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12 Things You'll Find Difficult in Northern India
Crowds...

Crowds can be found everywhere. Local buses are jam-packed, streets are overflowing with people and traffic and queues are long for everything. India is crazy and nowhere more so than standing on a train platform in Delhi. The mass of people squeezes you as you try to keep hold of your belongings. You will feel hands from everywhere touching you in unwanted places and you can feel very vulnerable at times.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Keep your pack close by at all times and have your valuables in another pack on the front of you at crowded train stations. With your body covered with packs, there isn’t a lot of room for men’s wandering hands to find contact. If they do, I have no problem giving them a smack. There is no need to let them think that it is acceptable!

(2) Go with the flow. Don’t fight the crowds, take a deep breath when the train comes or when crossing the street and make your way with the crowd. If you don’t join in, you will be left behind.

(3) When joining a queue, don’t think that it is going to be a polite line that serves people one at a time. It is a dog eat dog world and you will have to fight to be seen. Men will jump in front of you and hey, at times; you may have to put out your elbow to stop that nice little old lady that has aggressively tried to sneak in front of you.

 

Animals...

The treatment of animals in India can be hard to take. Starving dogs roam the streets and sacred cows don’t seem so sacred when you see their bones protruding from their ribs as they munch on plastic. I've seen broken oxen dragging heavy carts through traffic and camels being whipped to the point of bleeding. Temple elephants are chained and used for tourist’s amusements and even pets are tied to short leashes and left to bake in the intense sun.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) There are organizations in India that are trying to help animals. Give to them and help support them. Some places take donations of medication and first aid supplies. You can visit many animal hospitals in India and even volunteer.

 

Noise...

India is noisy. It is a growing fast paced society that is demanding a lot of attention. You may be on a sleeper train and cell phones will be going off at 3:00 am. You will hear beeping all night long as everyone drives through the streets with one hand on the horn. The call to Prayer will awake you in the wee hours of the morning and trains make their presence known even in the most remote areas of the country.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Earplugs. Bring a supply of these and have them handy at all times. Unless you are a sound sleeper, you won’t make it through the night without hearing barking dogs, cawing crows or temple drums.

(2) Headphones may be another solution. Soft music on your ipod may be just the ticket to calming the mind and filtering out the noise of India. Have a supply of your favorite music loaded to help keep you sane and relaxed.

 

Respect...

As a woman in India you will have a more difficult time getting your complaints dealt with than a man. Negotiating can often be a chore. Some men feel that they can grab you, stare at you and make fun of you. Other men will see you as the weaker sex. They will ignore you when you talk to them and laugh at you when you are trying to raise a legitimate concern.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Not all Indian men treat women this way. This is just a difficulty that you may face from time to time. Have patience and keep a level head and you will eventually get your point across. Don’t raise your voice or get angry, raising your voice will only make men respect you even less.

WRITER'S NOTE: My final point is to urge you to respect this incredible, mind blowing destination. Respect the culture, respect their beliefs and remember that you are a privileged guest. I promise you will meet incredibly giving people, make new friends, see glorious sights, learn a new way of being and come away with memories that will last a lifetime.

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