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Welcomes come in many different types. Preparing for this trip I plotted routes on maps, bought appropriate gear and looked at lots of pretty photos. Whilst essential, there is something else which would have stood me in far better stead for getting by; to understand my own cultural ties or disparities with the people here.Wherever you travel, you do so not as an observer but as a participant, contributing to the local economy, sharing cultural heritage and simply sticking out as different. Culture shock is the period of confusion about these various roles and relations. Once understood, interactions become familiar and enjoyable.Here in India, people have been generally welcoming. Children approach nervously with huge grins offering their best English phrases, tuktuk drivers swarm us on walks down the busy street and fellow train passengers are inquisitive about our homes and travels. Eyes follow your every move, but flit away if spotted  At first it can be difficult to know how to respond, but understanding motives (financial, inquisitive, educational etc) helps.

In Delhi, the commonwealth games approach. Overwhelmed with traffic, political confusion and construction catastrophe, Delhi will be lucky if they are able to stage half the events, and even luckier if any athletes remain willing to brave the unpleasant accommodation. Indian pride is vital, and the impending underwhelming games looks set to deeply embarrass. There are, then, reasons for some to dissuade  tourism in the coming weeks. Sadly, as a result, our welcome in Delhi was not a universally pleasant one.

So what have I seen? Where have I been? Which of india’s treasures can I cross off my list?I’ve seen temples, forts, palaces, monumental gates, the taj mahal and even a smaller mausoleum nicknamed the baby taj. But even the stunning taj mahal pales in comparison to the real joys of India.  The experiences I will remember are riding railways with local people, eating fresh food from stalls by the roadside and visiting small temples in the cliffside. I hope these absolute pleasures will not diminish with time and familiarity, but if they do then I will have become far more Indian than I could have imagined.I have, by the way, begun eating with my hands. It does require some skill, but more importantly it requires a generous dollop of hand sanitiser.

Now entering rajistan, the tone changes slightly due to the survival of more traditional, tribal lifestyles. I hope that these cities – Jaipur, jodhpurs etc – will suffer less from those damaging effects of globalisation. Worth finding out…!

(ps. Will upload accompanying pics & soundclips asap.)

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