NOIDA – Where the streets have no name

June 2008

After our “beautiful” honeymoon and after a short pit stop at Rishikesh basecamp, we went to visit our good friend from Belgium in NOIDA, where he was studying Film; an unknown side of “my” India would reveal to me.

He was sharing a house there with two schoolmates from Ivory Coast and India; and I really mean a HOUSE in the sense of what a house looks like in the West: It was a two storey building with American kitchen, balconies and tiled floor. They called it “The House of Joy”.

Sector 51

The house was situated in sector 51; All NOIDA, or “NO-IDEA” as it was called by the House of Joy crew, only consists of sectors, there are no street names or description of addresses as I knew it until now from India, like “Next to Shiva Temple”, “In front of the well” or “Corner OM chai shop”. Everytime I took a Rickshaw and said “To sector 40, please” I felt strange, it sounds so robotic! NOIDA actually stands for New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (what a poetic name for a town!) and lies 20 km southeast of New Delhi.

Sector 51 was like all residential sectors surrounded and protected by a wall and a couple of big gates, a sort of “rich-people-ghetto”. At Night the watchman would make his rounds and blow his whistle from time to time to assure the neighborhood that he was on the watch and everything was all right.

It was weird, but interesting for me to be in this “kind of India”. “My” India was just on the other side of the wall: Little chai shops, local Dhabas, shouting street vendors and where laughing kids were running around.

Cow in NoidaInside of the enclosure life was quiet, except the generators’ humming after a power cut. People would drive by on their racing cycles with their squashbats hung over their shoulders, neighbors were walking their Dalmatians and some people were jogging light-footed around the blog. The only thing that reminded of the outer world were the cows, which I could occasionally spot chilling and ruminating in trimmed flower beds in front of the villas.

But the House of Joy was giving its best to interrupt the silence in the neighborhood! All day there was a coming and going of people from all over the world and every night there was some kind of a crazy party going on. We had jam-sessions, face-painting-parties, Spanish nights, etc. I wonder what the middle-class neighbors thought when they saw a group of face-painted Westerners coming out of the House of Joy.

It was June and it was getting unbearable hot. We frequently sought shelter from the heat, the mosquitos and the pollution in the nearby Mall when the power went off and the fan stopped to turn. The Mall was a strange, but air-conditioned world. Baba’s eyes turned big as saucers the first time he stepped in there. Just imagine a sadhu who has been living about 15 years in ashrams, ghats and caves inside of a mall!  He had never been in such a place and marveled at the spotless cleanness, the fancy shops and of course the prices labels!

We had expensive ice cream and pizza, went to the movies and even went bowling once with a big group of people. Baba enjoyed it a lot and made the bowling alley suffering pretty much.

Noida street

It was fun to enjoy that part of India for some time; it was like a break from the dusty hippie-trails, where you are surrounded by a different kind of “freaks” most of time and naturally forget a big part of the material world, get used to freezing cold bucket showers, holes in your clothes that never will be white again and sharing your room with a variety of the local insect fauna.

However, I missed “my” India and I would never change it for a modern Indian city life.

 

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I LOVE MY INDIA

i_love_my_india_remix

I love my India… you can find this phrase printed on stickers, T-Shirts and posters in tourist shops all over India. I love this statement, because it is just so true!

I think I have to explain something about my blog. I am writing about “my” India. India is a little universe by itself. There are as many Indias as there are Hindu gods, 33 million of them!

The country consists of 28 states, every state has its region, there are 22 official languages and there is a great deal of dialects, too. Each place has its own culture and traditions. It could be compared to one of those Russian Babushka dolls, something always contains something more and you never know where this ends.

If you come to India, what you see, live and experience not only depends on where you go, but also on how you travel, with whom and who you meet.

So when I talk about my India, I refer to my personal experiences. You might go or have been to the same places but have a completely different opinion.

My India is influenced by its village people, the backpackers, the freaky travelers, old and young hippies, spiritual seekers, more or less trustable Sadhus, budget hotels, local buses and sleeper class train trips and the simple but complicated things. I have little contact with modern Indian society and the big cities. Maybe because I don’t feel attracted to it, since this is what I miss the least from back “home”.

Sometimes people in Europe ask me “How is India?” There is no answer to this question. India is full of contrasts at all levels. I think that it is what you make of it or what it makes of you, which in the end is the same thing.

A couple of times I went to a Mall in Delhi and in Varanasi. There was a doorkeeper at the entrance to make sure only “acceptable” people would come in. I guess he let me in, because I am European, as I looked anything but acceptable in my shabby hippie travel clothes. But I only realized that when I saw the pretty, modern Indian girls inside the mall in their jeans and tight T-Shirts and the young guys with the latest haircuts, cool sunglasses and brand-name shirts.

