In 2011 (has it been 5 years already?) I went to India on a volunteer program. I stayed in Hyderabad for six weeks, volunteering as an English teacher at KARE School – a school for underprivileged children in the slums of Hyderabad.
My time in India was intense. Among other things, I suffered from a massive initial culture shock, fell in love with Indian food, met amazing people, learned to cope with the immense poverty, visited incredible places, and somehow ended it all in the hospital the night before my return flight home. It was a rollercoaster of an experience, and I wasn’t able to really put it into words for many years after returning home. I still struggle with that today so here are 15 photos that summed up India for me:
1. The crazy auto drives.
Every ride on an auto (or auto-rickshaw for those who don’t know) felt like a near death experience. From the insane traffic, to the cows running wild into the roads and the reckless J-walking – every inch was an opportunity for a great disaster. Somehow, in the end, we were all left unscathed.
2. The (sometimes) tasty food.
This was my first meal in India. For a picky eater, it took all my inner strengths to try India’s spices, breads and dishes. By the end of it all, though, I had become quite the fan.
3. The amazing people.
This family of girls (they were all sisters and cousins) asked to take a picture with me and my friend. A few minutes later, we were in their car with them heading to a family picnic and a super fun day of sightseeing.
4. The glorious Taj Mahal.
There are just no words. I had always underestimated the Taj Mahal, disregarding it for all the hype surrounding it as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But the Taj Mahal earns all the praise it gets, and more. Visiting it was one of the highlights of my time there.
5. The beautiful music.
I’m not talking about the pop ringtone-like music that autos play (although, those are always pretty catchy…). I’m talking about the country’s traditional music, with Arabic and Southeast Asian influences. These wonderful men in a souvenir shop were kind enough to treat me to a live show.
6. The clash of cultures.
India is modern, ancient, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Portuguese, English, tropical, and freezing all at the same time. The unique blend of cultures, climate, landscape, and heritage is really what makes it such an exciting country to explore.
7. The beautiful sunsets.
I’ll let this one speak for itself.
8. The fascinating History.
This is the place where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. Visiting the museum dedicated to Gandhi in Delhi was a humbling experiencing and a great opportunity to get to know the story behind the man.
9. The incredible landscapes.
Traveling outside the crowded Indian cities is a great opportunity to see real India. And you’ll find breathtaking landscapes like this one pretty much everywhere you go.
10. The beautiful people.
This was one of my students at the school I was volunteering. I always found it really interesting how they never smiled for photos.
11. The unique monuments.
This is Jantar Mahar, the Jaipur Astronomical Observatory. Built in the early 18th century, it’s filled with 19 scientific instruments that were once used for naked-eye observations of celestial bodies. You can see how massive they are – yet they still work today with incredible precision.
12. The colors of India.
From adorned green doors to pretty pink palaces like this one, India is a true pallette of colors. Every house and monument begs for a photo, telling a story with their intricate designs.
13. The crazy traffic.
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies in India (in fact, I don’t think I ever saw a rainbow or a butterfly while I was there…). Traffic in the big cities can get pretty crazy pretty quickly. From constant honking to driving on the opposite side of the road, you can expect just about anything from Indian drivers. But, don’t worry: they know what they’re doing.
14. The ancient ruins.
The history of India dates all the way back to 2500 BC. Thankfully, lots of its has been beautifully preserved to this day. That means you can easily visit ancient temples, ruined palaces and ghost towns throughout the country.
15. The sacred cows.
As per the Hindu religion, cows are considered sacred in India. What this literally means is that they are free to roam just about anywhere they please. Of course, you won’t see them in busy city centers but it won’t be uncommon to spot them on the road in quiet villages or suburban towns.
Are you planning a trip to India soon? What’s the one place you’re looking forward to exploring the most? Tell me all about it in the comments below!