You think you're ready to travel to India? Make sure you read this post! Get your finest outfit and bring your brightest smile to India. Or a Burka. You might need it...
When I traveled to India on my own earlier this year, I was prepared for it. At least I thought I was. After doing research on the Internet I had learned the golden rules. The "Do's & Don'ts" about India. Things I should remember so I wouldn't make a complete fool out of myself. I even made myself a list which I’d very much like to share with you, so here it goes:
- Be careful with street food. Don't ask for steaks! Better yet, don't eat any meat!
- Do not tell an Indian that they speak very good English. For some reason, it offends them.
- Don't eat with your left hand... And don't shake hands or hand stuff over with the left.
- Never, absolutely never say that cricket is a stupid and boring game.
- Don't leave your shoes on when you enter a house or even think about putting your feet on the table.
- Drink a lot of water, but not from the tap!
- Don't pay the rickshaw driver with a $50 bill and expect change.
- On the beach: Even if it's tempting, don't use cows lying on the beach as a backrest. Just... don't!
- Leave your Bikini and all the other skimpy clothes at home. Indians are not used to seeing that stuff.
- Use sun screen. And mosquito repellent.
- Bring tons of toilet paper!!
And then, of course I watched Slumdog Millionaire on the plane. I was assuming I knew everything about Indian culture. Holy cow... I did not. The culture shock hit me right after I touched down in New Dehli. There was clearly something new that nobody had told me about.
DO NOT GO TO INDIA IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE ATTENTION!
PREPARE TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED. A LOT!
IF YOU WANT TO FEEL LIKE A SUPERSTAR, INDIA IS FOR YOU!
You've probably already noticed that when people travel to India, many of them come back with amazing photos. Loads of great portraits of locals. In fact, in no other country is it so easy to get such fantastic shots of the local population that surrounds you. And the best thing about it? They’ll never ask you for money. Most Indian people love being photographed, but if they can take a photo of you in return, they love you even more. And if you happen to be blonde or fair skinned and willing to pose for them in a group picture, you’ll be sure to make their day.
OK, so "what's the big deal?" you might ask. Wait, we'll get there, I'll tell you!
This post is not about traveling in India. It's about me getting photographed in India. Hang on, it's clearly not a photo series of me, modeling India. I’m not that self-centered! At least not right now. This post is a collection of Indian people taking photos of me during my visits to the Red Fort in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Just imagine you're strolling around the beautiful Taj Mahal on a wonderfully sunny day. You're trying to absorb the magic of the place, but somehow it's impossible because every second person who passes your way asks if he can take a photo of you. No joke. It was exactly like this. I sat down on a bench, exhausted from walking around in the heat. During the 15 minutes I sat there, at least 10 guys had approached me and taken my photo. So I started to photograph them back. At the exact second they hit the shutter, I took photos of these men taking photos of me. And just for the record, they asked first! In two days I collected more than 250 shots of Indian guys taking photographs of me. Insane.
In the beginning it was fun; I was flattered. For a short time. But then I noticed that the same guy I posed for a photo with two minutes ago had also asked an old, fat white lady behind me to pose too. I'm not 18 anymore, but still. That hurts.
After being photographed 743 times I got very grumpy and started yelling at them. I felt like an alien. One thing I discovered about myself while I was in India: I can have a temper. I met the aggressive side of myself. Not exactly the thing I was looking forward to discovering about myself. That's the thing about India, you definitely learn something new about yourself, even if it's not always exciting news.
After a few days in India, I realized I couldn't take the attention anymore. People were checking me out from top to bottom. People pulled out their phones to take photos of me too often. I was overwhelmed. And I was exhausted. And yeah, eventually I was glad I never became famous. Getting too much attention is a bitch.
In Hyderabad I was at my lowest point. I was so annoyed that I started to wear a burka. Well, I didn't buy a traditional burka. Like most travelers, I'm stingy. So I was looking for a cheap alternative. I made a burka myself. [Side note: I have a thing for scarves, so you will find at least five scarves in my backpack. OK, I'm lying. More like ten scarves. Maybe twenty.]
Anyway... My new masquerade was hilarious: Instead of looking like a Muslim, I looked like a ninja. I covered my head with one scarf, hung another over my head and used a third to cover my mouth. To top it all off, I wore some hipster sun glasses. I couldn't have looked more like a douchey tourist. But it kinda worked in terms of attracting less attention. I posted a photo of my ninja self on Facebook. Click here. Don't laugh.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO ALL THOSE PHOTOS OF ME?
Dear God, please don't let my photo show up in some ad for an Indian Dating Website.
Sometimes I wonder where all those photos end up. My face is probably starring in dozens of profile photos on Facebook by now... Showing me, standing next to an Indian guy with a caption saying something like: "My fiancee from overseas. Waiting for her to come back." Ugh.
Actually that's not even the worst case scenario. I did some research and the results were shocking. Some travelers have found their photos on Indian match making and dating websites. Or even more hilarious: just imagine you stumble into a photo of yourself in an ad for Viagra. As long as I'm not advertising sanitary napkins, I'm quite OK. [Note to yourself: Don't be dressed like a gypsy, you'd better look business-like if you wanna end up in serious advertising.]
