India is a place where many friends say, “Oh, I would love to visit!” but never really get round to it maybe because Europe/Australia/US/Japan/Korea/Vietnam/Laos/Thailand is more sexy; maybe because of the rape cases and safety issues magnified and exaggerated by the media; maybe because you have young children, and hygiene and healthcare are real concerns; maybe because you think I’ll be here forever and you’ll eventually find time to visit us.
Well, guess what? We have just 9 months left to go in Mumbai before PJ de-posts and we return to Singapore for good. Sniff. So fast hor. I’ve been here 2 years and 2 months already.
This post is prompted by a friend who is “banned” from visiting India by his mum (you know who you are :p) because of the sensational rape cases that have been happening in the past 1 year and he actually asked me to post more nice pictures of India to correct the mindset. But I have been! Just check out my Instagram. It’s on fire.
So, instead of just photos, I thought I’ll do a FAQs of the top 6 questions (and the accompanying facial expressions) I’ve received. Here we go, starting with the burning question on everyone’s minds:
Q: Do you eat curry every day? *makes LOL face*
A: If by “curry” you mean the chicken curry we find at the chup chye peng stalls in Singapore or Muthu’s Fish Head Curry, then no. If by “curry” you mean anything with a gravy, then yes, we eat curry almost every day. In fact, I cook curry very often because there are just so many different types of curry to experiment with and it would also be a pity not to cook using the beautiful, fresh spices and ingredients here. But there’s so much more to Indian cuisine than just “curry”. Come visit, and I’ll show you.
By the way, you can’t find “fish head curry” here. It’s a Singaporean and Malaysian dish. >.<
Q: Do you eat prata every day? *makes orgasmic face*
A: Haha I wish! Again, roti prata is a Singaporean and Malaysian dish. The closest we have here is “paratha”, which looks like roti prata but with a denser texture. I’m also not sure they flip the paratha here like the roti prata uncle in Singapore does… They also don’t serve it with a portion of curry but do stuff it with ingredients like potato, Indian cheese etc.
Q: Is it safe????? *makes worried face*
A: It depends on what “it” is. Mumbai is generally quite safe. There have been some scares that happened quite close to where we live but this hasn’t deterred me from walking around my neighbourhood during the day and even taking an auto-rickshaw (it’s like tuk-tuk) on my own (though I seldom do it lah). Mumbai is an extremely overcrowded city, so much so that it’s impossible to be alone on the streets and I have the faith that if I shout, someone will come to help (‘cos Mumbaikars are generally friendly and helpful).
We have traveled to other parts of India and I have never felt threatened except maybe in Delhi. My perception might have been tainted by media reports and when in Delhi, there’s a rather ominous feel in the air. Outside the city centre, the streets were deserted and we were told by a Delhiite that people avoid going out after 8pm. In Mumbai, it’s very common to see females walking alone at any time of the night, but that very rarely is seen in Delhi (at least when I was there). Nonetheless, the few times we were in Delhi, nothing extraordinary happened. The bottom line, at least to me, is that crimes can happen anywhere. You need to be more mindful and take the necessary precautions when you travel. When traveling in India, I would suggest that you hire a car and driver who speaks English (try Eurocar), versus taking the local train/bus/tuk tuk. It’s much easier when you get dropped off and picked up from point to point. Also, stay in a good-class hotel (maybe from a well-known chain) or a homestay/B&B. Don’t pinch your pennies when it comes to accommodation in India.
Q: Can you dress like that (points to my tank top and shorts) in India?? *makes wide-eyed face*
A: You can, but I prefer not to, especially on the days when I volunteer in the slums. Apparently bare shoulders and chest are considered “erotic”, and in many parts of the country it’s sacrilegious to show your knees (I don’t know why). In religious places and some of the more conservative states like Rajasthan and even Kerala, you would be asked to cover your shoulders and wear something that covers your knees. In Mumbai, I see many ladies wearing tight-fitting dresses, spag tops and micro-shorts but as a foreigner, I don’t want to draw extra attention and choose to dress more conservatively, given that I already attract enough stares by looking different. Which brings me to the next question…
Q: Do people really stare at you? *makes horrified face*
A: Umm. Kinda. People are generally curious about foreigners. Just the other day, PJ and I were walking to a community centre within a slum and we attracted a huge group of children. They trailed us and shouted, “Hello! How are you? Where are you from? China? Korea? Japan?” When I replied “Singapore”, this girl looked really confused and disappointed… We’ve also had cameras shoved in our faces and had pictures taken without our permission. There’s no need to be agitated or annoyed when this happens. I’ve realised that the people who are curious and stare incessantly are generally people who don’t see foreigners very often. So we’re a rare sight to them. Like the panda. And you would stare and want to take a picture of a panda, too, no? :D I would.
Q: Is the Taj Mahal near Mumbai? *makes excited face*
A: If by “near” you mean “a 2-hours flight to Delhi and a 5-hours drive thereon”, then yes, Taj Mahal is near Mumbai. Heh. The Taj Mahal is in Agra, part of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, whilst Mumbai is on the west coast, part of the state of Maharashtra. If you want to visit the Taj Mahal, you should fly into Delhi and hire a car from there.
Any other burning questions? :)