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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

advice column

I'm going to put this post on the sidebar (look! over there!) so anyone who wishes to give me India-related advice or share India-related stories can do so in an organized sort of way.

Today my friend Jenny, who has traveled all over, including India and multiple long-term stays in Indonesia, told me "Be sure not to drop your glasses down the toilet on a train." Someone she was traveling with in India did this, and it was bad indeed, requiring, for reasons that are unclear to me, going all the way to Delhi from somewhere not conveniently near Delhi to replace them.

I am very fond of this advice because it is cumulative - it just gets better and better as it goes along. Let's break it down:
  • "Be sure not to drop [x noun]" is good advice. Dropping things often leads to breakage and/or hazardous shards and/or sadness.
  • "Be sure not to drop your glasses" is very good advice, because you probably need them to see, and if you drop them you can't use them for seeing. Plus if you really, really need them to see, like I do, dropping them also means you can't see well enough to find them.
  • "Be sure not to drop your glasses down the toilet" is universally true, I think, no matter the state or location of the toilet. Dropping anything down the toilet is probably bad.
  • "Be sure not to drop your glasses down the toilet on a train" is better still, as train toilets involve lurchy motion at the least and are open holes at the worst, sending your glasses skittering down the tracks.


At 3:57 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Here's some advice from my friend Australian Astrophysicist Chris (in my life, people named Chris are usually given modifiers, as there are too many of them to just say "Chris," and I expect at least four of them are reading this site), who went to India a few years ago: "Be prepared to deal with the most bewildering bureaucracy imaginable, and then some.... If it can take 1 person to do something efficiently and effectively, you can be sure you will have to deal with at least 5, and each will have a conflicting view of what you should
fill in and which queue you should be in to do it :)"

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Sorry, I just realized that that may sound really skewed. So I should also add that Chris concluded his travel advice with: "I would have to say that those 3 weeks were probably the most amazing of my life."

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Keith said...

Bureacracy? I work at a University! I'll show you bureaucracy!

Do Indian trains have toilets like Chinese trains? IE, a hole in the floor, with nothing but open tracks rushing past below it?

My advice: be sure to stage a lush dance number on top of whatever train you take. And while doing it, slip Malaika Arora or Manisha Koirala my number and tell them, whenever they're ready, baby. Whenever they're ready.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Beth said...

The University of Toronto is the worst bureaucracy I've ever encountered, I'll admit. But I'm thinking India might have it beat - which is only fair, given that it manages 1.1 billion people, and UT only 55,000. (Example: as an American student, I was sometimes, but not always, dealt with as a "foreign student." Huh?)

I was told holes. Bye-bye glasses!

I have many a lush dance number stashed away and have been practicing like mad. I'll help you with Malaika but have already promised someone else help with Manisha. Sorry. You have to show up early.

So now that I think about it, that's three requests from US men for Bollybabes, and only one from a US gal for a Bollyboy. (And I couldn't possible force Saif into my suitcase. If he comes willinglingly, that's another question altogether.) C'mon ladies! Suitable boys!

At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


How much time will you have to explore India on your own? Do you even plan to do so? I ask, as my experience of Fulbright programs is that the participants are usually taken as a group wherever they need to go. (My uncle heads the Fulbright program at a university in GA and regularly leads such tours to various countries, including India - he's described tours often to us). In any case, I think is a useful resource for travellers to India.

Bitterlemons from Bollywhat

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Beth said...

Hi Bitterlemons - I don't think I have much time on my own at all. Based on what I've been told by past Fulbright participants, most of our time is scheduled for us - site visits, classes, dinners, etc. But I'm still eager to get all the travel advice I can, so I'm ready to make the most of any free time! Thanks for the link!

At 5:14 AM, Anonymous bitiya said...

dear beth,
just chanced upon your blog. i'm an indian journalist working with the times of india. i'm based in new delhi.
i'm really thrilled to see your level of excitememnt about coming to our country.
do let me know if there's anything i can help you with on your trip here. my email id is feel free to get in touch.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger azuregoddess said...

Very important note about toilets: In government owned travel related services they are refrred to as W/Cs(that's short for the colonial hangover term water closet). They are demarcated into two : Indian and Western. Indian is the one with a hole in the ground and western is with the pot:)
3 imp Things to bring:
High SPF sun block
Mosquito repellent
Insect bite cream.
Carry toilet paper with you everywhere(don't worry - you get it in India - hee hee)- bring some baby wipes if you are a cleanliness freak.
On a serious note: Do not do things you wouldn't do at home. That includes talking to strangers and making friends with random Indians. You will meet a lot of Indians on the tourist circuit that will appear to be helpful. Here I will narrow it down to Indian MEN. Now, if they don't have a good command over the English language, be wary. I am not being a snob. I am stating a simple fact. Indian men from lower middle class groups (and even other income groups for that matter) think white girls are easy. They mistake being friendly as BEING EASY. They are narrow minded in their approach towards male- female relationships. So please please please - be careful who you spend time with and how open you are with them. Do not go out alone at night. Travel in atleast twos if not larger groups. Its better to be safe than sorry.
and prepare yourself for large disparities in income. A lot of foreigners get a culture shock when they see slums by the side of high rise buildings. This is a country of over a billion people. and we are only 59 years old. It will take a while yet for social equality to take place.
Do not come with a magical impression of India. Life is not like a Bollywood film here. The reason why Bollywood exists is to help people escape their monotonous, treacherous lives and experience fantasy for those three hours.

At 11:18 PM, Blogger Olinda said...

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Maja said...

OK so, I don't have a single bit of advice to offer on travelling to/in India, because I've never been there, but! Since you've so kindly offered to bring back some Bollyboys, I'd like to sign up for Abhishek, please :D

Looking forward to your posts from India ... and be careful with those glasses!

At 1:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Beth,

You visited my pbase photo account and left a comment. Thanks for that, and I enjoyed your pictures and blog site.

I spent about 6 months total in India in the past few years, and (once I pay off the last few trips), I can't wait to go back. Glad that you enjoyed your time there and all the best.

Jesse Todhunter


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