In this post I want to gather the main reasons why I fell in love with India. I could add many more, but I do not want to make the entry much more extensive than it already is. This is my tribute to a country that is intense, magical, surreal, sometimes unfair, alive and colorful. A country that makes fall in love with it, and in any case never leaves anyone indifferent. Ensuring you travel with a good travel agent, will make your experience exceptional and will ensure that you enjoy your time in this wonderful destination. Namasté India.
In all the time I spent in India, the clothing and the role of women in this country never ceased to amaze me. From carrying heavy drums of water on the head, to bricks in some works in the middle of the road or wearing henna tattoos and all kinds of tinkling bracelets and other accessories to highlight their beauty. The vividness and color of their saris, the color of hair so black and natural that it has bluish shades, and always collected in very long braids. Women have a fundamental role in Indian society despite being still at a disadvantage with respect to men. I remember a couple of occasions in which different women treated me with a special affection, as if it were their daughter, like that love that only a mother knows how to give a traveler who wonders around the world. They are flirtatious and hardworking, quiet but at the same time full of life and feminism (especially when they come together in a group to go shopping in the market or meet to chat). Until the last day I marveled at their beauty, her white teeth and her tinkling when walking. My most sincere admiration for each and every one of them, some born fighters in a country that is not easy for women.
2. SUNSETS and SUNRISES
When I think of all the sunsets I have seen, my memory immediately moves to Udaipur. Thanks to the good weather and endless sun evenings at Taj Lake Palace, I had the luxury of enjoying incredible sunsets. The color palette, from the blues and purples to the pale pink, red and yellow, made everyone leave what they were doing and stop for a few minutes to watch the sunset.
3. THE LIGHT
One of the reasons why I was dying to visit India was to know if it was true that the light there was different. I never knew why, if it was due to pollution, dust from the environment or simply for some other reason that I do not know, but the truth is that, indeed, the light in this country is special. It is more blurred and less direct that makes even on cloudy days its quality is perfect to take good pictures. Every dawn and dusk radiated oblique lines of a diffuse light that filtered through any slit, corner or hole, filling everything with incredible textures, radiating vividness, color and clarity. I especially remember the blue silhouette of the Taj Mahal.
This was perhaps my biggest surprise. Before going to India I liked only a ‘little spicy’, the one that hardly feels. I knew it’s something you get used to but I had no idea how much I was going to become so addicted to them. My favourite spices were cardamom, ginger, some garlic and onion, turmeric and pepper; My favourite places were at he hotels, and my favourite Indian restaurant has been Neel Kamal at Taj Lake Palace, and my favourite plate was cumin rice with butter chicken curry. It is true that food in India is not healthy because it has a lot of oil and butter, but it is an exquisite gastronomy full of exotic aromas and flavors, which deserves to be given an opportunity before limiting the diet to Western food.
5. STREET LIFESTYLE
Life in India does not understand doors or intimacy. Everything is done on the street before the watchful eye of others. One bathes in the street, without hiding too much, eats on the sidewalk, prepares chai, cooks chapatis, dyes hair, shaves or brushes his/her teeth. Nothing is hidden, nothing is done inside. Getting lost in the streets of a town or city is something of the most entertaining that one can do. It is like contemplating a showcase where everything happens and nothing is never the same.
If I had to choose the main reason why I liked India so much, I think I would summarize it in this way: India breathes life. Its chaos, its disorder, its noise, its cows, chickens, dogs, and other characters of the animal world; their women full of color, their men reading the newspaper in the middle of the street, their loud children and photo hoarders … Their lack of logic, their disorder when forming a line, the lack of privacy, the null concept of space , how impatient they are to drive, how loud they talk when they get together in a group … all that and an infinite list of things contrasts with their humanism in many cases, the affection with which women treated me, the spontaneity with which they things happen, the degree of surrealism that reality sometimes reaches. In India the lack of laws and norms gives existence a degree of madness but for that reason it makes it more alive and real, more authentic and full of spark. It is a bubble in which everything happens and since I left this country I realize how far I miss it.
