The Vibrant Life and Culture of India
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Slum, poverty, megapolis, and BRIC country. Those words might be top of mind when thinking of India for many people, and for me included, however, India is so much more. I went to India, and it was an amazing experience. Yes, India has a dark side – we have seen it in the news and portrayed in movies, but India also has a colourful side that one only truly sees when visiting the country. I went to India and fell in love with the culture, colours, and it's beautiful people. This blog post is a window into my experiences while traveling the triangle area (New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur).
I live in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the trip to New Delhi was therefore long. This also meant that after what felt like 100 hours in transit, I finally arrived at sunny India – and sunny Indeed. As a woman, I got covered up for (1) out of respect for local dressing manners and (2) not to attract too much attention to my yogurt-coloured skin. And it was melting hot.
A bus took us to the hotel in Delhi, and the first bus trip was just one among the many. Traveling in India can be dangerous as you can spot tourists from 50 km away, and know tourists have money. I must make clear that I only travelled by bus within India, so I have no experience otherwise, and this is only my experience.
We had many activities planned, but the first on the bucket list for India was rickshaw riding through the zouk’s of Delhi. Our driver, Pranav, was a friendly guy who had been working the rickshaws most of his life. He took us through the busy streets (or controlled chaos) which gave an interesting insight of Delhi life and the life of the locals – and the first encounter of the many contrasts of India. Colourful stores were selling beautiful garments while poor children sitting outside the shops looking hopeful towards the newly arrived tourists in rickshaws.
As mentioned, the best way to travel in India is by bus, at least in my opinion. First of all, because of the long distances, and second of all, because it is safer than other transportation options. When traveling the triangle-zone, you travel between Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. In Jaipur, or also known as the pink city, it was also possible to be transported by elephant – at least to the top of Amber Fort.
Even though India has beautiful sites and locations to see, it is actually the people, the culture, and the infrastructure regarding work and education that I remember the most. However, that does not mean I won’t share some of my encounters with the beautiful cities of the triangle area.
Jaipur, The Pink City, and the biggest city of the state Rajasthan. A beautiful place, and it really is pink. We went to Hawa Mahal, the pink palace, which has the most beautiful architecture, and is definitely a must-see, if you ever get the chance to visit. In Jaipur, you’ll also find Amber Fort, which is enormous, and even though we spent an entire day here, we did not have the chance to see it all as there are so many corridors, aisles, and corners to explore.
Agra has become the synonym for Taj Mahal. And what an extraordinary place. I have been to Abu Dhabi and seen Sheikh Zayed, which is considered to be the most beautiful mosque in the world, and from the outside, it might easily be confused with Taj Mahal, due to the white walls and pillars, but after visiting the Taj Mahal with my own eyes I must state: it’ not comparable. Taj Mahal is something else and is a must-see. Not only is the Taj Mahal big, but the whole site is enormous as even the entrance to the site is something of a monument. I remember seeing parrots fly in the sky while in line to enter the site, and it was here the experience of seeing Taj Mahal started. When entering the site, the dark entrance really stands in contrast with the white mausoleum. It truly has that wow-effect.
I have already shared my encounter with the controlled chaos of Delhi, but Delhi also has beautiful sites, for instance, Qutub Minar which is the highest minaret victory tower in the world.
In all cities you can visit temples and get a window into the many spiritual beliefs. Furthermore, you can practice your bargaining skills in the many zouk’s, and of course, develop your taste buds for spicy food.
Spicy, colourful, and delicious. I’m a foodie, and I have been looking forward to the Indian cuisine, and to try ‘the real deal’. Food in Denmark is sometimes ‘westernized’ and not as authentic and true to the original recipe as can be. I love spicy food and must say that it was spicy. Dhal, gulab jamun, tikka masala, samosa, jalebi, etc. was on the menu the whole time there. When dining out, the kind personnel at the restaurants told us that the food had been made ‘not spicy at all’, and adjusted to western taste buds, but it was very spicy indeed, and part of the experience. The warm weather, the Indian music in Hindu, the traffic noise from the streets, and the colourful decorated setting only made the food even better. What’s not to love?
Apart from the spicy food, India has their own version of Coca Cola, Thumbs-Up. Sweet, sparkly, and perfect for the Indian sun – but only good through a straw!
Work, traditions and art crafts
During the trip to India, we visited several factories, however, all these factories were ‘good’ in the sense that they cared for their employers and provided good working conditions. One of the factories produces the clothes for a very popular Danish fashion brand. We were allowed to see the next season’s collection, while the director of the factory described the process and working conditions. The factory put emphasis on no night work and no child labour. One of the pieces for the next season cost 7DKK (0.94€) in material, and the price for wages, materials, and shipping costs in total were 11DKK (1.48€). The piece is sold in stores for 1599DKK (214.99€). I remember standing jaws-dropped when hearing this – and that was a factory that made an effort for great work-life balance. As a European this was horrifying, but the workers were happy. Some of them had worked elsewhere working under horrible conditions.
Despite the cheap labour, India is also the home of many forgotten art crafts that is still used today. It was possible to find beautiful Indian silk fabrics in every city, and when visiting a fabric factory, we had the chance to see how fabrics are made – from thread to a roll of printed fabric using traditional Indian printing methods. For instance, printing the pattern in hand with a wood log that has the pattern carved into it.
India was on my bucket list but must admit that it still is. Henna tattoos, spicy food, and shoes for 2€ a pair, are only a small piece of India. There are so many places, so much food, and so much culture yet to explore – I’ll definitely be back, are you coming too?
Thank you so much Ida for sharing your vibrant India experience !
Ida is really well travelled and her Instagram ida.exploring is full of stunning photos from her travels. It's really worth checking out if you love food and beautiful scenery.
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