It is really difficult to put it into words. Such a beautiful country of stark contrasts with difficulties, beauties and surprises. India leaves with a better understanding of how special the country is. It was definitely a nice experience with no regret.
We got lost in its beauty and sad in its poverty, fell in love with the people but got frustrated when they just did not leave us alone.
…But our time in India changed us in so many ways… we found more than we expected.
Now, several years later, when I look at the photos I took, watch a movie or a documentary about India. My nostalgic feeling rises for India.
Mumbai – Jaipur – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Agra – Delhi – Varanasi
Our first stop was Mumbai in India, known as Bombay until 1996. This city is known for being home to Bollywood, and its slums where sixty percent of the Mumbai population lives in. We stayed one day in Mumbai and one of the first things we did was visiting the Dharavi slum (one of the largest slums) with a tour.
We were going to meet our guide at Churchgate Station, a very popular train station in Mumbai. But before that we were stuck in the traffic of Mumbai and had stressful moments in being on time at the station. I remember.. There was an Indian song playing in the taxi and of course annoying car horns in the background. The weather was dusty and sunny. In every breath I took, another smell coming up to my nose. I was watching people crossing the streets which is an adventure in Mumbai! I said “Here we are in India” to my wife. It sounds like a movie scene but at that moment it was not. Well we caught the group up and continued.
The goal of the tour is to change the pre-judge of living and working in Dharavi. Our guide said that the word “slum” is a derogatory term that the Indian population does not like to use the famous movie “Slum Dog Millionaire” too. The people here are working citizens and contributors to society. Prior to taking the tour, we associated laziness, drug dealing, and crime with living in slums. Dharavi’s total annual turnover has been estimated at over US$1 billion. I do not think it is a place filled with lazy, non-working people. Many people have jobs, and there are even doctors and lawyers living here. There is a strong sense of community here, as well. Of course, there is a lot that needs to be done to make this a better place to live.
It was forbidden to take photos inside Dharavi which was a pain for me as a person who is interested in urban, street photography.
By the end of the tour, our views had definitely changed. It was an eye-opening experience. It looked a lot like I imagined it would, with one-room houses, dirty, smelly streets, and barefoot people.
Jaipur (the pink city)
I really liked small towns rather than cosmopolitan cities in India.
Jaipur is one of three destinations of “Golden Triangle” is a tourist circuit which connects the national capital Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Jaipur is famous for it’s Pink City, in the older area of the city, all of the buildings are painted pink.
Generally, the traffic is noisy in India because of the horns but someone told us that they use it to inform their coming to the other drivers. Actually after Jaipur that noise did not bother us in rest of our trip
Snake charming is a practice of appearing to hypnotize a snake (often a cobra) by playing and waving around an instrument called a pungi. The practice was historically the profession of some tribesmen in India. But it is no longer the case, the teeth of the snakes get pulled and people try to earn money by using poor animals.
Goats eat the garbage
Jaipur is famous for its block printing. As a tradition stamping lengths of cotton fabric with color using hand-carved wood blocks still continues day after day. It is taught by generation to generation.
Blue Pottery is widely recognized as a traditional craft of Jaipur as well.
As an economist I am quite interested in labour power and framing working people. In Jaipur, I had a chance to add more photos to my long term photography project “Forgotten Efforts”.
Jaisalmer, India, a small city located in the desert just 130 kilometers from India’s border with Pakistan. It is a city that rises out of Thar Desert (the Great Indian Desert) with a sandstone fort, surrounded by the buildings. All the buildings are the same sandy color that’s the reason for being called “The Golden City ”. I can say that it is my favorite so far.
We had a really good guide there to visit the fort. We talked about the way of life in Jaisalmer, the culture and the history. The war they had with Pakistan and how important was Jaisalmer before. Indian people like fat women. The idea behind it is that they think fatness brings healthiness.
When I think about Jaisalmer one of the first things that come to my mind is Rajasthani desert beans. I am not a fan of spicy hot meals but we were on an adventure with backpacks so I chose it as my lunch to try a different one.
Persian steps. I guess the game “Prince of Persia” was inspired by those kinds of steps.
Shops selling textiles, jewelry, carpets etc. are found all throughout the fort and surrounding town.
At the end of the tour a quick camel ride was waiting for us. It would be the first time to be on a camel.
Jodhpur is the second-largest city and is also said to be the cultural capital of Rajasthan and officially the second metropolitan city of the state.
The old city circles the Mehrangarh Fort and is bounded by a wall with several gates. The houses in the old city are typically painted in a blue hue probably to escape heat or for adornment, giving the city its nickname “Blue City”
I really enjoyed walking in the narrow streets of the blue city.
Street animals are well fed but some of them have skin problems.
Cricket is the most popular sport by far and an important part of the culture of India which is played almost everywhere.
Varanasi, also known as Benares, is the spiritual capital of India. This is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, dating back to the 11th century B.C. Varanasi is a city of pilgrimage for many Hindu and Jain people. Many people are brought here to be cremated right along the water’s edge. The reason for that is reincarnation. The water is believed to be holy and people come here not only to be cremated, but also to swim, pray, perform religious rituals, and even do laundry.
In Varanasi, 300 bodies a day are cremated. Loved ones shroud the dead body, carry it to a cremation ghat, where the body is then covered with mango wood or sandalwood. After that body gets burned, then the remains, mostly ashes are swept into the river.
We watched a cremation. What a sad atmosphere and surreal experience it was. In that while a guy came and introduced himself to us as a death bringer and started to talk with us. When I interrupted his story he wanted a donation…
I could not take any photos because it was prohibited from there but from the river. Next day we were going to have a boat tour and watch some morning rituals so that I would be able to take some photos.
They twist the linens up and beat them on the rocks with tremendous power over and over again.
Agra is a city on the banks of the Yamuna river in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is 206 kilometres (128 mi) south of the national capital New Delhi.
It took approximately 3 hours from Delhi by car.
The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world, the mausoleum of Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the world, and one of the three World Heritage Sites in Agra. Agra is commonly identified as the “City of Taj”.
It is symmetrically well designed. Sorry, perfectly designed.
It is like a fallen piece of moon shining on earth. It is incredible.
New Delhi, the capital of India, is not a city recommended for first time travellers. Because it is overwhelming and chaotic. It is true that the cıty is crazy, with the traffic, noise, congestion, and the weird smells. I can say that our visit to chaotic Old Delhi was the highlight in New Delhi. This is the oldest area there, a tangle of ancient streets and alleyways, filled with all kinds of shops, jam packed with people, and this is the place to go for chaos and mayhem.
We ate great authentic Indian food on our last day.
It’s interesting that I look back on India with fondness. Even though not everything we experienced was pleasant, we did make some unforgettable memories. Sometimes, the things that challenge you the most leave the deepest mark on your soul.
Traveling… It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.