7. CHAI TEA
What I did not know is that in India tea, or chai, is equal or more important than the British country. I can not say how many chais, always served in small glasses, drink half a day. I tasted many, but never as aromatic and spicy as those served in local shops. In any corner, in any sidewalk and bend of the street, any place is good to put 4 bricks, embers, four glasses and a teapot. It is a ritual to see how they transfer the chai from the saucepan to the glass and from the glass to the saucepan to ensure that all the flavors are mixed and a perfect tea is obtained. The king of the kings is the masala chai, which carries more spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and ginger, among others). The explosion of flavors of a good chai or masala chai was one of my favorite addictions in India.
What else could I say about color in India? There are simply no words, but images. The dyes and fabrics do not know about sobriety or the ‘black as a wardrobe background’. The saris lying in the sun are real 5 meter rainbows where all kinds of designs, patterns and colors come together to highlight the beauty of women. With such color, I realized how dark we are in Western societies, because we think that elegance only means black and white or dark gray because ‘it is sober and formal’. Any street in India is a tribute to the color therapy and the light that makes you walk with another look, and certainly with another smile. Simply beautiful.
It is incredible to see to what extent religion is so important to the Indians. Performing some act related to religion occupies a large part of their daily chores, and it is the first thing they do when they get up and the last thing when they go to bed. Every shop, every place of chai, even the smallest business has its altar with some image of Ganesh, Shiva, Brahma, Parvathi or some other Hindu god. The money they earn with the first customer of the day is spent in front of the altar as a kind of blessing because it brings good luck for the sales of the day. The new cars are ‘baptized’ by the brahmins, the sins are exempted by immersing the body several times in some sacred river or sea and visits to the temples are our daily bread. Even today it moves me to think about the respect that they have for everything sacred because for them it is fundamental, the basis of their culture and their existence.
One of my favorite hobbies (I had a few). Visit markets and be face to face with the smells, colors and all the screaming. See the stalls of flowers, coconuts, fruits and vegetables, fish, the bloody chicken shops and the gleaming blue-gray of the fish. Delight in the colorful of the merchandise, see how the shopkeepers sit cross-legged in their drawer-stand-corner and how they put a head between the sacks of potatoes, and how lucky some cow is the happiest of the land getting fed up with food remains is something unique. I made hundreds of photos of their stalls of flowers and colored powders and enjoyed having some conversation with the vendors. Each city or town has its own market and is a fantastic social center in which one can spend the dead hours.
11. UNIQUE SHOPPING
Distinguished by an exclusive selection of silks, with textures, colours and designs that revive the tradition and skill developed in India over time in the spinning and weaving of its fabrics. They are experts in tailoring and fabrics. You cannot leave India without making some clothes designed just for yourself, and they are so hardworking they will have it delivered to your hotel in less than 24 hours if you need.
On the shopping list of almost all foreign tourists who visit India are pashminas, a garment that also becomes a souvenir or an excellent gift. However, we must be careful: in the country there are as many fake pashminas.
How can you differentiate between false and genuine pashmina shawls? The first thing is to know what is the pashmina, a term that derives from the Persian word that designates wool. In the Kashmir region, wool pashminas have been woven for more than four centuries. Before, this fine fabric was only available to the rich and aristocrats of India.
Pashmina wool is made only with the root of the goat’s longest hair. Each animal produces less than 100 grams of wool fiber per year. That fine wool is mixed with silk threads in different proportions, which determines the quality of the fabric, and then dyes in different colours.
Although a non-expert does not have enough data to know if s/he is buying authentic pashmina or not, the truth is unmistakable for its softness and lightness. The fakes replace the pure wool of chagra with that of other sheep and even rabbit hair.
Also, any cashmere clothing can be bought at extraordinary prices: scarfs, jumpers, cardigans, jackets…
Also, do not forget buying colourful bracelets and jewellery. Kids in the streets will be selling this and it is a great way to help them and their families make money and you get to take lovely presents home.
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