To the unobservant and ignorant foreigner, India means plenty of spicy food, weird English accents, a bit hot pot of cultures and of course, taking cocaine at music festivals and pretending you can now 'namaste'. But there's more to the country than just that. If you look deeper into the little galis and chowks, one will start to notice a repetitive undercurrent that lies within each Indian culture or subculture: inequality.
Rape is prevalent in India. Quite prevalent. In fact, when I first landed, 2 years after hearing about the infamous Delhi Rape Case, I was scared to even go out to the tiny park in front of my house without an adult. I quickly realised that while India was truly unsafe for a girl, things like rape were less common than other forms of male supremacy. For any naive person travelling to India for the first time, here's a tip: don't wear anything above the knees if you identify as a female. Just don't. It's like inviting the men to stare shamelessly in double, even triple the amount that they already do. I really don't get it. I know each country has it's own traditions and cultural laws that must be respected but why do girls need to cover themselves up so much in India? Here, parents teach their daughters to not dishonour their family by wearing revealing clothes and getting molested or raped. If this was the case, then why are the statistics for rape increasing each year? Why are girls who wear suits and sarees being touched by strangers in a public bus? Why aren't parents teaching their sons not to rape rather than blaming their daughters for getting raped? Many people have accused the traditional 'no sex before marriage' rule for the increase in sexual abuse within families, friends or even strangers. I, personally, believe that the real culprit are the porn videos that sexualise rape and portray a woman saying no as sexy. Which in turn, makes men believe that whenever a girl says "no" what she really means is "yes".
Another form of inequality present within Indian society, is the 'Caste System'. In the western world, caste has a much more better and refined synonym called 'class'. Lower class, middle class, upper class are all examples of the 'Class System' which is a much more forgiving system compared to the Caste. Basically, people from lower castes are treated like dirt and trafficked, whereas people from an upper caste get all the privileges, middle caste gets a bit of both. The whole system is so fucked up that it is looked down upon to marry someone from a lower caste than you, especially a girl (gotta get that dowry somehow, right?). It's sad to say but even some of my family members treat our maids and driver with unfiltered rudeness both in public and at home. I don't normally write much about societal issues but this trip to India really opened my eyes as I went there with a more mature and realistic outlook on life. I have little hope that my generation will bring any change to Indian society but I can only pray that as time goes on, a change of the attitude embedded deep in India will be seen.
Now onto more exciting stuff such as a family road trip I took during the start of January for 2 weeks:
THIS ROADTRIP WAS INSANE! During the entire journey, we covered close to 3000 something miles-I died- and I got to experience Indian culture like never before. During the first leg, we took a train from Chandigarh to Hyderabad which was probably my most favourite thing ever. We had a little compartment to ourselves and because we were travelling in AC 1st, we had a butler who gave us complimentary roses each day. Not to mention that the food was also pretty good. Sadly, looking at other parts of the train, not everyone travelled in the luxury we did. There's a compartment in every train called the 'Cattle Daba'- literally meaning 'the cattle box' where passengers would be packed like cattle with upto 200 in the same compartment. We also had a huge window next to our beds and at one point in the journey, I saw someone squatting outside doing their business right in the open...Unfortunately, the train ride only lasted 2 days and my whole family and I were mildly disappointed. During our stay in Hyderabad, we lived with my Dad's brother who is in the army and therefore has a huge Victorian era house (Hyderabad had a lot of British influence) with a pool right next to it. Which was amazing since the weather was close to 30 degrees in January nonetheless. I also got to meet my two cousins again after a long time and that made things even more fun and exciting. However, my little cousin thought it would be funny to chase me around the house with a knife in his hand and a cheshire grin on his face. Our time in Hyderabad only lasted one day before we were off again and this time to Calcutta or Kolkata (take your pick).
Calcutta is where my mother grew up and also the busiest, most polluted city I have ever seen- considering I've been to Delhi before. Crossing the road by foot in Calcutta is like signing your own death sentence since cars do not stop at all, just slow down. The place is also crowded like anything, with people filling up every corner of the street with street stalls and tiny buildings. If you are a shopping fiend like I am, I wouldn't really recommend Calcutta. I might be wrong but I only saw basic stores such as Pantaloons or Westside- something which you can get everywhere you go in India. There was only one good mall I saw but the items were heavily over-priced and of basic quality. Shopping was quite a disappointment. Another place I went to was Victoria Palace which was another let down since it was very crowded and not that special at all. Needless to say, Calcutta didn't really make it on my list of 'places I'd like to visit again'.
After Calcutta, we went back to Hyderabad and stayed there for another two days where we went to the world's largest film city (apparently it takes 3 days to see everything there) and also got gifted a pearl necklace and handmade chokers. I didn't shop much there either and only splurged on some cool sneakers from Pantaloons. After Hyderabad we went to Rajasthan because I really wanted to see some generic sand dunes. It took us two days to get there by car and as torturous as it sounds, it actually wasn't so bad since my cousin and I played 'I spy' throughout the whole journey while jamming to The Chainsmokers. Our hotel in Pushkar, Rajasthan was by far the best hotel I have ever stayed at. It was a typical Rajasthani haveli with an open courtyard and traditional looking rooms. The food was absolutely heavenly and I normally don't have Indian food when I eat outside (enough of that at home) but I couldn't help try some paneer pave or navratan korma with cheese naan. I also learnt a really interesting fact from my mother that 'as the landscape gets drier, the clothes get more colourful' and true to her saying, people in Rajasthan wore bright pink, orange, purple, etc, sarees compared to more bland colours in the north. Sadly, I couldn't find the generic sand dunes I was looking for (pure sand, nothing else) so I settled for the ones you can see in the pictures.
Funny story: there was a lake used as a sewer right next to these 'sand dunes' and I had to crop it out in most photos.
Also, I understand that I am wearing sneakers with a long skirt (such a sin) but our guide advised us to wear nothing else since the sand is home to scorpions, snakes and even some sharp plastic which could easily damage you. Sorry if the shoes are a distraction but I'd rather make them one than have my toe bitten off my a snake.
Knit Turtleneck- Zara
Ankle-Length skirt- Unknown