I’ve been diligently reading the opening section of the Rough Guide to India to get a clear idea of what I should expect, what I should take with me, what I should leave at home, what I should get jabbed with before I go, etc. I keep coming across statements in the travel guide that make me laugh out loud.
Since the tour company I am travelling with recommends bringing a sense of humour to India in order to survive the inevitable unexpected last-minute changes and confusions and unfamiliar practices and customs, I am beginning to think I’ve already packed one of the most important contributors to a positive experience (along with the Imodium and the pre-treated mosquito net), because I am certainly amused.
Here are a few examples from the Rough Guide that have made me laugh:
- “Getting good maps of India, in India, can be difficult. The government – in an archaic suspicion of cartography, and in spite of full coverage of the country on Google – forbids the sale of detailed maps of border areas, which include the entire coastline.”
- “Sending a parcel from India can be a performance. First take it to a tailor to have it wrapped in cheap cotton cloth, stitched and sealed with wax. Next, take it to the post office, fill in and attach the necessary customs forms, buy your stamps, see them franked and dispatch it. Surface mail is incredibly cheap and takes an average of six months to arrive – it may take half or two times that, however.” (I am very tempted to mail myself something, just to experience this.)
- I want to try the laundry system, too: “In India, no one goes to the laundry: if they don’t do their own, they send it out to a dhobi . . . . The dhobi will take your dirty washing to a dhobi ghat, a public clothes-washing area (the bank of a river for example), where it is shown some old-fashioned discipline: separated, soaped and given a damn good thrashing to beat the dirt out of it. Then it is hung out to dry in the sun and, once dried, taken to the ironing sheds where every garment is endowed with razor-sharp creases and then matched to its rightful owner by hidden cryptic markings.”
- Finally, following several pieces of advice to women travelling alone who may need to deal with unwanted overtures or harassments: “If you feel someone getting too close in a crowd or on a bus, brandishing your left shoe in his face can be very effective.”