I am writing this from on board Daisy, our trusty (not-so-)little truck taking us from cities to deserts to the bush on our overland trip around India, and feeling particularly reflective today.
I always look forward to sharing my travels through this blog, whether that be tips on travelling that part of the world, personal stories or a photography feature. Over the past few weeks I’d had a few ideas, including a photography series of India, as I had some beautiful close up shots of people I’d met throughout my trip in the cosmopolitan cities, desert towns and countryside villages we had driven through en route. I’ve always found that interacting with the locals really is the best way to get to know a country! And India isn’t an exception.
The real beauty of India is its people.
Yes, the incredible architecture and intricate decor of its temples, mosques and palaces really is incomparable to anywhere else in the world. The endless beeping of horns, dodging of cows and tuk-tuks in the streets, and constant aromas of beautiful spices – chai, cumin, chilli – and delicious pakoras, pain-puris and samosas wafting from the street food vendors fighting for space along the busy roads is something which will always be ingrained in your memory of India…as is the unrelenting background smell of cowpat and sewage waste. The hustle and bustle of people swarming the markets with a myriad of pots, fabrics and hay bales balanced on their heads, motorbike traffic jams, and constant beautiful flow of sari rainbows is an incredible feast for the eyes, as is the unexpected but welcome peace of vast mountain scenery and green, rural life in between the cities’ beautiful chaos.
But it’s the warm, vibrant smiles of the locals which will remain most prominent in my memory. I have travelled to many third world countries, but some parts of India really are absolute poverty, living 20 or 30 families together in a narrow three storey building or a few tiny huts, with little to no possessions to speak of and working and living off the streets or fields, sometimes in the scorching heat, just to survive. Everyday. But despite this, their genuine, beaming smiles welcome us wherever we go in each and every town and village we drive through. They are always intrigued by our presence – and curious, sometimes calling the whole family or other villagers – and they come out one by one to greet us until there are small, waving crowds surrounding our truck. They really do seem more than happy to welcome us into their country. My experience of the people of India has only been positive.
The reason I’m feeling particularly reflective today is because unfortunately, last night whilst we were camping in the bush, my big DSLR camera was stolen from my tent along with a few other possessions including my purse with precious rupee cash (considering the current national money crisis), my debit cards and ID. We had set up camp in a very rural area somewhere between Udaipur and Mandu en route to Ellora caves where we will arrive in a couple of days. We had arrived early evening with just Daisy the truck and the most beautiful sunset backdrop for company. There was nobody else about for miles except a few curious local boys who had loitered whilst we made dinner by the campfire…
As I sit here now contemplating, although I am devastated to have lost so many precious memories from a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I am determined to not blame myself for being too trusting. It was, of course, unfortunate but something which is bound to happen at some point or another, and I’m lucky that for a person who travels so frequently, this is the first time for something like this to happen to me on the road. After a morning spent in a small hut known as the local police station and a few calls made, we continue on our journey for the next few days.
I had taken a few pictures on my phone, including the one featured above, but for those I lost, I am genuinely consoled by the fact that the memories I made over the past few weeks are ones which will perhaps fade slightly over time but which will never be forgotten. I will always have some really special memories of my travels through India, a beautiful country in all senses of the word.