First, the loves. In no particular order.
- I was popular. No, really, I was. On a couple of occasions I actually stopped on the street and waved like a Hollywood star – and got wave-backs too! People stopped me requesting me to take picture with their babies, mothers and wives. Pretty little girls and grown-ups a like. Did I mention it was insisted I carry the babies in my arms while the pictures were getting taken? In their defence [why am I defending them, I’m a pretty awesome person that deserves all the popularity the universe may send her way, aren’t I] : i) For most people, I was the first African they had ever seen. I really hadn’t anticipated that, what with TV, the recent World Cup in Africa and all the talk about Global Village-ism. ii) At 5’11, I naturally stand out (and not just in India). iii) I religiously never go anywhere without my red YSL lipstick on. I’ve noticed that gets a few more heads to turn my way. Not my intention but hey, when life gives you lemons, et cetera. I promise I’m not vain. Just frank.
- Soan Papdi – a certain spongy type of sweets. There are about a zillion types of sweets in India. There’s one called Gulab Jamun. Put simply, these are balls of milk (yes!) floating in a sugar syrup. Yeah, how about that? And no, obesity isn’t the greatest non-communicable disease there; it’s actually hair-loss. Seriously, I checked.
- Swings inside the house – this is a very Asian thing. I wondered, did these swings have anything to do with the hot (painfully hot!) climate – you know, a breeze is generated as you swing to and fro, bringing on a cooling effect – or were they just for the love of comfort and love for palatial comforts that’s common in Asia? I concluded both.
- I made some great friends. And met a kindred soul, too. The most thoughtful, selfless, generous girl I ever met.
- The shopping malls weren’t bad at all. At all.
- The roads – way smoother and wider than those in my native homeland. Ever heard of the pot-hole capital of the world?
- The Taj Mahal. This should probably be higher up in this list but like I said, in no particular order. The Taj is truly a work of splendour. It’s beauty is amazing, and so is the love that inspired it.
- I got to see a real-life fort. Make that two. The Red Fort and Agra Fort. I love fairy tales, princes, knights and all that. So seeing some real-life forts was pretty awesome.
- The number of women riding scooters and motor bikes. I still aspire to join that elite league.
- India is the only country in this big wide world where each state speaks it’s own language (in addition to the common national language – Hindi), has it’s own unique cuisine and dress type. Now there’s one huge dose of unity in diversity for you.
If I never experience these again, it will be too soon.
- Eating a whole meal with a teaspoon. It’s pretty normal there. I’m sure my Indian friends know I mean no offence here, but I really struggled with this one. I don’t remember ever working so hard to get food off a plate prior to my Indian voyages. I’ve never tried using chopsticks before (feel free to gasp, here) so I guess I haven’t seen it all yet when it comes to the many different ways to get food off a plate.
- The stares (popularity?) did get very un-comfortable on several occasions. The Hollywood wave I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that was a defence mechanism. It worked, too. I laughed about it a little. But some days it was just to darn hot (and on other days I was too homesick) to get humorous about the stares and the pointing. Not cool at all, the pointing.
- Spicy food. Say what you may, it’s just not my cup of tea. I did learn to stomach it, though, and I was surprised at myself. I felt someone should pat me on the back and say ‘Great going, girl!’
- Speaking of cups, where I come from tea/coffee is not had in 50 millilitre cups. Yeah, that was pretty new to me too. And oh, how I love my tea! Goes without saying I had to have at least four 50-millilitre cups before I could feel the tea flowing in my veins.
- That Indian heat! I’m from the tropics, but that heat nearly killed me!
- 17 degree air-conditioning to counteract the heat. I said I come from the tropics, right? Well, it never gets to 17°C here! I had to use 3 blankets at night (when I shared rooms) and had to get more vocal than I wanted to at work to get the temperature raised to 23°C! And that wasn’t warm enough for me either. In my defence, I come from the Pearl of Africa, the weather here is dreamy. Ha, yeah, until you’ve had to roam the streets of Kampala on a true Kampala-style weather day. Still, no 17°C for me, thank you.
- Hibernating in-doors on a work-free weekend as I wait for the sun to go down before I can go out! Very good advice I received from my Indian friends, but advice I once ignored and had to learn the hard way. Like I narrated here I was pretty sure the sun built her house, and had all her daughters in India. Reminds of Jupiter and it’s 64 moons. And yes, I think the sun is female*.
* Reference needed, but I got none. So just take my word for it.
- This should be right up there at the top of this list, seeing as I’m still traumatised about it to this very day. Not a single hair stylist – not even in the very posh salons boasting of affiliations to international hair-care brand names – new a thing about styling African hair. Not even how to braid! Well, yes, you may say ‘it was India, what did you expect?’ And to you I say, ‘Well, I expected at the very least to find someone trained in the oh-so! universal skill of hair braiding.’ I mean that’s just rope-making, but with human hair. I lost a tonne of my hair. Saying it over and over again hasn’t proved to be therapeutic at all. And that is another story, Hair Story I.
- The thieving rickshaw ( 3-wheeled taxi) drivers! But I guess that happens to everyone in a foreign land so I can be pretty sure I’ll experience this again. Of course it will be too soon.
- Not a single public message (bill board, radio, TV, et al) on public health. Nothing like the ABCs to avoid HIV spread, family planning, mosquito nets, the like – nothing! I don’t know about you but for a world afflicted with misery from the lack of the three examples I’ve given, I found that very strange. And Disheartening.
I can’t exactly call No. 10 above a dislike, so I guess that makes them just 9 things I did not like.
Wait! I think I’ve got a number tenner: the spittle! As you walk along the streets you’ve got to duck from time to time, as you never know which passer-by will be spitting from which direction. You know how you see ‘no smoking’ signs all over the place? Well ‘no spitting here’ signs were common place. Kind of reminded me of the ‘Don’t urinate here’ signs that are common place where I come from. Ha ha. To each their vice, I guess.
That said, you really should visit India. Winter is the best time to visit. Does it snow there in winter? Well, google it, friend. Unfortunately for me, my trip there could not be synced with the seasons. What will you love, for sure? The cuisine – it’s not all spicy, very varied. You’ll also love the heritage sites, there are a zillion of those. Do, please do, go to the Taj Mahal. What won’t you love? You tell me when you get there. And do send a post card!