I was completely expecting to have a marmite reaction to India, as I'd heard from people that love it and people that hate it, but not really anywhere in between. I wasn't really expecting to love it AND hate it. So far I've loved it, hated it, loved it again and then not liked it all that much. Right now though, I think it's fine. Just fine.
Our original plan for India was to visit Chennai, Goa, Mumbai, Agra, Jaipur & then Delhi. But we found out the hard way that you can't really do anything in India without an Indian mobile number to write on hundreds of forms - and they really do love their forms here. After realising this we bought a SIM card (4 signatures, one passport photo and proof of ID later!) and the plan was rewritten, as it took too long to set up an account to book an overnight train, and long story short we're now in Pondicherry, having already visited Chennai and Mahabalipuram. We're off on an overnight bus to Kodaikanal tomorrow, into the mountains to see some of the greener side of India. And I'm already glad we're heading out of the cities, and SO glad we changed our itinerary. The cities here are interesting in small doses, but very hard work, and I need to get out!
The current population of India is around 1.3 billion, not far off China. The cities are packed. This means we have to be on high alert 100% of the time. Even walking down the street is hard work, as most of the pavements are not for walking on (they're either broken up, have shops on or are being lived on) meaning within any 10ft stretch dozens of pedestrians are in the narrow roads, trying not to get run over by motorbikes, cars, auto-rickshaws and cows. Yes, we've had to moo-ve (haha, sorry!) out of the way of so many cows in the road. These roads belong to them, and they know it. People will hang off your arms to beg for money, and the roar of traffic and smell of burning chilis and other spices make you cough and sneeze. There are stray dogs with no one to clean up after them (or the cows for that matter), and all in all it makes it a tricky place to navigate. It's not like South East Asia at all, but the places we've been were definitely good training for India!
Rich was so excited to come to India, having already eaten his way around the rest of Asia, for the food. But we pretty quickly resigned ourselves to the fact that we would both be losing weight during our India leg. The food was all just too hot for our seemingly uninitiated western tongues. At first we were being served really spicy curries that we just couldn't eat. I even had a korma that was full of chilis and too spicy to finish. But we quickly found out that all you have to do is ask! Duh. Obviously everyone's opinion of what's spicy differs, so I'm still not able to eat some "not spicy" dishes, but I've already eaten some of the best food of my life here. So many of the curries taste homemade, and just full of love. Sappy, I know, but there's no better way to describe it. The food is immense.
The poverty that we've seen in India so far is heartbreaking. But there are people here trying to help with that, and it's not a reason not to come here. The bright colours, friendly smiles, skinny cows (so many of them, you'd love it Dee!) and huge variety in sights and smells has kept us both grinning (mostly) since we arrived. I read somewhere that you only have to travel 500m in India for everything to be completely different to where you just were, and that couldn't be more true. This country has so, so much to offer, and I want to see it all!