India is a dream destination for many avid travellers because the whole journey is extremely tantalizing and spellbinding. Upon landing in India, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘what an explosion of senses.’ The sounds, flavours, colours, people, everything triggers and reanimates our senses. But India being one of the most diverse countries in the world, everyone goes through a different experience. So to help travellers have a remarkable experience in India, here are 10 different things one must try to avoid.
Beggars and Alms: Never! Never give alms to beggars in India. Begging is one of the largest scam that openly exists, which the government fails to control. The money the beggars collect is pocketed by people who own Mercedes Benz and holiday in the Caribbean Islands. There are even agents who kidnap children from hospitals, schools and villages, physically cripple them and force them into begging. If you feel really touched, buy them food — no money! Don’t be fooled by their crocodile tears, they are trained to fake, and they do it good. Do not encourage begging.
Physical Contact: This might sound funny, but beware! This is one of the most common activities among female travellers (not judging anyone). Many female tourists get into physical contact/relationship with local men. Before you landed in India, did you know the rate of HIV, STD and such other diseases is pretty high in the country? Take a moment and guess — when was the last time your partner visited a local hospital to get tested? I am afraid, never. And probable he never will, and sadly you’re not the first person he/she is sleeping with. This is not the case with all Indians, but majority of them are yet to be educated — the sad news is you don’t know who you’re sleeping with.
Feeding Stray/Feral Dogs: You will see them everywhere you go; in millions. They simply look adorable; they will hesitantly come towards you, wiggling; so cute; irresistible. Wait…! Guess why they are called stray dogs? Every year, hundreds of tourists are bitten by stray dogs while traveling in India, not to mention the number of local victims. What is so scary about these dogs — well that’s a simple guess. They are not vaccinated. And besides rabies, they could carry other diseases you do not want to imagine. But in case you become a victim, treatment is free in all government hospitals.
Beware of Agents: You’ll find all sorts of agents in India, and it’s very hard to distinguish the real ones from the fake lots. By the way, they all look very real — unbelievable! Forget about those agents on the street who will follow you everywhere and anywhere, but there are smarter agents will pick you only in fancy places. For instance, they will try to get friendly with you in a cafeteria, and later spill the beans; I am an agent or I know an agent. JUST STAY AWAY. Sometimes you don’t want to be awkwardly rude, so just tell them you’ll think about it and call them, but never share you contact details.
Staying Neutral: Indians are pretty okay to talk about politics, economy and corruption in the country, but make sure you hold back your opinion, especially if you have a strong one. Let’s drop our opinion in our backyard — it’s highly suggested to stay away from talking about the differences between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. If you are hanging out with a Hindu man/woman, you may ask non-opinionated questions about Hinduism and vise a versa with people of other faith. Bite your tongue, that’s about it. Also, sometimes they’ll literally force you to participate in the act/ritual, just tell them you are more comfortable watching, well just in case you’re not comfy with the idea.
Skin Complexion: This is crucial. India is a white-centric country, thus try to avoid discussion on skin colour. In India, it’s still widely believed that people with lighter skin tone are prettier than the rest — that’s true (of course, it’s not really funny). Let’s warn you! You’ll also notice that 90% of the cosmetics available in the India are what is literally called ‘Fairness Cream,’ hands-down, for both the sexes. You must have come to India to bask on the sun or to get some lavish suntans, but now that you know the culture differences, you know where to draw a line.
Usage of Left Hand: After finishing their ‘that’ business in the toilet, Indians do not use toilet paper. OMG, what do they do? Wash ‘it’ off with water using the left hand. Thus, anything you touch with your left hand is considered unholy and dirty. While traveling in India, just imagine that your left arm is there for decoration sake. Always make sure you use your right hand in public places, especially when you have to exchange things and money.
No PDA: Everywhere you travel, you will see men holding hands on the street, or openly cuddling (I call it male bonding) in public places, but it does not mean that you can behave like them. Such activities are deeply rooted in their culture and there is no wrong in touching each other in public places, but if you do the same (male to male, male to female, female to female), remember you just committed the highest level of crime in front of them. So if you don’t want half the town giving you THAT look, or the moral police following you, make sure there is no public display of affection.
Marriage and relationships: The understanding of marriage and relationships are very different from how the western world perceives the institution, thus better left the matter alone. The caste system issue is widely practiced; arrange marriage is still the best way to find the right partner; the groom’s family gets a lot richer from the dowry and etc. But these are very sensitive topics, especially in public places. So, unless they volunteer to discuss such topics like the existing dowry system and marriages, don’t dig them. They are considered as evil practices but religiously practiced everywhere.
Smiling at Strangers: Did your mother tell you not to smile at strangers when you were younger? Boys, listen to this. Do not smile at female strangers — no you just can’t — no further question — Amen. I know it sounds like you’re being forced to wear a chastity belt, but your cute and innocent smile can land you directly in a hot soup. So, maintain distance and remain neutral. Do you know why—most of the times, even a friendly smile could be taken as a sexual advance towards them. But ladies, you are allowed to flash your smiles, but it’s nice to know the crowd before you move the facial muscles.