In my India the dress code kind of loses its importance and after some months of hardcore travelling, you don’t even notice anymore that your clothes have several holes or that what once was white has turned into an undefinable shade. And one ends up hanging out with people who just look the same, so you don’t realize this until you meet someone who is “acceptably decent”.

The best thing of the mall, that I imediately enjoyed, was the aircondition as it was terribly hot outside. I was no longer used anymore to all the artificial bright lights and it took some time to get adjusted to all the sparkling and shining windows and the high gloss polished floors. I went to enjoy the shop windows and it felt as if I had been beamed into another reality, which felt somehow familiar to me. All the shops and brands you can also find in any mall in Europe were there and on the top floor there was a huge foodcourt and cinema halls. I even bought a cup of expensive Italian ice-cream. I stood at one of the big glass walls overlooking the street and looked down.

Suddenly my ice-cream didn’t taste that good anymore. Out there were the stuffy, grey pollution, the sweaty Rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers, dirty street-kids begging at the traffic light, scabby dogs sniffing around, pavement dwellers having a nap on the side of the dense traffic and cows chewing on plastic bags in the middle of the road. Yep, the real world, my India, was out there!

What I want to say is that I don’t intend to generalize anything, even if it sometimes might sound like it. Nothing is better or worse than the other thing. Things are just different, and so are experiences.

May your India be with you!

 

I LOVE MY INDIA

i_love_my_india_remix

I love my India… you can find this phrase printed on stickers, T-Shirts and posters in tourist shops all over India. I love this statement, because it is just so true!

I think I have to explain something about my blog. I am writing about “my” India. India is a little universe by itself. There are as many Indias as there are Hindu gods, 33 million of them!

The country consists of 28 states, every state has its region, there are 22 official languages and there is a great deal of dialects, too. Each place has its own culture and traditions. It could be compared to one of those Russian Babushka dolls, something always contains something more and you never know where this ends.

If you come to India, what you see, live and experience not only depends on where you go, but also on how you travel, with whom and who you meet.

So when I talk about my India, I refer to my personal experiences. You might go or have been to the same places but have a completely different opinion.

My India is influenced by its village people, the backpackers, the freaky travelers, old and young hippies, spiritual seekers, more or less trustable Sadhus, budget hotels, local buses and sleeper class train trips and the simple but complicated things. I have little contact with modern Indian society and the big cities. Maybe because I don’t feel attracted to it, since this is what I miss the least from back “home”.

Sometimes people in Europe ask me “How is India?” There is no answer to this question. India is full of contrasts at all levels. I think that it is what you make of it or what it makes of you, which in the end is the same thing.

A couple of times I went to a Mall in Delhi and in Varanasi. There was a doorkeeper at the entrance to make sure only “acceptable” people would come in. I guess he let me in, because I am European, as I looked anything but acceptable in my shabby hippie travel clothes. But I only realized that when I saw the pretty, modern Indian girls inside the mall in their jeans and tight T-Shirts and the young guys with the latest haircuts, cool sunglasses and brand-name shirts.

In my India the dress code kind of loses its importance and after some months of hardcore travelling, you don’t even notice anymore that your clothes have several holes or that what once was white has turned into an undefinable shade. And one ends up hanging out with people who just look the same, so you don’t realize this until you meet someone who is “acceptably decent”.

The best thing of the mall, that I imediately enjoyed, was the aircondition as it was terribly hot outside. I was no longer used anymore to all the artificial bright lights and it took some time to get adjusted to all the sparkling and shining windows and the high gloss polished floors. I went to enjoy the shop windows and it felt as if I had been beamed into another reality, which felt somehow familiar to me. All the shops and brands you can also find in any mall in Europe were there and on the top floor there was a huge foodcourt and cinema halls. I even bought a cup of expensive Italian ice-cream. I stood at one of the big glass walls overlooking the street and looked down.

Suddenly my ice-cream didn’t taste that good anymore. Out there were the stuffy, grey pollution, the sweaty Rickshaw drivers waiting for passengers, dirty street-kids begging at the traffic light, scabby dogs sniffing around, pavement dwellers having a nap on the side of the dense traffic and cows chewing on plastic bags in the middle of the road. Yep, the real world, my India, was out there!

What I want to say is that I don’t intend to generalize anything, even if it sometimes might sound like it. Nothing is better or worse than the other thing. Things are just different, and so are experiences.

May your India be with you!