If you follow me on social networks, you probably know that I’m coming back from a month-long trip to India , mostly in Gujarat . Before leaving, when I was asked where my next trip would be and I was answering in India, a lot of people were surprised. “But you’ve been to India before?” Yes, I have been there since it was my fifth trip to this country and cumulating previous stays, I had already spent 6 months. But why, why return to this country? A lack of inspiration? A fad? I tell you everything, finally almost …
As often, I had many ideas in mind before choosing the destination of this winter trip. Sri Lanka, Colombia, Chad, Cameroon. I was on the verge of setting my sights on Sri Lanka, but finally, after a tweet from Joana de VeniVidiVoyage , patatras, it was India. India, I went there for the first time for work in 1997 while my traveler’s curriculum was just a blank page, it was India’s big beginner level . Then three more or less long journeys followed, the last for a trek in Ladakh with friends in 2003, more than 10 years ago. So why this upheaval? Because I missed India. Whenever I talk about it, I’m not quite right anymore. I see it again, a chai in one hand, a bidi in the other to nodding. But now, the curiosity that is normally the lot of the traveler pushes to always choose new horizons, but not this time, more this time. Ten years is just too long , way too long.
But why, then, this obsession? It’s usually quite difficult to explain an obsession. Why is this country that scares some and disgusts others has become for me a sort of Grail of the trip? The answer is actually in one sentence. In India, everything is possible 1 in India, everything is possible . I am very far from having traveled the world, but for what I know, no one else, the culture shock is also intense . The simple fact of finding there two religions as dissimilar as Hinduism with its thousands of gods and idols and Islam that banishes any figurative representation, this simple fact is already not banal. Cohabitation is not always the most harmonious, but it does not prevent. As Nerhu said, “India is a geographical, economic entity, a cultural unity in its diversity, an assemblage of contradictions, maintained by powerful but invisible links.” An assemblage of contradictions , the word is weak.
In India, everything is possible
We do not travel to India like in any other country, everything is stronger than elsewhere . A trip to India is a trip 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Wanting to escape is a lure and the guarantee of missing out on the trip. This is undoubtedly what makes some people adore and others graze the detestation, the famous Indian syndrome. Traveling here probably requires more commitment, but once you’ve taken the plunge, once plunged your head into the Indian cauldron, what a reward for the traveler. This semblance of permanent chaos that is India contains more life than anywhere else. It is a real tidal wave, life is overflowing everywhere . At first glance, this chaos can be scary, seem hostile, but it is not so. To realize it, just stop and look. The smiles then appear on many faces. India may be intimidating, but it is not hostile, it is the very opposite, it is warm, playful, wriggling, petulant, so alive.
When I’m in India, I can not just be a spectator, go out of my hotel, go to visit a particular monument and come home quietly once the visit is over. India forces me out of my straitjacket , it forces me out of my comfort zone, my virtual fortress built around me over the years. In France and in many other countries, my fortress is respected. In India, it’s not that we do not care, it’s that we do not even see it. It does not exist, it no longer exists, it has disappeared. It has an undeniably destabilizing aspect, but is it not the essence of the trip? Admittedly, the trip allows us to see with our own eyes the wonders of this world, but not that, because it is actually quickly quite boring. The trip also allows us to go to meet something else. But with India, you do not have to invite yourself to her house. Whether you like it or not, India comes to your home . She opens all the doors, all the windows and blows a wind of freshness that dusts everything in its path.
Why go to India
If I had to list briefly and very subjectively why I returned to India, it would look like that. Some reasons are serious, others much less:
- Because we eat well, even in bouis-bouis.
- Because India is westernizing less than the rest of the world.
- Because Gandhi.
- Because it’s good for karma.
- Because you do not have to live in the countryside to really know what a cow is.
- Because it’s movember 365 days a year.
- Because the hair or the beard dyed with henna, it is the supreme elegance.
- Because we dodeline of the head. Generally, it means yes, but sometimes it means no!
- Because there is nothing more classy than a Sikh with his beautiful turban around his head. A Rajput with his turban and his earrings, it’s not bad either without forgetting an Indian sari.
- Because the Indians speak with an English accent like no other.
- Because it does not roll right or left, but where it goes, even if sometimes, it does not pass.
- Because behind the trucks, we beg you to honk. There is indeed written horn please.
- Because outside of Rajasthan and some other spots, it’s not very touristy. In Gujarat, apart from Diu, I had to meet at most a dozen foreign tourists.
- Because Indians love pictures. For who likes to take it, it’s the dream.
- Because traveling there without planning anything is of a disconcerting ease. By pointing to the bus station, it is rare to have to wait more than an hour for a bus to pick up where you want to go. Trains require a little more organization, but not that much.
- Because in India, everything is possible, but sometime, not available 2 in India, anything is possible, but sometimes it’s not available .
- Because more curious than an Indian, it does not exist. Oh yes, I forgot, Bangladeshis are even more curious. Yes, it is possible, I had spoken to you here: in the skin of a star in Bangladesh .
- Because we smoke bidi.
- Because for those who want to travel a long time, but do not have a penny in their pocket, traveling is not expensive. This is not a reason in itself to choose India of course, but it can still count for some. For this trip, without taking my head and doing the simplest, I spent 480 € in 4 weeks . Obviously, with that, I do not sleep in palaces, but it’s good, I only like in low-end hotels. The bows of rigor as soon as one passes a category above me indisposent. I like to travel simply. The thrifty traveler can get by with € 10 per day .
- And of course, if only one reason, because we drink chaï, the best chaï in the world and we find at every corner!
From Delhi and Mumbai through Rajasthan and Gujarat
In India, I already knew Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh in the north, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karanataka in the south. It leaves so many regions to visit. This time it will be essentially a trip to Gujarat . That was the idea by buying my plane ticket, arriving in Delhi and returning from Mumbai. The exact course will take shape as often as the trip. Delhi , Bundi , Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Junagadh , Diu , Palitana, Vadodara, Aurangabad ( Ajanta and Ellora) and Mumbai, traveled by bus and train. I will not go into the details of this itinerary here. The different stages will be the subject of future articles.
So, tell, that was how
You already know the answer, it was ecstasy obviously. Just arrived in Delhi in Paharganj, the smiles are there, and the brothel too. I put my bag and neither one nor two, go on a quest … a chai and a bidi.
On these four weeks, not a single moment of boredom , not a day without. I was a little afraid before leaving to have over time a little too idealized this country, but no. No one else traveling, I do not feel as good in my pumps as in India. This country has given birth to the passion of travel more than 15 years ago and I think that I will never tire of it. Because no doubt, next time will not be in 10 years.
Enough words, a small overview of this route in 16 photos :
And in the meantime, I can not recommend too much to go on a tour of Ailleurs on Earth , the blog of Aurélie, she also great love of India. She goes back there, right away, on March 25th. His articles are always a real treat to read. Another lucky man is Brice from the World Wild Brice blog, who is going back to work, but I do not doubt he finds time to talk a little bit about it between two fields. And before the end point of this article, one last reading tip on India, the Swim in India retroblog. A trip to India in the early 80’s released today, day by day. A real treat.
On the program of this trip
- Chaos in the heart of old Delhi
- Bundi, Rajasthan far from mass tourism
- Chaos and cold sweats in Ahmedabad
- Immersion in the heart of an Indian street in Ahmedabad
- Girnar Hill, 7000 steps to paradise
- The island of Diu in Gujarat, to unplug Indian chaos
- Pilgrimage to the temples of Palitana in Shatrunjaya
- Vadodara, the gateway to the Mosques of Champaner
- Ajanta, at the bottom of the cave, there was Buddha