India has one of the most dramatic monsoon seasons of any country, and it looks like this one is finally over. According to the locals, it was not a proper monsoon season. To them, a proper monsoon season is when they get at least one week of pretty solid rain. That didn’t happen this year, but still it was an experience I won’t soon forget! The storms move in quickly and you can smell the rain coming. Typically there is thunder and lightning before the actual rain starts. Then when the rain does start it rains really hard! In fact, they often get a couple of inches of rain in only an hour!
India is a fascinating country, full of geographic wonders, rich history, unique cultural experiences, delicious food and adventures of all kinds, both good and bad. Almost daily someone asks me if I am enjoying my stay in India, and the truth is, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It depends on the day really. There is one thing for certain, if you are coming to India to work, be prepared for some serious culture shock! Here are 15 things I wish I had known before coming here.
1. Workplace Culture: Indian people are taught to respect their “seniors”. Authority figures have tremendous power in India and their subordinates rarely question them. They typically do as they are told, no more and no less. As a result, don’t expect your Indian coworkers or staff to speak up, give you great ideas or put in a lot of extra effort. On the flip side, they are a very social and hard working group of people and once you win their loyalty and respect they will work even harder for you.
2. Tardiness: When we held our project kick off meeting everyone was late and we started an hour after it was scheduled. I was horribly offended but soon learned that they mean no disrespect. The traffic in India is atrocious (see number 3 below) and the simplest things (herd of cows in the road) can have a ripple effect that causes huge delays. The buses and trains are also often late for a number of reasons too which in turns causes their commuters to be late. In fact, I’ve yet to have a single interviewee show up on time for an interview. It’s just their culture. If nothing else, India will teach you patience.
Playing my wood flute besides the Ganges River, watching the birds soar high into the Himalaya Mountains, I felt like I never wanted to leave. Rishikesh does that to people. I know more than one person that has showed up in the quaint village only to decide not to leave. The town is brimming with visitors from all nations, creed and color, and most come for one thing, health. Whether it’s to enjoy the holy Ganges River, the many ashrams scattered throughout the hills, or all the vegetarian cuisine, it’s a great place to chill out and find peace with the world.
I stood there feeling high, not from pot, although it was readily available in the area, but from from the sheer ecstasy of the profound beauty before me. Or perhaps it was the altitude of 14,100 feet that made me feel high. Whatever the reason, Kirti and I had journeyed by car, then by bus up Rohtang pass (one of the deadliest roads in the world) and finally hiked about 6 kilometers to reach the khajana (Hindi for treasure) of nature known as Chandra Taal Lake. The soaring mountain peaks and lush green fields surrounding the lake made it look like a painting alive with the whims of nature.
A year ago if you had told me I would be standing in a bus, at an elevation of 13,000 feet in the Himalya Mountains, trying to decide if it was safe to get off and help push it out of the mud, I would have thought you were crazy! Fast forward one year later and you might think I’m the crazy one! One thing is for sure, traveling up Rhotang Pass was the unforgettable experience of a lifetime.
Why it’s famous
Rohtang Pass is about 51 kilometers from the hill station of Manali on the eastern Par Panjal Range of the Himalyas. The roads are rough and steep with no guard rails. Typically only one car can fit at a time even though there is two way traffic. It is such an adventure that the History Channel has featured it on Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Roads. Major traffic jams are common due to accidents, poor road conditions and snow and ice. In fact it is only open from May to November.
We were super excited about our trip to Manali so we left Delhi around midnight on a Friday night. It was a holiday weekend and we were hoping to miss traffic, but we didn’t. Instead it took us five hours to get out of Delhi! Finally the roads cleared somewhere around daybreak and we welcomed the clearing air, blue skies and quaint villages, along with the first dawn of our nine day vacation. We drove through the cute towns of Mandi and Kullu where we stopped at a fruit stand for some fresh apples. I eventually took my turn at the wheel so Kirti could take some much deserved rest before navigating the steep winding roads of the Himalaya Mountains. Finally, 18.5 hours later, we arrived in Manali. Little did we know that Manali is a little town full of big surprises.
India really is a fascinating country! They call it incredible India for a reason, and here are 10 fun facts that emphasize just how incredible India truly is.
1. It’s soooo dusty here and water is so precious that most people dust their cars instead of wash them.
2. The monsoon season is from July to September and it can rain inches in just a couple of hours. Delhi typically gets about 75% of its annual rainfall during the monsoons. Other parts of India get 90% of their rain during that time.
So you think we have bad traffic jams in America huh? Well, just like everything else, it depends on the basis of your comparison. Traffic in India can be some of the worst in the world, but there are different causes depending on whether you are in city or rural traffic.
In the city: Probably the biggest factor leading to the awful traffic jams is the sheer number of vehicles on the road. There are over 8 million vehicles per day on the roads in the greater Delhi area. Many commuters take metro, ride share in a tuck tuck, or ride a bicycle, but the roads aren’t designed to handle the volume. Many Indian workers commute over 2 hours each way without air conditioning and arrive to work already dirty and sweaty.
One of my favorite indulgences while living in India is getting a massage. It only costs me $15 USD! However, there are some significant differences between a massage in India and one in the U.S.
1. The first thing I noticed is that they give you disposable panties to wear. They look like a paper shower cap with leg holes. I guess they give them to you so you don’t get oil on your underwater. They look funny but are adequate for the purpose.
I’m so excited to be heading home for two weeks to enjoy America’s Independence Day with family and friends! Here are the things I’m looking toward to most when I’m home.
1. Time with my kids: I can’t wait to sit around the bonfire with them on the beach and just chat about things, listen to them play their music and hear their laughter. Time with family is very special and we often take it for granted.