|the unthreatening Karnataka Govt Museum|
I guess you're always good for a surprise, aren't you? You were the the first country that I consciously noticed as a place that is 'different' outside the little world I grew up in. Ever since my grandparents gave me an illustrated world atlas when I was five years old, your colours and sounds and smells have tantalised me.
I've since travelled to many countries that are perceived as difficult, especially for a woman on her own, yet somehow I always remained afraid of India. Even in the last days before my flight, it didn't entirely subside, although by then, it was more of a fear that India might not live up to my expectations. And there may have been a grain of truth behind this.
Now, I landed in Bangalore yesterday and braced myself for the worst – a chaotic airport, taxi touts, people tugging at my backpack and shirt sleeves. But no such thing happened. I got out of the sleek modern airport and was immediately greeted by my driver, who led me to a modern car and clean car that would make any German taxi driver envious.
My hotel is not a palace, but would pass at as a decent 3 star hotel in Western Europe. It's sparkling clean and modern and has incredibly fast wifi. The staff seems to anticipate each of my requests. Yet, I'm finding myself really unhappy.
It's not the dirt or the bad roads or the crazy traffic that I see here that challenges me. It's not the men staring at me (they stared much worse even in Japan or Ireland!), the dirt or poverty (Bangalore is a rich city by Indian standards, and I've seen far far worse), or the hotel trying to charge me 5 times the going rate on a 2 mile taxi ride.
India, the thing that makes me uneasy is how submissive you are. In 48 hours, I have not had a single conversation that included anything else but 'There you are, Ma'am' (at some point this year, I have crossed the border from Miss to Ma'am, another thing that makes me feel a little uneasy) - Would you like a little more? Breakfast? Should we clean your room? Would you like to go on a sightseeing tour, Ma'am? Have you looked at this and that? Ma'am, we can stop over at the temple, no extra charge!
There's no rudeness or intrusiveness at all. Everything is oh so easy. Except one thing. I feel like I have been put on a pedestal and no matter how much I smile and attempt to chat, I can't bring people to get over being reserved. I realise this is politeness and I guess I should be happy that I am treated with so much respect. But it's way too much respect for my taste. I can't seem to make a human connection and feel a little like I've landed in a 5 star resort. With no other guests.
Am I lucky that I'm not getting harassed, that I'm not overwhelmed by what's around me? I guess.
But most of all I feel lonely and out of touch with the world.
Sunday I'm flying out to Kochi, Kerala's tourist hotspot, where I hope to at least connect to other travellers (a species entirely lacking in Bangalore)... but if I can't connect with someone soon, Europe will have me back much quicker than I thought.