WHAT I FINALLY LEARNED ABOUT INDIA
Avoid tourist traps. And big cities. Everything else around can be pretty amazing.
After all my ranting about India, PLEASE don't cross this country from your must-see list! I've been to India twice and I'm even thinking of going again, so it wasn't that bad. Honestly, I'm convinced that everybody should go to India at least once in their life. You will learn something about yourself. You will appreciate things that you didn't pay attention to before.
One of my favorite quotes says "Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself."
That's pretty much what will happen to most of us who visit this magical country. It's a challenge worth accepting.
PS: This blog post is for entertainment purposes. It should not be used as a travel guide for India. I'll write more about India soon - all the things I loved about this country (and probably also a few things I didn't.)
PS2: If you need help in finding accommodation in India, check out Agoda, I highly recommend them!
Update 03 January 2013
My post made some waves.. This fellow blogger decided to give me some fantastic answers to my Do's and Don'ts list about India. Thanks to Krish for putting up this great article. Check it out here.
Thank you for reading.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:
Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
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LEAVE A COMMENT
Our men are attracted too much to white people, specially to white women. May be its an inferiority complex as sidarth said
I had the same experience.
I think that reason is that we are very exotic for them :)
Regards from Poland!
Thats a very famous phenomenon. We have left it but many have not. Thats a kind of inferiority complex that comes thru being ruled by foreign nations for thousands of years, starting from Aryans, than muslims and than british at the end. many of us still unwittingly take foreigners as our masters. Some people derived a stupid term as "Self Hating Indian Bastards" is also a mimic of same concept.
Happy trip on future visits . hope these helped ^ :)
hahahaa... looks like you had too much fun while in India :)
Hi Clabbe, I'm also a big fan of your website "Tips On Travelling" :) However, I haven't seen all of India, but a few places where worth all the struggle I've been trough. I loved Hampi so much. It's a small town, located next to a river in Karnataka, South of India. The village is surrounded by rice fields, lakes and mountains. It's simply stunning. I spend there 2 weeks, hired a motorbike for about 3 EUR a day and was just cruising around all day... Swimming in the lakes and taking photos of locals. It was such a peaceful place. Avoid the big cities and you will truly find peace and inspiration. And beside that, India is fantastic for shopping, the food is tasty and it's cheap to travel across the country. Definitely go for it. You might not always love it, but for sure, you would never regret going there. Happy travels!
I have heard stories like this from all my female friends who have been to India and also seen movie clips they have taken. I wonder if I would be interesting for them to photograph as I am dark haired and brown eyes. I do however have a lot of tattoos and stretched ear lobes which usualy give a bit of attention wherever I go except Europe :P
Im kind of split when it comes to if I should travel to India or not. Just feel like it would be a bit toi crowded to me. What would be your best destination tips and why would you go back a third time?
Interesting blog! Being an Indian male, I missed the opportunity to be your model :)
This is so interesting! Thank you for sharing us your experience in India.
Wouuu I realy felt traveling with you while reading your post, ver good blog, I'm Salvadorian livin in USA but I have no hope of traveling any futher. I really enjoyed reading you blog. good luck!
Hi one way!
Found you here and just wanted to say hey!
Verry funny experience with the posing!
Will read more later.Happy trails to you.
Hi Sunil, I'm glad you liked it! Thank you for sharing!
Hope you enjoyed being "SUPERSTAR", INDIA is INCREDIBLE but people are good here.....
Was fun reading your blog.....I will share this to my co follows how come from US
Jatin, thank you, you made my day!!
Nice blog.You have described your experiences in such a simplistic way yet so in a wonderful way :).
Being an indian can defo. relate to the events that you would have gone through :P
Loved reading your blog :)
Really interesting blog. Loved to read it :-)
Thank you Sophie, I'm glad you liked it!
Hey Sabrina ! I heard about your blog thanks to a friend you met in India. I had to post on this article because I was in Mumbai 3 years ago and was lucky to travel the country. I got to say... I laughed my heart out when reading this! I can totally relate to every bit and pieces you wrote ! Makes India an incredible country and I hope to travel the rest later. Thanks !
Thanks for sharing your experience in India. Very helpful. I dont think the Indians are intereseted on Asian like me, but this post really help me to have a clearer picture on India. Thanks!
Hi Jim, thanks for reading my post. Actually I did not really experienced such unpleasant things like groping or grabbing, but I tried to avoid taking pictures with the guys as much as I could. So most of the time it was only me or I posed in family pictures. Specially at the Taj Mahal, many families wanted me in their group photos. But yeah, to sum it up, no groping :)
I'm just curious as to how many guys tried to grope you when posing with you, at least when when I pose for photos they don't try and grab my ass or fondle my breasts...
Nick, thanks for reading. I'm glad I inspired you ;)
I will go at the end of January.you gave me an idea to do a photo series of everyone that takes a photo of me.