I saw my first dead body in India. I also saw my tenth dead body in India, and my twentieth. In India, you never really know what is going to be around the corner so, relatively quickly, you learn to be shocked by very little. An entire family living on a bench? Ok, seems reasonable. An elephant with a bunch of people on top? Fair enough. A mysterious festival with whirling dancers and crazed music? Just one more day in India.
You’re used to sharing a sleeper bunk with a stranger.
Indian trains are the best way to get around this massive country. For just a few quid you can have a sleeper bunk all to yourself… that is, unless the seat has been double sold and you have to share it with a stranger!
You no longer notice the smell of burning rubbish, deadly curries, and human shit drifting on the wind.
After a while, partly due to extremely hot curries and partly due to the burning piles of rubbish that grace many a roadside, you will lose your sense of smell. This is a good thing.
Sadhus are no longer mysterious.
India’s yellow and orange robed wandering holy men, Sadhus, are a truly fascinating bunch — at first. After a while you start to realize that many are on the Indian equivalent of a gap year and are wandering around the country in search of a good time. Sadhus are an interesting bunch; some are the real deal, ancient priests on a path which only they can know. Others enjoy playing Angry Birds on their iPhones.
You get used to the worst toilets in the world
You look around you. Shit is smeared across the walls. Taking care not to touch anything, you edge into the horrible looking room and squat over the hole in the floor. You get out your phone and start to play Angry Birds… this is when you realize that taking a dump in an upright, shit-stained coffin has now become a normal part of your day.
You will haggle over ten pence.
India is cheap… seriously cheap. When you first arrive you will be amazed at how cheap everything is; that is, until you realize you are paying far too much and must actually haggle to get the real price! Haggling in India is an important part of the culture. If you don’t haggle, you will never fit in.
Your picture adorns hundreds of mantle-pieces.
If you ever want to feel famous, go to India! Everywhere you turn, friendly locals will be queuing up to take their picture with you where it shall take up a prime position upon their mantelpiece back home.
You’re totally addicted to Thumbs Up.
Why drink a Coke when you can get the party started with an unbelievably sugary, heavily caffeinated, Thumbs Up? Well, as it turns out, Thumbs Up is unbelievably bad for you, drinking half a dozen a day has taken 10 years off of my life.
Your love of Malai Kofta is becoming a health concern.
Before I went to India, I quite liked Indian food. After a year in India, I was literally addicted to Indian food. My favorite was Malai Kofta: it’s creamy, it’s rich, it’s damn tasty, and it’s really bad for you. Within just a few months of eating Malai Kofta everyday, I was getting fat.
Sauce in a bag seems normal.
In India, whenever you buy anything, such as a samosa, you usually get sauce thrown in. Because this is India that sauce is usually provided in a small plastic bag which you then have to try and carefully empty over your food whilst spilling as little as possible upon your lap.
You are barefoot
In India, you constantly have to take off your shoes to enter temples or places of religious importance. My shoes were stolen from outside a temple, and at this point I pretty much just thought ‘screw it’ and went barefoot from then on. Every now and again you will see another barefoot backpacker or a sadhu without shoes. You will lock eyes and give each other a firm nod, a small smile, a mark of respect for your decision to get back to basics — this is India, and it’s best done naked.