India: Loud. Colourful. Overwhelming. Intriguing. Scary. Warm-hearted. Dirty. Beautiful. Spicy. Green. Rainy.
It is difficult to find a worthy first sentence to describe my arrival in India. Along with two fellow students and friends of mine, Paula Mittermayer and Miriam Kern, I boarded a plane headed eastward on Friday, 13th July 2012. The trip was long and tiring and the feeling to set foot on unknown terrain was both scary and exciting. It remains an uncompromising challenge for us to find our bearings in this foreign land.
First itinerary: Arrival in Bangalore (Bengaluru/B-Town; 12° 57′ N, 77° 37′ E)
We were warned about the busy streets of Bangalore, but it was a totally different kettle of fish to take them in with our own eyes. The cab drive from the airport to our hotel was crazy to the point that we might just as well have gone bungee jumping. Traffic moves fast and seemingly pays heed to no regulations whatsoever. Perhaps we were a bit too tired and worn out, but either way we decided to trust the driver rather than to die of a heart attack. To our amazement, we made it out in one piece. The driving code in India is simple, but more effective than one would think: 1. You can drive anywhere on the road where there is space, 2. Should you overtake (left or right), warn the car up front by tooting several times, 3. If a car toots, toot back, no matter what, 4. keep tooting at all times for all purposes. As only very few cars have dents or scratches, we have decided to accept this system as a safe way to travel.
It soon started to dawn on us that pedestrians are at the very end of the traffic food chain. In order to cross a street you need an “elbow mentality”, courage, swiftness, but also the ability to trust: Even though cars and motorcycles will certainly not stop to let you pass, they will on the other hand accept you as an accredited member of traffic circulation. Rules for pedestrians: 1. Once you give it a go, don’t stop, 2. DON’T STOP. And you’ll be perfectly fine!
We lay down, exhausted and overwhelmed by the day’s fingerprint on our minds. The first night spent in a far away country is always special. Even when in good company, you go to sleep with your own secret set of fears which you are unable to put into verse. As your body relaxes to the strange noises streaming in from the open window, your mind tries to find comfort in the small things: Your personal belongings carefully placed into the suitcase at the foot of your bed; the memory of your parents’ faces as they said goodbye and wished you well, engraved in your heart; the hugs from your dearest friends at the farewell dinner, enclosed in your mind. And so we went to sleep, a rewarding sleep, knowing that the next day, we would awake to the same sounds and smells streaming in from the open window, knowing we’d have to face the unknown again.
Arrival in Manipal (13° 34′ N 74° 78′ E)
Manipal definitely is a lighter version of Bangalore and probably a good starting point for experiencing India. There is much less traffic, the streets are packed with fewer people and the tooting of the vehicles is bearable. From the moment we landed at Manipal airport we were glad to see vegetation galore with a huge variety of different plants and trees edging the rice fields and meadows. India’s earth is as red as the one found in Namibia and therefore a detail I thoroughly enjoy. The Manipal Institute of Communication (MIC) sent one of its staff to come and pick us up and drop us back off at The Mark, our new home during our semester abroad. We are sharing a spacious four bedroom apartment with a Canadian exchange student and are very much enjoying evenings spent together chatting about anything and everything.
We have been here for two days now and are slowly but surely venturing further every day, exploring the local stores and restaurants (which basically spread like stands on a huge market place). Located six kilometres east from the Arabian Sea, Manipal is a small university town with approximately 20.000 inhabitants.
India is made up of many things. It is loud, colorful, overwhelming, intriguing, scary, warm-hearted, dirty, beautiful, spicy, green, rainy. But above all it’s a great adventure!
to be continued…
Photographs by: Paula Mittermayer & Natalia Flemming