Five Reasons to Fulfill Your Bollywood Dream: India Guide

The first thing I will tell you about India is ignore every negative thing you hear and just go. Yes, most of the cliches are true: it’s louder than rush hour in every city combined, more colourful than every pencil crayon in the deluxe set, and literally smells like shit. It’s also the most mind-blowingly traditional, ridiculously efficient and warm-hearted culture I’ve ever had the privilege of exploring. I could ramble on for days on my Bollywood adventure, instead I will list  five reasons you should go.


SPONTANEOUS DANCE PARTIES

Just as I had hoped for and imagined, Indians love their music. Whether blasting out of a convenience store at 4am, a rickshaw, someone’s house or even their ringtone on the subway, we were never far from it, and it became an appropriate soundtrack to our days.  Little boys were ecstatic when we joined their flailing of arms and hopping around to banghra blaring from speakers facing the sidewalk from inside their home. Wedding celebrations that carried out onto the streets became fascinating spectacles, one in particular which involved us being pulled into a circle of Indian women and embarrassing ourselves with our white girl moves. I was laughing and grinning the whole time.


CELEBRITY STATUS

I was warned being a redhead would stir attention in India. Throw in Matylda who’s nearly six feet tall and we were quite the attraction. Locals would stop us on the street or on trains and sweetly ask for a ‘snap.’ We would smile, blink and suddenly seven more would show up, camera phones out, tossing us their babies, thrilled to pose with us.  Visits to touristy monuments would end up with a mass of school kids crowding the fence, leaping towards us, eager to shake hands while shouting “Hello! How are you! I am fine thank you!!!” in the most polite english. It was both completely bizarre and flattering to feel special for being, well, different.


ONE-DOLLAR FEASTS

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Previous to my journey, the cheapest Indian food I’d had was the $10.95 all-you-can-eat buffet next to my college, where my broke friends and I would stuff our faces with chickpeas and samosas. I had no idea once landing in curry country that I would literally pay 50 cents for the most amazing thalis (platters of assorted dishes), deep fried anything from street vendors and the sweetest, honey-soaked treats. I knew we had it good when 150 rupees (three dollars) on a large Kingfisher beer was a splurge, and we would cheer ourselves on when we searched particular touristy towns for the cheapest option (40 rupees! So there!).


SPIRITUAL PHOTO-OPS

It’s impossible to tell friends your going to India without a few Eat, Pray, Love references. Julia Roberts jokes aside, the religious and spiritual practices we saw left us in awe. Nowhere else will you see five-year olds tagging alongside their families, all their heads shaved after visiting a holy temple, or taxis stopping on the way to taking us to the train station in order to pray and give offerings (a drive-thru temple, if you will). So many times we wanted to participate but also felt silly for even trying. After one such situation where I almost paid a priest 500 rupees to bless my family after helping me float a marigold down the river, I decided it best to just observe.


VARANASI LIFE

India’s oldest and holiest city is best known as “the place where they burn the bodies” but it’s the people of Varanasi that leave the biggest impression. Sure, it’s wild to watch the ritual of corpses being charred in broad daylight, where a mere ten feet down the Ganges river women and children bathe, and men slap freshly washed laundry against the rocks. Zen-ed out hippies practice mediation while smoking joints with wise old Sadhus. Ten-year-old local girls try to sell us henna while alternatively challenging us to a game of jump rope. Chai is sipped while boats weave in and out of the river, and street dogs viciously growl in packs throughout the wee hours of the morning.