope Bankok is a welcomed relief! Amazing how travel educates in so many ways. Perhaps the best education is realizing how lucky and comfortable we are at home. Tell Eric that Powder Mountain is getting ready to open with a couple good snowfalls already. Safe travels!!

    Matt

    • Yes SE Asia has been a welcome relief. India you can definitely skip. The troubles out weigh the positive experiences. Looking forward to some skiing when we get back,Pray for snow!

  2. What a shame. India can be Very Hard Work! Better luck in Thailand eh. It is certainly a much easier place to enjoy… X

    • Thx bud, we are in Cambodia now and really enjoying the smiling faces everywhere. India was much more… uninviting and troublesome. The people there did not seem happy at all. No regrets, ever. I am glad we saw it fist hand and can say without a doubt its not a place for us.

  3. Wow! Sorry to hear you two had such a miserable time. Hopefully Thailand has better times in store for you. My friend just got back from Thailand and he had a blast! Wishing you the best.

    -NIck

  4. Best Yelp review ever.

  5. Thank You! We just received our Visas from the Indian Consulate and were about to buy our tickets to visit India. After reading about your experiences we have chosen to change our plans. If Bangcock was a welcome relief, India is certainly not the place for me. Thank you again for sharing. If you have never been to Bali, I would highly recommend it!

    • Hi Brian,

      Its been some time since you wrote this comment, but I would like to follow up with you still. We have had plenty of time to reflect upon our experiences in India and albeit we did escape alive and without much more incident than Dengue Fever. I will never do India again. When traveling via bike or any other mode of transportation there is no need to unnecessarily place yourself in risky situations if the payoff is not commensurate. We did not find the cultural or environmental draw to be equal to the struggles we went through. The experience does make for good fireside stories and what is life without interesting stories?

      Anja and I just had our first child and we look forward to traveling the world one day with him. I promise that India will not be on that list, if he wants to go he can do that on his own accord when he is over 18.

  6. OMG. I can’t believe you described my experience of India as if I were writing this article. We had done Thailand first and it was way too short. 1 week in Thailand two weeks in India. I couldn’t wait to leave. I thought I was being negative. Thank God we took Dukoral before we left or I’m sure we would have gotten sick a lot more. we hired a driver to take us two different places and ate along the roadside he got sick and we didn’t. So we highly recommend taking Dukoral but…India.
    People ask me how I liked India and I reply that its nothing a little therapy won’t fix.

  7. Hello ,
    In spite of being Indian, I couldn’t agree more about your comments on India. I know that most of the places are unwelcoming for foreign travelers. Everything that you have mentioned is a bane on the nation and tarnishes the image of the country.

    The prime reasons for all this are illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, lack of awareness and negligence. Most of the metros are densely populated leading to lack of hygienic practices and poor sanitation. Also, since the government does not have any strict rule regarding garbage disposal, people just do what’s easy for them, dispose off garbage at the corner of the street. Same goes for urinating and taking a crap in public places. The public restrooms in India are the last place that any human being would want to step foot in. The odor is so pungent and disgusting that it’s hard not to throw up.

    India, in spite of all this mess, is a developing country. There are some beautiful and well-maintained places in India. Be it Pune, Maharashtra (places like Magarpatta City), Bangalore, Karnataka (places like Electronic City) and certain parts of Mumbai, Hyderabad etc have a lot of multinational companies. There will not be public urinating, garbage disposal on the streets in these developed areas. Even when the rest of the city is badly polluted and carry the traits of India, some of the aforementioned places are worth noticing for cleanliness and civilized ambience. Thanks. Get back to me if you have any questions.

  8. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been in India for five months leaving tomorrow. It’s a horrifying hell hole of filth. Even the culture is to lie and steal at any opportunity. Can’t wait to leave and I relish the thought that I never have to return. Good riddance India.

  9. I’m of pure Indian heritage, proud of it, life is like a lottery, no one chooses his/her own race.. though not so much proud of the people i share my race with, heres my two cents.

    India is overpopulated. The country isn’t run by governments (maybe only to get in or get out of the country it’ll seem that way). It’s run by the majority uneducated, but in paper only ruled by a seemingly erudite bunch. I remember going to India when I was 10, I can’t forget the mosquito bites i’d wake up with every morning, the pizza from restaurants which actually tasted like the ones i’d get in a super market at my hometown in the west, the electricity going on and off, the rain and the infestation of bugs, rodents and snakes.

    Everything in this article is correct, and those of you from Europe or North America, who think India is mysterious or whatever, your just wrong, and it’s simply the media telling bullshit. Theres nothing beautiful about India. Theres a huge drug problem every little inch of the country. Strangely it’s the only country with the least divorce rate in the world.

    Don’t go there looking for fun and adventure. Go to Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong for all that, these are the more interesting globalizing/globalized countries in the far east.

    India is going to be worse and worse day by day nomatter what they tell u about technology, politics etc. just don’t waste your money.

    Good Day