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In India Guest is God
By Emmanuel Marshall - RawSafari.com
Michael was one of the first friendly (bearded) faces I met when I visited my wonderful sponsors Innis & Gunn in Edinburgh.
He’s a charming Aussie bloke with a talent for brewing and travel, two passions we have in common.
When we were chatting over a few pints about my hitchhiking mission to India, Michael mentioned that he loved the place and I of course had to interrogate him to find out what survival tips he had.
Michael really had some great info about India to share.
I asked him to come along and look after me, but he was understandably reluctant to leave the brewery. It’s a tough job making beer, but someone’s got to do it, right? So I asked him a few questions by email.
Me: How many times have you been to India?
Michael: I’ve just been to India the once, but I was there from January to May in 2015 and really got to experience a lot of the nation in a lot of different climates and environments over that 5 month period.
Me: What is it about India that makes it special for you?
Michael: It’s hard to narrow this one down, there are so many things that make India special. I feel the biggest might be the real sense of community, help, and hospitality there.
I was riding an old Royal Enfield motorbike down the highway when the engine seized up in the middle of nowhere. A family of six drove past in a Tuk Tuk (or “auto” as they call them) and pulled over to drive me to a nearby station to buy oil. I managed to get the bike into the next village and then it broke down again on the main street in the pouring rain.
Four young boys in town offered me fresh mango juice and tied the bike to another rickshaw to tow me to a budget hotel.
While I was at the hotel, I ended up becoming friends with some sort of dodgy real estate gangster who worked next door. It’s a long story, but basically this guy took me 400 km to the next city, gave me a tour of all the sights, put me up in a luxury hotel, took me out for dinner at a restaurant frequented by Sachin Tendulkar (Indian Cricket star), and then paid to have my bike fixed even when I refused. He also took me into his home to meet his wife and children who cooked for me which was really special. There’s this amazing sense of hospitality, and I was often told “In India, guest is god”. Everybody is everybody’s business.
Me: What’s your favourite Indian food?
Michael: As a vegetarian, I was in heaven in India. The amount of fantastic aloo gobi you could buy on the street was astonishing. Otherwise when I was up in the Indian Himalayas, I fell in love with momos made by the Tibetan refugees there.
Me: If you could go to one place in India and stay as long as you liked, where would you go?
Michael: Definitely Kolkata. I’ve never been anywhere as loud, fast, and chaotic as Kolkata. The Bengali food is almost unrivaled, and you can’t predict anything. When I first arrived, I found a hostel and told the owner I was after a motorbike. He dragged me on an hour long walk (or practically a run at his pace) through the city from mechanic to mechanic until I found something, puffing his 1 rupee cigarettes along the way. I feel like you could spend years there and never stop being surprised.
Me: What is your #1 piece of advice for me to survive traveling in India?
Michael: My number one piece of advice would be don’t get too fixated on plans, because you can’t plan anything. Nothing ever goes the way you expect in India, and that’s the beauty of it. All my best stories from India came to be because the plenty went awry. Take it day by day, have a rough idea of where you want to go, and you’ll eventually find yourself there – it’s just the details in-between that change.
Thanks heaps for sharing your wisdom Michael! And thanks for sharing your awesome photos too, mate!
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