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.
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).
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.
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.
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!