Inimitable India

The white brilliance of the Taj Mahal
The white brilliance of the Taj Mahal

A year ago I was on my way to India, at this time being driven to the airport for my Jet Airways flight. R 4 000 upgraded me to business class. Being one of 3 people in business class I had my own personal stewardess. After a delicious dinner, I settled in to watch movies in my “seat-bed”, and imagine my surprise when I was asked if I wanted some popcorn! Popcorn and movies…I was blissfully happy for that direct flight to Mumbai. I watched 3 movies!

Sadly, Jet Airways no longer comes to South Africa. I got the best in-flight service, delicious food and a cheap upgrade! Flying to India from Joburg now means a layover in Dubai, something I’m not looking forward to.

I’ve recently found Anthony Bourdain’s books. I’m enjoying them so much I’m devouring them! I’d seen him on the food and travel channels. He’s loud, brash, swears a lot and makes no excuses for it – I enjoy him. He’s travelled the world tasting the foods from different countries. He’s written quite a few books, both fiction and non-fiction. I started with A Cook’s Tour, moved onto Kitchen Confidential (better than reality TV) and according to Kindle, am 29% of the way in to Medium Raw.

Now Bourdain really likes Vietnam, the same way I feel about India. He expresses things so well and a passage from the book reminded me of India:

“The only way to see Hanoi is from the back of a scooter. To ride in a car would be madness – limiting your mobility to a crawl, preventing you from even venturing half the narrow streets and alleys where the good stuff is to be found. To be separated from what’s around you by a pane of glass would be to miss – everything. Here, the joy of riding on the back of a scooter or motorbike is to be part of the throng, just one more tiny element in an organic thing, a constantly moving, ever-changing process rushing, mixing, swirling, and diverting through the city’s veins, arteries and capillaries. Admittedly, it’s also slightly dangerous. Traffic lights, one-way signs, intersections, and the like – the rough outlines of organized society – are more suggestions than regulations observed by anyone in actual practice. One has, though, the advantage of the right of way. Here? The scooter and the motorbike are kings.”

I couldn’t have expressed it better! To truly know a country, culture and its peoples requires total immersion in it. Commuting to work on the back of a motorbike was great – I was at my desk in no time – and was one of the highlights of my day. The only thing that came close to the exhiliration of riding a bike to work was grabbing a tuktuk. The times I rode in a car just seemed to take forever! A 300km trip took close to 8 hours to complete.

India has been in the news a lot recently for negative reasons and I feel truly sad at the tragedy of it all. Not just in India…in South Africa we have the same thing happening.

But this post is not a commentary on this. It is just a small ode to the complex vastness that is that magnificent country – inimitable India.