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My Bad Breakup: With India

There are a lot of misconceptions and stereotyping regarding young people travelling the world and spending money they don't have living outside of the UK. Often referred to as a 'gap yaaar' aka gap year. The truth is I cannot refer to my travels as a gap year activity because it happened a year after graduating, or can I?

Take me back to that moment
My first country crush and romance will always be England. It's rolling hills, history and diversity will always see me crawling back to English shores. Living for three years in Winchester made my love for England grow even stronger; the forest, book shops, the cathedral, that place was my personality in a city. Away from the quintessential English I also found myself falling for the smog and busy streets of London. I have always been lucky to the fact I live 40 minutes away from London, visiting regularly, feeling at home and immersing myself in the culture.

You would understand that falling so deeply for India took me by surprise. I thought I had no room left in my sense of belonging somewhere. I already belonged to London and Winchester. Now my heart was to be pulled three ways.

My first experience of India was India's largest city; Mumbai. Well the airport anyway. The thought of a city containing 13 million inhabitants scared me. The slums built high against the airport boundaries was also my first experience of poverty in India. So begins my journey in the country of contrasts.
The beginning of any relationship is sometimes a little bumpy, learning things about the other that you didn't really want to know. The poverty in India was always there, I lived in it. Objectively the poverty in India is a horrific and unnecessary aspect of life.
I would never feel comfortable visiting a place with so much poverty without experiencing the reality of it. I feel incredibly fortunate that I could, with Raleigh International. Living in a tribal village for my entire time in India made me realise that amongst the poverty is love, happiness and friendship. The fact that I found 'basic' living so comfortable doesn't negate the need for change amongst developing communities.

Hindu temple at Chamundi Hills
I hope we've empowered the villagers to start making a change towards positive development. They shouldn't have to settle for enough. It angers me that the very people who are supposed to support and help them are the most negative aspect of my experience. The government officials, Tribal health officers and even the rotary clubs for example. It is scary enough that in the UK we have a government that doesn't reflect with will of the voters, but the fact that these ‘people’ are in charge of precious and vulnerable developing communities is petrifying. Right to the depth of the Panchayat (local government) is corrupt; personal gain and image is of high importance. The health, hygiene and general well-being of THEIR community is neglected and forgotten about. They are the forgotten ones. There is sometimes an argument in our society that we shouldn't ‘go over’ to other countries providing aide when we've got enough problems of our own. It is true that our country is not without problems, but then a lot of us know better. We may not have the most perfect government, but we have a voice and many platforms to shout off. The people in my village have their homes, their land and their family. Which is enough but it’s not the best, and no one should settle for enough. The people that are supposed to support their voices shout over them and down to them. I don’t want the loving and beautiful people I met in tribal villages to settle for enough. I don’t want anyone of those who were forced out of their forest to settle for enough. I really hope we've empowered them to not settle. 

That's the rant over, back to the beauty I experienced in India.

Although landing in Mumbai was an exciting prospect, I soon found myself in the southern state of Karnataka. Of which I visited the districts; Mysore, Kodagu and Bangalore. To keep this post simple I think I will highlight some of my favourite places that I had the fortunate opportunity to visit.

Mysore near Devaraja market

Tuck Tuck's, Markets, People: Sounds like every other place in India? Well I couldn't comment as I haven't been all over India but Mysore was certainly an experience. I felt as if I was always looking around everywhere, in every eye-line there was something to see. There was no escape from the interestingly observable. Every time I was in Mysore I only ever had a few hours to explore, there was never enough time. Going up in the Chamundi hills was fascinating; to see the majestic Hindu temple, bright yellow was incredible.
Be brave and try and visit the market's, just be ready to say 'no' a lot.
Maybe get a bus from the bus station to Goa!

Hunsur: great breakfast place
Hunsur was the closest town to my village. I always felt as if it was a smaller version of Mysore. A lot smaller. A multitude of shops selling the same produce, namely; Idea sim cards, chai, Coca Cola, Lays and Beedi's. Always on a time constraint I would have loved to have spent hours in this place exploring the exciting and mysterious side streets.

