Department of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology of the RWTH Aachen University

Barber’s Shops

In India, one of the nicest and cheapest places to go and get refreshed quickly as well as looking even more handsome was to go to Barber’s Shops. They can be found everywhere, literally everywhere. Sometimes the Barber’s Shop is the pavement itself or simply a parking lot, slightly better ones offer equipment like a mirror propped onto a wall or even a chair beside the road. There are some that are located in small huts or sheds. They were in the streets of the cities or outside at highways, at beaches or in the forests. All these ‘’shops’’ looked very interesting and different. I never went to one of them, even though the barbers seemed to be masters of their trade. I observed some of these barbers reusing the same blade again, without even cleaning it. Some barbers simply washed the used blades in nallahs (channels). These circumstances were at least hygienically questionable in my opinion. Further, I could not imagine these blades to remain very sharp over a long time. This imagination made the whole shaving procedure sound painful to me, so I went to the more fancy barbers, which had a real shop and used proper equipment and products. They were plain and simple inside and looked like very old hairdresser’s salons in Germany, some of them even had an air conditioning system and usually more than one customer’s chair. In bigger cities I even saw very hip Barber’s Shops, which seemed to be influenced by western style. I never went to one of those, since I think the prices there would have been the same as in the west. The shops I went to were meeting points for men, who all seemed to know each other very well. They were all regular customers.  Therefore the barbers were always really happy to have other people as costumers, especially at places, where this does not often happen. I mostly experienced very talkative barbers who were really interested in me and I did not stop to praise their doing, so they were happy as well. None of the visits was the same. Sometimes I got a strange and painful head massage, sometimes they used half a bottle of foam or soap, sometimes they only used water. One barber had really bad eyes and shaky hands, that was the most adventurous shaving I got. I was quite nervous during the whole procedure. All the barbers had one thing in common, they all struggled to trim the moustache. Sometimes they just ignored the wish. A well grown moustache is a must have. So mostly I went there to get outline back in shape, which they all did very well. And since it was very cheap compared to prices in Europe I used the services very often. The prices ranged from 45 – 80 Rupees. It was worth every single Paise, every time.

My Indian experiences

Now that my journey to India is nearly over, I would like to share some of the experiences that I’ve made during the three month stay.

A warm / hot welcome

 My two fellow students Marc and Erik and I arrived in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, in the middle of April. Before starting our journey, I had already had a look at a climate graph of Raipur, so I knew that the difference in temperature as compared to Aachen would be immense. Indeed, while we had temperatures of around 10 °C in Aachen at that time, Raipur greeted us with overwhelming forty-odd degrees. With the help of the air conditioning in our room and by making sure not to go outside in the early afternoon, we managed to more or less adapt to the heat after a few days.

Through our supervisor Manish, we quickly met a lot of people, most of which study or work at the civil engineering department of NIT College. They welcomed us with open arms and it felt great to make new friends and to get to know them. Through them, we learned a lot about the lifestyle of young Indian adults. The civil engineering computer lab at NIT became our main workplace.

 

Outside view of the civil engineering computer lab, which was mainly used by students working on presentations and theses

Outside view of the civil engineering computer lab, which was mainly used by students working on presentations and theses

 

Life in Raipur

 In the first weeks in Raipur, we often went out for dinner with our new friends. We tried plenty of meals with names that didn’t reveal much about their ingredients. But it was very difficult to find a meal that didn’t taste fantastic. Also, the food was not as hot as I expected it to be. There were some meals that tested my limit, but nothing was so hot that I couldn’t finish it. Although the quality of the food was really good in most restaurants, the culinary highlights were the homemade dinners that we got invited to by our friends’ families.

At first, we had the impression that Raipur, despite being a city with a population of over a million, has very little to offer in terms of leisure facilities. But after some time, we discovered more and more things to do in our free time, such as going to the movies (very cheap compared to the prices in Germany), working out in the public Ghandi Park or taking a walk around the lake Telibandha (so called Marine Drive).

 

Telibandha Talab with (at that time) India’s tallest flag, 82 m

Telibandha Talab with (at that time) India’s tallest flag of 82 meters

 

Travelling

 About three weeks before heading back to Germany, Erik, Marc and I left Raipur to see some other places in India. Together with two friends from NIT, we went to Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh. We got there by non-A/C sleeper class train. Most of our Indian acquaintances warned us about the horrible conditions that we should expect in the sleeper class. However, I really enjoyed the train ride. Admittedly, the toilets in the sleeper class weren’t great, but we had enough room to sleep and thanks to the open windows, the temperature in the train was very pleasant.

In Pachmarhi, we rented a jeep and driver and saw some splendid places of this hill station. This included a large waterfall where we were able to relax in the joined pools while watching monkeys in the trees above our heads and while little fish were nibbling at our feet. Another beautiful place was the sunset point Dhoopgarh.

 

Sunset point Dhoopgarh, the highest point of Madhya Pradesh with an amazing view of the surrounding landscape.

Sunset point Dhoopgarh, the highest point of Madhya Pradesh with an amazing view of the surrounding landscape.

 

One of our other destinations during the travel time was the city Jaipur which is close enough to the Taj Mahal to allow for a day trip. The trip to Taj Mahal was quite long (around 4 hours to get from Jaipur to Agra) and rather costly, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to see the most famous mausoleum in the world. We arrived there just after sunrise. We would have liked to see the sunrise at Taj Mahal, which didn’t quite work out, but being early also had the advantage that there still were very few people. So we didn’t have to stand in line to get the tickets and avoided huge crowds of other tourists.

 

Front view of the Taj Mahal, a white mausoleum made of marble with a height of 73 m, constructed between 1632 and 1643

Front view of the Taj Mahal, a white mausoleum made of marble with a height of 73 m, constructed between 1632 and 1643

 

Now it is only a few days until I will fly back to Germany. I am leaving with a tear in one eye and a smile in the other. I had a memorable time in India. There are a number of things that I hate to leave behind, like my friends from Raipur, being able to get from A to B cheaply and quickly with an autorickshaw or tasting the fantastic spicy Indian food. But I am also looking forward to coming home, where I can walk through the city without sweating constantly,  without the permanent chorus of hooting that goes along with living in an Indian city and without being the center of attention everywhere I go.

So long, farewell India!

Fruits of India

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When I came to India I was eager to try out every food that I would be offered. Before I left Germany I already had a glimpse at dishes which are common for the Indian cuisine. Surprisingly the fruit section of India had some fun facts for me. I got to know some fruits that I didn´t even knew existed, and I tried some fruits that I always wanted to taste, but you just don’t find them in Germany. Read more »

During Ramazan in Hyderabad

Ramazan – Ramadan in Hyderabad, India

This blog entry will give you a brief idea about the time of Ramazan experienced during our time of research in the city of Hyderabad. A brief background on the Muslim influence in Hyderabad will be given before a few pictures and the story of my late night trip during Ramazan are shown. Read more »

And suddenly, everything is different

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It´s Monday morning, the first day of the new semester at the RWTH Aachen. Everything is quite normal, it´s half past seven, you have to catch the bus at eight, but still a lot of things left to do and you are running out of time. Than you grab your backpack, and another one and then you realize that you are not going to university. You are going to India, for three months. Read more »