For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to travel to India. Even after many years of thinking about visiting the country, reading books, consuming news, watching documentaries, and talking to other travellers, I still reckon my preconceptions of India — mental pictures of the sights and expectations for the experience — are vastly different to the reality.
I think the first time I really thought about India was during the 1987 cricket World Cup. I can remember seeing a few pictures of the tournament on the telly and being curious about the anarchic crowds and the foreign-ness of it all. At a mere nine-years-old I probably didn’t even know where India is on the map. Some years later I watched Gandhi in high school and had my first real exposure to Indian culture and history through the film and the subsequent discussion. My interest was piqued.
A couple of years later I again saw some cricket, this time from the 1996 World Cup, and can remember being transfixed by a night match in a packed Indian stadium. It felt like I could almost reach out and touch the atmosphere — the seething mass of humans, the not-quite-bright-enough lights, the insane noise. It was at that moment that I decided I wanted to go to India. Since then I’ve spoken to many dozens of people who’ve actually been to the place and every single story and anecdote has strengthened my desire to visit.
In 2002 I nearly made it to India, having planned to spend a month there on the way back to Australia from Europe, but aggressive nuclear tests by India and Pakistan at around the time I was booking my ticket made me a bit nervous and I decided against it. So next Monday, after many years of waiting, I’m finally going to arrive in India.
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But over to you. I’d love to hear your stories from India, or how your own preconceptions smashed up against the real thing. Also, our first stop is Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu — any local tips?