There are so many food outlets and people selling fruit and veg on the side of the road. It was in Hunsur I tried sugarcane juice for the first time. It may have been a health risk but it tasted amazing, especially for the price of 5RS (5p).

Inside The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple is situated in the town of Bylakuppe, and is now home to Tibetan settlements. The Temple’s actual name is Namdroling Monastery and is one of the largest teaching centres of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. Inside, the temple was huge; with a clean clear polished marble floor, the walls covered in the most ornate murals; each mural depicts various Buddhist stories and values. At the far end of the room are three golden statues.  The statues are of Buddha, Padmasambhava and Amitayus and are 40 feet in height. You can also visit Kushalnagar which is the nearest town where most of the Tibetans live, just a 5 minute tuck tuck ride away. There are many shops to look around and places to eat. It feels as if you have entered another country.
Tibetan Temple in a small settlement
Tibetan Resettlements
Tibetan re-settlements are definitely places to visit. Most of them welcome visitors as long as you show respect and are happy to walk around the grounds quietly. Some Tibetans will speak English so don't be afraid to chat to them. It's a great way to see the diversity of India in it's finest, learn about others and how they live. From Hunsur a jeep or tuck tuck would be happy to take you to local re-settlements for around 30RS one way, so it'd be about 60p return.

Or be a little brave and hire a motorbike (with driver) for the day! Explore everywhere.

In the falls
Irupu Falls
Irupu Falls is near to the border of Kerala. Irupu Falls is also known as Lakshmana Tirtha Falls. The falls are 170ft in height and are a major tourist attraction as well as a pilgrimage spot. It sits amongst a stunning back drop of mountains and hills that reach up into blue skies. You'll find a souvenir shop at the foot of the hills, then it's a short walk 'up' to the falls. You can get into the water although it's coldness might take your breath away.

Coming from Mysore direction you can take the Nagarhole road to get to Irupu, which runs right through the National Park so you could 'hit' two places on the same day.

A lake in the Nagarhole National Park
Nagarhole National Park
Nagarhole National Park offers daily safari's at certain times so make sure you check
the times before you turn up; they charge ‘Indians’ 200RS and ‘Foreigners’ 1000RS. I went on a safari myself with the forestry department but we didn't see any tigers or elephants. Even if you don't see any of the 'big' animals it is still worth £10, the beauty of the forest is mesmerising and will find you wanting to return.

Spicy goodness
Street Food
If you think you have a good immune system and you are not fussy about extreme cleanliness then you have to try the street food, and food in general in India. At first I of course found it spicy, but after time you get used to the extremes. Now I can have the spiciest curries which says a lot as before I couldn't even handle pepper.

Gobi Manchurian (Gobi 65)
Chai (with ginger or honey)
Aloo Gobi
Aloo Manchurian
Masala Dosa/Egg Dosa
Sugar Cane Juice

There are so many amazing foods available, just be brave and pick a random item from the counter. If you don't like it, it would only have cost you 20RS (20p) at the most. You can get most meals for around 45RS (45p) where I was situated (Karnataka). Experiment! 

Bringing a Little of It Home With Me:
Bed sheets
Obsession for Mehndi

According to the Oxford dictionary 'travel' is defined as: 'to make a journey, typically of some length.' 
According to the Oxford dictionary 'journey' is defined (synonym) as: 'A long and often difficult process of personal change and development'

Tuck tuck adventures
The Problem
My first real experience of 'travelling' was more on the journey side when regarding definitions. The problem now is that I yearn and long for the same experience. To live in the same place for around 2 months; taking it all in. I fear for a travelling experience that sees me visiting at a pace that leaves room for ignorance. If I had travelled to Mysore I would have seen the sights and beauties of it. But I would have missed the beauty and reality of nearby Hunsur and it's local tribal villages. I know that now I cannot just turn up at a tribal village and have the same experience as I previously had. That's where the inescapable pain lies.

In the meantime I will continue to search for jobs, mehndi myself, listen to Indian music, eat Indian food and live in a dream world. Remaining in the hope that I will return one day.

The best place I visited in India: my literal second home. (Tribal village in Mysore district)

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